Scheme In Congress To Form Staffer Union Has A Few Problems

( Congressional staffers have been hoping to find a path toward unionization, and that seemed to get a boost recently when a Democrat in the House introduced a proposed resolution that would allow them to progress with the plan.

Still, there are some gray areas regarding how a congressional staffer union would actually work, since both the office of the Senate and House set their own policies for the workplace.

As Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, explained to reporters:

“It’s more complicated than the private sector. As you know, the rules are different … It’s a complicating factor in that you have 435, or one could say 535, different employing entities.”

Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri who’s the top member of the GOP on the Senate Rules Committee, also questioned how a union for staff members would work on Capitol Hill. While he didn’t state a position on the matter, he did comment recently:

“It’s like there are 535 employers. I don’t know quite how that fits into any traditional union structure unless you have multiple unions.”

The measure was introduced on Wednesday by Democratic Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, and it was signed onto by 130 other Democrats. If passed, it would recognize formally the ability of House staffers to form their own working union.

Another big challenge to it becoming official, though, is that it would need the support of 60 members of the Senate, which could be tough to get. Even members of their own party are doubtful about whether it would ever pass through the Senate.

As Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio explained:

“You’re going to clearly have resistance … There’s clearly many senators who aren’t going to want unions in their offices.”

Some of those senators include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said “it was a terrible idea,” and Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who said he thinks “it’s nuts.”

It’s not just these senators, either. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa said he was re-thinking his position on the matter. He was the original author of a law in 1998 as well as the Congressional Accountability Act that would give congressional staff the option to organize.

He said:

“You would end up with 535 different unions, that sounds kind of complicated. I’m not against unions.”

It’s possible that the bill passes through the House, where Democrats have enough of a majority to push the proposal through if they want to. It’s likely that that’s the process that will happen.

If that happens, the House proposal would likely include clarity that any staff who works on a committee in the House or in the personal offices of House members would be allowed to organize just like staff members in other entities of the legislative branch, including the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police.

After spending the past year working behind the scenes on details, the Congressional Workers Union announced just last week that they want to move forward with allowing staffers to unionize.