First Branch Forecast for Oct. 31, 2022: Improving Congressional Tech

Top Line

1/ Speaker Pelosi’s husband was violently assaulted in their San Francisco residence.

At the time of writing, we do not know the motives of the assailant. However, it would not be surprising if the ultimate aim was to harm Speaker Pelosi. In this newsletter we have previously discussed the concept of stochastic terrorism, which is “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.” We condemn all acts of violence, and incitement to violence, against elected officials and their families. We wish Paul Pelosi a speedy and full recovery.

Political violence is sometimes used as a reason to overreach and curtail political speech. We acknowledge the importance of allowing for criticism of the policies advanced by a politician. Bad political actors have demonstrated a remarkable facility with the use of dog whistles, however. They generate veiled calls for or support of violence that increases the likelihood of violence in such a way as to create some doubt about what they are doing. The traditional media has largely been unable or unwilling to cover this appropriately, and partisan media and partisan actors have amplified these calls.

We wonder about the role of the extraordinarily well-funded U.S. Capitol Police in this incident. It seems plausible that one of their most visible protectees was a target regardless of whether she was actually present. What does it say about security for other Members of Congress in their homes, workplaces, and elsewhere? What does it say about the USCP’s ability to detect, deter, and address threats? We stand by our concerns that structural problems with the leadership and oversight of the USCP create a fundamental risk to the safety of Congress, a problem that cannot be resolved by throwing money at the problem. We have yet to see any real reforms at the USCP or its oversight board.

We realize that Congress’s most likely reaction will be to shovel more money at the Capitol Police. The overall funding level for the Legislative branch can’t handle these hundred-million-dollar annual increases for the USCP without undercutting the ability of the Legislative branch to function by constraining funds for all other purposes. (There’s a $100 million increase in the works when the delayed appropriations bill becomes law.) We’d suggest that some of the USCP’s funds start coming from another appropriations subcommittee, like Defense or CJS, because their work includes responding to terrorism and crime threats.

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Statement on House Union Rules Taking Effect

Today, the House is marking a major milestone that will forever change the rights of staff as recently-approved Office of Workplace Rights regulations permitting unionization go into effect.

“Staff in the House of Representatives work long hours at low pay to meet the needs of the American people and we are pleased they will finally be able to enjoy a crucial right long available to workers across the country: the right to collectively organize to improve their working conditions,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “Providing House political and non-political staff the ability to join a labor union, an effort a quarter-century in the making, illustrates one avenue to transform the institution from within, as Congress’s ability to function well depends on a well-trained, expert staff devoted to making our democracy work for all. Additional work remains, including extending these labor rights to Senate political staff and some support agency staff currently excluded from collective bargaining laws.”

Video – The Power of Unions in Congress: Know Your Rights

Demand Progress Education Fund hosted a virtual event on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, titled “The Power in Unions in Congress: Know Your Rights.” The event featured recorded remarks from Representative Andy Levin, lead sponsor of the House congressional unionization resolution.

Panelists helped clarify what rights and protections will be granted to congressional staffers, what will happen when staffers officially unionize their offices, and also discussed the history of the unionization movement in Congress.

The distinguished panel included:

Katherine Tully-McManus, Politico Huddle (moderator)

Rep. Andy Levin, lead sponsor of the House unionization resolution (opening remarks)

Jeff Friday, general counsel at the National Federation of Federal Employees

Kevin Mulshine, former counsel at the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

Yvette Piacsek, deputy general counsel at National Federation of Federal Employees, IAMAW, AFL-CIO

Taylor J. Swift, policy advisor at Demand Progress (event host)

Watch the full discussion below.

Event Announcement – The Power of Unions in Congress: Know Your Rights

How does unionization work in Congress? What’s the history behind this congressional unionization movement? What rights will be granted to me as a congressional employee? 

There’s a lot of information — and misinformation — out there. With the July 18 deadline for the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to implement the resolution that grants House staff the right to organize quickly approaching, Demand Progress Education Fund is convening several government labor experts to discuss various rights and protections offered to staff to empower congressional staff with the knowledge they need to successfully implement unions in the House of Representatives. 

Join Demand Progress Education Fund for a virtual briefing that will include remarks from Representative Andy Levin and top government labor experts on making unions work in Congress. Panelists will clarify what rights and protections will be granted to congressional staffers, what will happen when staffers officially unionize their offices, and will also discuss the history of the unionization movement in Congress. 

RSVP here

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