How to Make Congress Worse

Representative Andy Levin holds a news conference on congressional staffers’ right to unionize in Washington DC, May 11.


Bill Clark / Zuma Press

Americans don’t like Congress, for obvious reasons, and this week Congress received another election when the House voted to allow its employees to be represented by a union.

The House of Representatives voted 217-202 on Tuesday on a resolution sponsored by Michigan Rep. Andy Levin authorizing collective bargaining. Congress has long rejected the idea, but progressives see it as part of their “fair” agenda.

The union push was boosted this year by an anonymous Instagram account called “Dear White Staffers,” which complained about discrimination, pay and working conditions. A group calling itself the Congressional Workers’ Union has ramped up momentum — though its members insist on anonymity.

The Levin resolution allows a broad right to organize, while dodging questions about how this works in practice. The House has 435 offices with 9,100 employees, or an average of 21 employees per Member. Each office will need to hold its own union vote amid rapid staff changes. Most Republican offices would pass, and even Democratic offices could vote no – leading to a patchwork of working rules across the Capitol.

Will a bargaining unit include all staff for each Member, or will the staff at home government offices set up on their own? Will the bureaus stand up to form a union from scratch or join one of the 100 other unions that currently represent federal employees? Should senior employees be in the same union as junior employees, and who decides who is senior? Federal law prohibits workers from being in a “manager” or “supervisor” role in collective bargaining.

Employees are supposed to advance the agenda of Members, but co-operation can bring them into labor management conflict. With their access to confidential legislative information, employees working on the union agenda can also have leverage over elected representatives. Get ready for complaints about unfair labor to become political weapons.

Congress has a problem with staff turnover, as pay has failed over the past 20 years to keep up with inflation. But Congress’ March omnibus included a 21% increase in the Member’s office budget. Most Representatives plan to garner better compensation even before Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week announced a minimum wage threshold of $45,000 a year for employees and a higher cap ($203,700). ) for the maximum annual salary.

Each house of Congress sets its own rules, so this week’s House vote doesn’t apply to the Senate, where it likely won’t pass in all cases. Republicans will likely repeal the resolution if they retake the House in November. But instead of unionizing, let’s do this: Fire about half of the staff but pay the rest better. . Congress can attract better people to stay for a while instead of leaving as soon as they can for the wealth of K Street.

Reviews & Outlook: The Administration’s new Misinformation Administration is likely to fuel more public distrust. Image: AFP / Express / Getty Images / AP Composite: Mark Kelly

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