Staffers in Rep. Andy Levin's office become first to vote to unionize

Washington — Staffers in Democratic Rep. Andy Levin's office have voted to form a union, becoming the first in Congress to do so, according to the Congressional Workers Union.

The vote last week was the first union election in a congressional office in U.S. history, the Congressional Workers Union said Monday. Staffers for Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar are also holding union elections this week.

"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. "While exercising their right to vote, the workers clearly and emphatically expressed their desire to bargain collectively and have a seat at the table to determine workplace conditions and benefits. CWU is ecstatic to support these workers as we move to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract representative of workers' needs for the first time in congressional history."

In a statement, Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said he was "proud of their bravery and initiative" and "look[s] forward to bargaining a just contract with the Congressional Workers Union."

Levin pushed a successful bill to allow House staffers to form unions and collectively bargain that passed in a party-line vote in May. Congress had already approved a framework for staffers to unionize in 1995, but hadn't followed up to pass a formal set of regulations allowing staffers to begin the process.

Unionization is considered office by office, and only staffers in the House, not the Senate, can unionize. Unionized staffers are also limited in negotiating wages.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a minimum salary for House staffers of $45,000. There previously had been no minimum salary.

Entry-level staffers on Capitol Hill are notoriously underpaid in an area with a high cost of living, a dynamic that often prevents young people who don't come from affluent families from working on the Hill. The lower salaries lead to congressional staffers being less diverse than the U.S. population as a whole, and can lead experienced staffers to leave the Hill for the private sector, taking with them institutional knowledge.

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