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.”
“Today’s vote to allow House staff to unionize portends a significant advance in the working conditions for congressional staff and is a high point in efforts to restore Congress’s strength as a robust institution capable of working on behalf of the American people,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress.
“In the wake of a series of revelations about mistreatment of congressional staff and in the aftermath of decades of neglect, House political and non-political staff will finally be able to organize and negotiate for better working conditions without fear of retaliation.
We applaud all the congressional staffers and particularly the Congressional Workers Union for their ceaseless advocacy in support of improving staff working conditions; we commend Representative Andy Levin for his championing of the congressional unionization resolution, co-sponsored by a wide array of Members of Congress; Representative Zoe Lofgren for conducting thorough oversight through the Committee on House Administration; and Speaker Pelosi and senior leadership for bringing the measure to the House floor.
In combination with adjusting office funding levels by 21%, providing significant investments in Congress’s oversight capabilities, ensuring that no staffer earns below a living wage, and strengthening workplace protections, this House of Representatives has done more to strengthen the Legislative Branch than any Congress in the last 30 years.”
The House Administration Committee held a hearing on Congressional unionization on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Congress approved legislation providing for unions a quarter-century ago and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) promulgated regulations on how unionization would work at the time, but tricky language in that law requires the House to act (by a resolution) to implement labor protections for certain political and non-political staff. The hearing focused on whether the unionization regulation should be put into effect.
Witnesses included OCWR General Counsel John Uelman, who was there as an expert witness to explain how all this might work, as well as Mark Strand, who represented the conservative Congressional Institute in opposition to unionization. Demand Progress submitted this statement providing a history of how we got here, and Rep. Levin submitted a statement explaining why the time for unionization is now. In addition, a coalition of 78 organizations called on the House to protect staff’s right to unionize immediately in a letter to House leadership timed to coincide with the hearing. We’ve got the witness statements, video, and everything else you could want on the topic here.
In sum, Uelman said the current OCWR Board unanimously supports the 1996 regulations and “urges Congress to approve these regulations.” More than 160 members of Congress have cosponsored Rep. Levin’s resolution. Following the hearing, the Congressional Workers Union released a statement in support of immediate adoption of the 1996 regulations; it’s available here. RollCall and BGov have good summaries of the hearing.
Continue reading “What We Know About How House Unionization Might Work”