The historic formation of Congressional staff unions celebrated its first anniversary this week.
“The Congressional Workers Union — the umbrella organization for the six House Democrat offices that have formed unions, plus the seven others that have petitioned to hold union elections and any other staffers looking to organize their corners of Capitol Hill — turned 1 year old Wednesday.
It’s been one heck of a year, said CWU’s outgoing president, Philip Bennett.
‘Last year was obviously historic,” Bennett said. “But it is the logical conclusion of the last couple of years: looking back at the pandemic, at the [criminal justice] uprising that summer, at Jan. 6th, but also to the broader labor movement that’s been demanding immediate material change to people’s lives. The way we were able to express all of that is through the Congressional Workers Union.’
After months of clandestine meetings (necessitated by the fact that federal labor law protections did not cover congressional staff), the group went public shortly after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’d support staff unions in February 2022. Then, on May 10, the House passed a resolution authorizing policy staff to unionize in accordance with the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 — the same day that Rep. Andy Levin introduced it, and the day the CWU considers its birthday.
When the resolution went into effect in July, staffers for eight House Democrats immediately filed union petitions with the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights. Another six offices followed suit by the end of the year, with seven holding successful elections and receiving union recognition. (Levin’s office was one of the seven, but he has left Congress.)
So far this year, the CWU survived an attempt in the House by the new Republican majority to squash their nascent labor movement and saw their first Senate office organize, as Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts voluntarily recognized his staffers’ union in March. A month later, the CWU held its first executive board elections.
‘Staffers before us had tried to chip away at it, and I feel honored that we were able to take that baton and take it to the next level,’ said Bennett. ‘I’m excited to see a fully elected board take that baton and keep going.'”
For the rest of the story, visit Roll Call here.
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