Statement on House Unionization Vote + Establishment of Minimum Wage

“Today is a proud moment in congressional history and portends a significant advance in the working conditions for congressional staff,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director of Demand Progress, a non-governmental organization focused on strengthening our democracy that has led a broad coalition to advocate for the right of congressional staff to unionize and pushed for higher staff pay.

“Within 100 days of Speaker Pelosi signaling her support for congressional unionization, which came in the wake of a series of revelations about mistreatment of congressional staff, the House of Representatives is set to make good on its commitment to bolster staffers’ ability to organize and negotiate without fear of retaliation.

We commend Rep. Levin for introducing and and fighting for this House unionization resolution; the overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus who co-sponsored the resolution; House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren who worked assiduously to advance unionization, in particular by laying the groundwork through holding a hearing; and most importantly the courageous congressional staff who sounded the alarm and the members of the nascent Congressional Workers Union who organized to remediate the long history of harassment, discrimination, and poor pay.

We applaud Speaker Pelosi’s establishment of a baseline of $45,000 for House staff pay, which addresses a serious issue where one-in-eight staffers earned below a living wage. Speaker Pelosi’s use of her authority to issue this Pay Order, which must be implemented by September 1, will remediate a longstanding and unconscionable situation where some staff have been paid poverty wages. We commend Majority Leader Hoyer and Caucus Chair Jeffries for their leadership on staff pay and benefits issues, and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for her notable and visible hard work to improve staff pay and benefits, especially for those staffers in greatest need of assistance.

If all goes as planned, by the end of next week this House will be on track to improve the working conditions for its staff in the 117th Congress than Congress has over the last three decades combined.

Unionization isn’t a panacea for the inequities in Congress, but it provides staff a seat at the table where the House makes important decisions concerning working conditions. Fully addressing these concerns, particularly in light of previously announced and today’s new effort to provide more money for staff pay as well as ongoing consideration of improved benefits and recourse in the event of mistreatment, should help strengthen the Legislative branch and stem both the exodus of congressional staff to the private sector and some of the disproportionate informational advantage enjoyed by special interests.”

Demand Progress and the Demand Progress Education Fund have been at the forefront of research and advocacy on unionization, examining and ultimately championing unionization under the Congressional Accountability Act starting in 2018. Policy Director Daniel Schuman authored a brief history of unionization in September 2020, submitted written testimony calling for unionization in the House to the House Legislative branch Appropriations Subcommittee in April 2021, submitted testimony concerning unionization in March 2022 to the House Administration Committee, and compiled this constantly updated resource on congressional unionization. He writes a weekly newsletter focused on governmental transparency and Congress, the First Branch Forecast.