WASHINGTON, D.C. — The vibe was sleep-deprived but triumphant as Congressional Workers Union members gathered with supporters Wednesday evening on the West Lawn of the Capitol to celebrate an unprecedented victory.
A resolution to protect Hill staffers from retaliation for organizing a union in their offices had been adopted by the House the night before.
“We’re very excited about it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after the vote on Tuesday. “Now it’s up to the offices to make the best of it.”
Latino Rebels asked Pelosi if her office will unionize. “I hope so!” she said over her shoulder as she entered the House chamber.
Inside, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) triumphantly hobnobbed on the House floor with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), two progressive members of the Democratic caucus who, like Levin, told Latino Rebels that they expect their offices to unionize as well.
“I’m a union member,” said Omar before the vote. “We are an office that believes in the power of unions and the strength of collective bargaining, and so we are really excited to see our staff, not just utilize that for themselves, but also help their other colleagues and other offices do that as well.”
Outside the Capitol, on her way to vote in favor of the rule in which the resolution was adopted, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) echoed Omar.
“I’m absolutely happy that today is the day, and I’m glad that my staff get to unionize,” Bush said. “This is not really my day. This is their day.”
The resolution took effect on Wednesday and protects over 9,000 workers employed in member offices, committees, and support offices in the House. Some Senate staffers are protected by the resolution as well, according to Levin.
“That’s the exact language that was in the original regulations in 1986,” Levin explained when asked if the Senate would be included in the resolution’s protections.
Levin said that the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) will begin handling petitions from workers looking to unionize their office 60 days after the resolution takes effect, but that, practically speaking, Hill staffers have the right to unionize as of Wednesday.
“I can’t imagine anyone would try to violate their rights after this vote,” said Levin. “So it’s more of a procedural matter about when OCWR will really be ready to move, and I think they have the option of moving faster. But they need time to get ready perhaps.”
Meanwhile, the staffers behind the union push are excited to move forward with organizing their offices.
“We don’t ask for credit, but we do ask for positive working conditions, and unions are a vehicle to achieve that,” said Zoe Bluffstone, press steward for the Congressional Progressive Staff Association, who attended the victory rally on Wednesday.
Administrators of the anonymous social media account that helped pressure Congress to secure workplace protections for staffers looking to unionize echoed Bluffstone.
“This win belongs to every former and current staffer who shared their stories with Dear White Staffers,” said an admin of the Instagram account where staffers have been sharing their horror stories of work life in Congress throughout the drive to unionize. “Everything’s been pretty unreal.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports