In a huge victory for convention organizers, the House of Representatives has passed a resolution on Tuesday that guarantees its employees protection from retaliation when they unite.
This voice marks a major shift on the hillwhich staff members haven’t made much use of reduce poor working conditions† low wages and long hours† It is also a big win for the Congressional Workers Union (CWU)a group of staffers who officially launched a union action after Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her support for organizing in February.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, staff members had the right to join a union below the Congressional Accountability Actbut they have long had the opportunity to be fired and blacklisted if they tried to exercise that right. The new House resolution ensures that they have a legal shield against this kind of backlash.
Now that they have this protection, House staffers can start the union process, even if the Senate has yet to pass a resolution of its own. By how the Congressional Accountability Act is written, each chamber can act independently on the matter, with unionization taking place at the office level.
In the coming weeks, the CWU plans to take on an advisory role, focusing on providing resources to staff interested in unionization, while allowing individual offices to steer the conversation about what they want to prioritize, they said. the organizers to cafemadrid. Currently, both CWU and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) — a group that will be heavily involved in this process — have factsheets on their FAQ websites.
“We are eager to get started and help workers sit at the negotiating table,” said a CWU organizer.
How would unionization work in practice?
Passing the resolution was a big step in the House, but it’s just the beginning. Notably, things may not change for many offices that choose not to organize: For example, while CWU has gained interest from Republican staffers, its work has been primarily Democratic-driven.
However, those interested in unions may soon be able to take action. After the vote, it will take about 60 days for the regulations to take effect.
After that time has passed, staffers can begin filing union action petitions with OCWR if 30 percent of the people within a bargaining unit — usually a member’s office — support one. They will also have to decide who belongs in a negotiating unit: Anyone considered management — like a chief of staff — usually can’t participate, said Kevin Mulshine, a former senior counsel with Congress’s Office of Compliance.
Staff members of the Senate and staff members who work in both chambers, meanwhile, cannot organize themselves until the Senate also adopts a resolution. sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is expected to table a Senate resolution later this year, though it is seen as a longshot given Democrats’ narrow majority and Republicans’ opposition to unionization.
After negotiating units have submitted petitions, OCWR will oversee a formal vote within each of them. If a majority of people vote in favour, OCWR can officially recognize the union and begin negotiations with management on a contract.
That contract could address a range of issues, including pay caps for an office, sick leave requirements and a more formalized overtime policy. In addition, it could contain anti-discrimination clauses that apply to the way employees are treated.
Should any disputes arise, OCWR will settle them. For example, some have questioned whether staffers can negotiate wages, which Mulshine says is within their rights.
Unionization could change the work culture on the hill
A union would allow staffers to have a much greater say over working conditions and shift the power they have in their offices, which have traditionally been heavily focused on a member’s needs.
There is also hope that unionization can help keep people on the hill, which is currently at a high turnover and regularly loses talent to better-paying private sector jobs.
A 2020 report from New America found that 65 percent of staffers were uninterested in staying on the Hill for more than five years, and many who planned to leave after they left watched higher-paying lobbying appearances.
“You need strong, capable conference staff who are experts in their field, who can expand their knowledge. What you don’t want are people who want to leave after 18 months and go elsewhere to work,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for advocacy group Demand Progress .
Likewise, better working conditions could encourage more people to consider working on the hill in the first place. Because of the low pay, many executives can only take these jobs if they have family support or a second job. Organizers hope that a union, and the protection it provides, will make these roles accessible to more people.
For now, it will probably be some time before offices start ratifying contracts and addressing these provisions. Tuesday’s vote, however, was a significant step forward: The resolution is quite difficult to undo — and it guarantees this protection even if the home control changes hands.