House Leadership Stalls Congressional Staffer Unionization Efforts

Mar 18, 2022
1:56 PM

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, chair of House Administration Committee which has conducted hearings on the efforts by Congressional staffers to unionize their offices. (AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik, Pool)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The hard push last month to empower staffers to unionize Congressional offices has stalled in the House of Representatives.

“We’re having hearings on that,” said House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) when asked by Latino Rebels about the resolution introduced by Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) that would give protections to staffers looking to unionize their offices.

“I want to see how they want to work it,” said Hoyer. “I’m for collective bargaining, as you know, all my life. But I want to see what the House Administration (Committee) is saying.”

The House Administration Committee is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who sources tell Latino Rebels was out this week with COVID.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also directed Latino Rebels to Lofgren for an update on the resolution.

A senior staffer familiar with the next steps indicated on Thursday that a hearing was in the works for the resolution.

Rep. Levin, the resolution’s author, seemed unaware of the hearings Hoyer mentioned when Latino Rebels caught up with him after votes on Thursday.

“It is absolutely necessary for the resolution to pass,” said Levin. “Staffers are not legally forbidden to form a union now in a given office, but they have no legal protections to do so.”

Levin said that without the resolution, staffers who seek to unionize can be fired, demoted, and even blacklisted, “because they have no legal protection of their right to organize and bargain collectively.”

The Congressional Accountability Act of 1996 created a framework for government workers on Capitol Hill to unionize.

“It was only then that you saw the unionization of the other units, like the Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol, Capitol Police, and so forth. They organized once they had the legal protection,” said Levin. “We just failed to give that legal protection to the people in our own offices.”

Levin said that the fact that no Hill office has formed a union in the years since the act was implemented in 1996 is evidence of how onerous and risky it is to even try to organize member offices and committees in Congress.

Anonymous accounts on social media like the now-famous “Dear White Staffers” on Instagram have been at the forefront of the current push to unionize.

On Thursday, Dear White Staffers sent Latino Rebels an updated whip count of House members who co-sponsored the PRO Act last year, a bill that would strengthen unions generally, but have not signed onto Levin’s resolution to empower unions in Congressional offices.

Whip count of members who signed onto the PRO Act but not the Levin resolution (Courtesy of Dear White Staffers)

According to the Dear White Staffers whip count, 12 more House members have signed onto the unions resolution since Latino Rebels reported on the list on February 24.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), a member of Congress featured in multiple Dear White Staffer posts alleging staff abuse, is one of the 54 remaining House Democrats on the PRO Act but not the Levin resolution.

“I haven’t looked at it,” said Jackson Lee of the Levin resolution, adding, “Anything to help the staffers.”

Rep. Abigail Spanburger (D-VA) echoed Jackson Lee. “I have not seen that resolution,” she said. “Staffers can do what they want to do.”

Notably, Reps. Hoyer, Lofgren, and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) —all members of House leadership— have yet to sign onto Levin’s resolution.

“The unions push has definitely lost steam,” said the chief of staff for a progressive House member who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “It’s a shame but it does feel like leadership is trying to kill it.

One staffer in a House leadership office told Latino Rebels that junior staffers have been pressuring the member to sign the Levin resolution and bring it to the floor.

“If [the member] isn’t on it by the end of March, we will have an issue,” said the staffer. “I’ll let you know the inside scoop.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports