The House of Representatives will vote on a resolution next week that would recognize congressional workers’ right to unionize, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Friday morning.
“Congressional staffers deserve the same fundamental rights and protections as workers all across the country, including the right to bargain collectively,” Pelosi said in the statement.
It’s unlikely that the same resolution would pass in the Senate. But if the House agrees to it, the ability to unionize would be applied to House staff independent of Senate action. That’s because the Congressional Accountability Act allows legislative branch staffers to organize and form a union. Regulations were issued to implement the labor provisions of that 1995 law, but they aren’t effective until lawmakers take the final step of formally agreeing to them.
The House speaker on Friday also said that minimum annual pay for staffers in the House would be set at $45,000 starting Sept. 1.
“With a competitive minimum salary, the House will better be able to retain and recruit excellent, diverse talent. Doing so will open the doors to public service for those who may not have been able to afford to do so in the past,” Pelosi said.
“This is also an issue of fairness, as many of the youngest staffers working the longest hours often earn the lowest salaries.”
Pelosi’s announcement comes weeks after more pressure from the Congressional Workers Union, which formally launched in February, to put the resolution to a vote.
“Many of us write and work tirelessly to advance the very laws that protect and promote every worker’s right to organize. We deserve those same rights—Congress should not be above the laws it creates,” the Congressional Workers Union wrote in a letter to House leaders last month.
The union asked leadership to schedule a vote during the last week of April, saying that House Democrats must lead by example, but the deadline wasn’t met.
The union says that working conditions and burnout on the Hill have only gotten worse during the coronavirus pandemic and after last year’s Jan. 6 insurrection.
For years, studies have shown that some junior congressional staffers aren’t even paid a living wage for Washington, D.C., leading some staffers to take on second jobs. Reports also show a sizable gender pay gap.