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This congressional staff became the first in U.S. history to form a union

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Capitol Dome
Samuel Corum
/
Getty Images

The Congressional Workers Union announced on Monday via Twitter that the office of Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., won its union election — the first one to do so on the Hill. According to the union, the vote was unanimous.

"It is with great pride we announce the landslide union election victory in Congressman Andy Levin's office," the Congressional Workers Union said in a statement shared with NPR. "... the workers clearly and emphatically expressed their desire to bargain collectively and have a seat at the table to determine workplace conditions and benefits."

The CWU says that Congress does not provide proper compensation to congressional staff, stating on its website that "work conditions on the hill are so poor that burnout and turnover are at an all-time high." One in eight D.C.-based congressional staffers, or around 1,200 workers, made less than a living wage in 2020, according to one report.

The union also referenced "harassment and hostility" to staff due to protected characteristics including race, sexuality and religion and — particularly in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots — "inadequate protections from threats of violence."

In late February, the CWU presented Levin with draft legislation to protect staffers' right to bargain collectively. The resolution passed in May and took effect July 18, at which point eight offices of members of the U.S. House of Representatives submitted motions to hold unionization elections. When the resolution was adopted, Levin pointed out in a press release that Senate staff does not have the protected right to form a union.

Soon, this may not be the only unionized congressional office. California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna's staff will vote whether to unionize on Sept. 28, followed by Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's staff on Sept. 29.

This history-making unionized office won't exist for long, however; Rep. Levin lost his primary election in August, so his office will close at the end of his term in January.

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Halisia Hubbard