'Party Line' : Democrats Pass Legislation Allowing House Staff To Unionize - What Can Go Wrong?

By Roberta Elliot | Friday, 13 May 2022 16:45
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The House passed a resolution enabling all congressional staffers in the lower chamber to unionize in a 217-202 party-line vote Tuesday evening.

The measure, presented by Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), was deemed and approved in a rule vote for a bill directed at providing supplemental funding for the conflict in Ukraine, easing its path to passage in the lower chamber.

Advocates of the move claimed that staffers must be able to bargain their rights collectively in the workplace. While the resolution passed the lower chamber, where the change is expected to take effect, it is unlikely to see the backing required to pass the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared that the measure would come to the floor last week in a “Dear Colleague” letter in which she further alerted members she would implement a $45,000 minimum salary for congressional aides.

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“I am writing to announce two important new reforms to strengthen workplace rights for our staff, while improving our ability to retain and recruit the next generation of public servants. First: the House will vote next week on Congressman Andy Levin’s resolution recognizing Congressional workers’ right to organize. When the House passes this resolution, we will pave the way for staffers to join in union, if they so choose,” she wrote.

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“Second: I am pleased to announce that, according to the statutory authority of the Speaker in 2 U.S.C. 4532, the House will for the first time ever set the minimum annual pay for staff at $45,000,” she went on. “The deadline to implement this new Pay Order is September 1, 2022, and additional guidance is forthcoming.”

The resolution was met with pushback from most Republicans, who claimed that the change could lead to unintended negative consequences.

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“The uniqueness of this institution requires flexibility. It requires each individual office to meet the unique needs of its constituency. It’s not just stated by state — it’s district by district,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) announced at a hearing in March.

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Calls for Congress to change its policy on unionization escalated earlier this year after an anonymous Instagram account with the handle “dear_white_staffers” highlighted aides’ stories of mistreatment and salary ranges from an array of offices.

“It’s outrageous that our staffers had to wait 26 years after collective bargaining rights were afforded to everybody else on Capitol Hill,” said Levin. “This is the temple of our democracy, and if workers don’t have their rights here, it’s kind of hollow to say that we’re standing up for the rights of people everywhere.”

“Our job here is to shut up and pass a law that gives people their rights,” he continued.

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