As Democratic lawmakers rallied behind congressional staffers’ unionization effort on Tuesday, Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin (West Virginia) expressed skepticism about the workers’ recently announced union drive.
Manchin claimed that he has “always been a big supporter of unions” — as many union-busting companies also claim – but added that congressional workers are paid by taxpayers. “When you’re working for tax dollars and you’re [at] will and pleasure, I’m here at the will and pleasure of the people. They have a chance to change and things of that sort, so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing it and doing it right,” he told Politico.
As reporters, pro-labor figures were quick to point outThere are many existing congressional unions. These include agencies like the Library of Congress, Government Accountability Office, and Capitol Police. have already unionized.
Manchin’s statement came after the Congressional Workers Union They officially announced their union driveFriday Democratic staffers sayThey have been quietly organizing for at least one year and at most 78 members of Congress. have publicly announced their support for the union effortAccording to a Demand Progress count, it is.
Manchin’s argument that publicly-funded workers shouldn’t reap the benefits of unionization and collective bargaining is bizarre. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics public sector workers are unionized at a higher level than private sector workers. In fact, last year, 39% of public sector workers were a part of a union. five times the unionization rateIn the private sector.
If Manchin supposedly supports unions, but doesn’t support public sector unions because the workers are funded by the government, then it would appear – based on his own statements – that he doesn’t actually support a large swath of unions in the country.
Many workers join unions to get better wages and more benefits. Many congressional staffers say they don’t get enough to live in Washington, D.C., leading to high turnover rates. Staff are often seen as disposable and have little control over their work conditions.
“There is a political culture that treats staff on Capitol Hill as being expendable,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-New Mexico) told Bloomberg Law. “I certainly have heard senior staff and other congressional members in my time on the Hill allude to the fact that staff are a dime a dozen.”
Since the last few months, a private Instagram page called Dear white staffers has been operating. has been documentingEmployees have suffered workplace abuses and microaggressions, such as having to run errands in the evenings or after work hours. having things thrown at them by lawmakers.
“While not all offices and committees face the same working conditions, we strongly believe that to better serve our constituents will require meaningful changes to improve retention, equity, diversity, and inclusion on Capitol Hill,” the union said in a statement announcing their union drive.
Republicans in the Senate already come out against the unionization efforts, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California)On Tuesday, he reaffirmed his opposition to this drive. While Republican support for the effort won’t be necessary in the House, Republicans would likely need to be on board for a resolution giving staffers the green light to organize in the Senate.
House Democrats may soon have the opportunity to allow their staff unionization, though this would have to be done office-by–office. according to Insider. Rep. Andy Levin (D. Michigan) plans to introduce legislation this week that would allow employees to unionize. Although it’s unclear if the legislation has the votes to pass, prominent Democrats like House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have said that they will support the measure.