WASHINGTON — California Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that she is introducing a higher pay scale for House staff, setting minimum annual wages for the first time, and raising the maximum salary in an effort to improve and sustain working conditions on Capitol Hill. conference staff.
Under pressure from assistants who became increasingly vocal about long work days, poor wages and a difficult work environment, Ms. Pelosi fixed a minimum annual salary of $45,000, which she said should be implemented by September 1. She also raised the cap to $203,700 what staffers can earn, a slight increase from the $199,300 cap she announced last year when she repealed a rule that dictated that no employee could earn more than the $174,000 salary for members of the House.
And Ms. Pelosi said the House would vote next week on a resolution that would grant aides legal protections to form a union, more than a quarter of a century after Congress passed legislation to allow staff to bargain collectively. It will likely pass with most, if not all, of the Democratic votes, after which the House could make the change.
The measures come as aides urge Congress to address workforce inequalities and find ways to stop a staff exodus as aides leave the institution seeking better pay and treatment. to find.
Frustrations with the demanding environment on Capitol Hill — long and unpredictable work hours, low wages and meager benefits, a lack of diversity and often fickle bosses — have been exacerbated in recent months by the challenges of the pandemic and an air of fear and mistrust that has lingered. in the wake of the January 6 riots.
A January analysis published by Issue One, a bipartisan political reform organization, found that the median salary of Washington-based congressional staff in 2020 was $38,730 for a staff aide, usually an entry-level position. (According to data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a living wage in Washington at the time was $42,610 for an adult without children.)
As part of the massive government funding package that went into effect in March, lawmakers in the House of Representatives were granted a 21 percent increase in their office budgets, the largest increase since 1996.
While lawmakers are free to set their own budgets, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who spearheaded the increase, including Representatives Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, have urged the additional funds to be used. to raise staff wages. The new minimum salary will, in effect, mandate that at least some of the extra money be spent on employee benefits.
“With a competitive minimum salary, the House will be better able to retain and recruit outstanding, diverse talent,” Ms Pelosi wrote in a letter to lawmakers announcing the change. “This will open the doors to public service for those who may not have been able to afford it in the past. This is also a matter of fairness, as many of the youngest staffers who work the longest hours often earn the lowest salaries.”
Earlier this year, House staff announced they had formed a union to push for the rights and protections other federal workers already have, amid a series of high-profile union efforts across the country. The effort has won the support of Ms. Pelosi and Democratic leaders, as well as President Biden and major workers’ groups.
“If the House passes this resolution, we will clear the way for staffers to join a union if they want to,” Ms Pelosi wrote. “Congress workers deserve the same fundamental rights and protections as workers across the country, including the right to bargain collectively.”
The group has remained anonymous, citing the lack of legal protections on Capitol Hill. But in a statement, the Congressional Workers Union applauds Ms. Pelosi’s decision to pass legislation that provides such safeguards.
“With this vote, every member of Congress will have the opportunity to give their own workers the right to organize and bargain collectively, without retaliation,” the group wrote. “We welcome and look forward to the vote, and we expect every member who stands up for workers’ rights will vote for our right to form a union.”
As part of an effort to ensure Congress was no longer exempt from civil rights and labor laws extended to the private sector, lawmakers passed the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. That legislation gave congressional workers the right to unionize. But lawmakers quickly refused to pass rules that would provide the necessary legal protections, including rules effectively hindering retaliation against personnel who tried to organize.
The resolution expected to pass next week, sponsored by Michigan Democrat Representative Andy Levin, would for the first time grant House employees the same labor rights and protections that other federal workers enjoy, including protection from retaliation. It would apply to all House assistants, according to a draft reviewed by DailyExpertNews.
In an interview, Mr Levin said it was “critical that we legislators have led the way and given all workers in this country the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.”
“This is a great moment for the wider effort by workers across the country to organize and negotiate for a better life,” he added.
The measure only applies to employees of the House staff. Unionization efforts have not gained as much traction in the Senate, which should pass its own resolution to give employees legal protections for collective bargaining.