House approves resolution allowing staffers to unionize
The House on Tuesday approved a resolution that allows staffers in the lower chamber to unionize.
The resolution, which passed along party lines in a 217-202 vote, officially gives House staffers the legal protection to unionize and take part in collective bargaining. Three Democrats and seven Republicans did not vote. Rather than as a standalone measure, the resolution passed as part of a rule that also pertained to a number of other measures.
The resolution, which had 165 co-sponsors, exclusively applies to the House — the Senate must pass its own measure to allow its staffers to unionize, though that remains unlikely due to Republican opposition. At least 10 GOP senators would have to support the measure to sidestep a filibuster.
The push for the unionization resolution began earlier this year after an Instagram account titled Dear White Staffers, which is popular among congressional staff, went viral for publicizing anonymous stories from aides that documented their financial struggles due to low salaries. The account also revealed details about overly demanding bosses.
Congressional staffers in February said they were creating the Congressional Workers Union.
The passage of the resolution comes days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that the lower chamber would require that all staffers be paid a salary of at least $45,000. House offices must enact the salary adjustment by Sept. 1. Before the announcement, there was no minimum salary for House staffers.
Pelosi also established a $203,700 maximum House staffer pay, which is the same as in the Senate.
The resolution allowing staffers to unionize cites the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, which required that Congress abide by a handful of the employment and workplace safety laws that private businesses must observe — giving some congressional staffers the ability to unionize.
The legislation, however, required that the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, which at the time was known as the Office of Compliance, put forth regulations that Congress must approve. While the office proposed the guidance, Congress never approved the regulations.
The office of Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a sponsor of the bill, in February said putting forth the resolution was the “final step” in allowing congressional employees to unionize.
“Following the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995, the Office of Compliance and Workplace Rights ruled in 1996 that passage of this resolution was the final step to give congressional workers legal protection to organize and bargain collectively,” Levin’s office wrote in a statement. “Twenty-six years later, we are finally taking that step.”
In a separate statement that month, Levin said, “My colleagues and I are listening to the workers and taking this first, critical step to get done what we should have decades ago: recognize congressional workers’ right to organize without fear of retaliation.”
“There is no cause for further delay,” he added.
Pelosi hailed the passage of the resolution Tuesday night, calling it “historic action.”
“Today, the House took historic action paving the way for Congressional staffers to choose to join together in a union,” Pelosi wrote in a statement. “By empowering staffers to advocate for themselves and each other, we take an important step to ensure the House is best able to serve the American people.”
The Speaker said Congress for a long time “has been strengthened by the skill, dedication and patriotism of our hard-working staffers, who enable us to fulfill our legislative and constituent responsibilities.”
“The Democratic House is committed to honoring their service, while ensuring the Congress is well-positioned to compete for outstanding and diverse staff,” she added.
Levin celebrated the resolution minutes after it passed, writing in a statement, “After 26 years, the House has finally provided its workers the fundamental human right to form a union without fear of retaliation.”
“Congressional staff are joining a broader movement of workers in our society who are organizing, bargaining collectively and stepping up to make clear that they want more of a voice in their workplaces,” Levin wrote.
“I’m so proud that Congressional Democrats upheld our values of believing in the collective voice today. If there is any place in the country that needs to walk the walk and respect the will of workers, it is the U.S. Congress—the bedrock of democracy,” he added.
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