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House GOP Wants to Eliminate the Congressional Workers Union

The office of Rep. Andy Levin ratified the first-ever contract negotiated by congressional staff just last month.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and members of the House GOP leadership depart from a news conference on Capitol Hill on December 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Labor organizers on Capitol Hill were undeterred Monday despite U.S. House Republicans’ plans to try to undo progress made last year after Democrats passed a resolution enabling congressional staffers to form unions.

In preparation for taking narrow control of the lower chamber on Tuesday, the GOP on Sunday unveiled its rules package, which states the party’s intention to “eliminate Democrats’ creation of House staff labor unions so that congressional staff are accountable to the elected officials they serve.”

The Congressional Workers Union (CWU) fired back Monday, tweeting: “We organized and unionized offices in the 117th Congress, and we’re going not to stop in the 118th Congress. When we fight, we win, and we’re ready to take on any anti-worker battles that may come our way.”

The office of Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) ratified the first-ever contract negotiated by congressional staff just last month. However, Levin — who introduced the resolution enabling his and other staffers to organize, which passed the House in a May 2022 party-line vote — will not return for the 118th Congress after losing a Democratic primary to Rep. Haley Stevens.

Democrats, labor leaders, and other critics across the country called the GOP’s plans “shameful” as well as “sad, disgusting, and predictable.”

Democratic Congressmen-elect Chris Deluzio (Pa.) and Maxwell Alejandro Frost (Fla.) both expressed solidarity with the CWU.

“Any attempt to deny workers’ rights to organize — perhaps especially on Capitol Hill — is anti-democratic,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. “We will fight it and stand with the [CWU] all the way.”

Courtney Rose Laudick, the CWU’s vice president of organizing, asserted that “ALL workers deserve a union. That’s not up for debate.”

Both Laudick and David Dayen, The American Prospect’s executive editor, highlighted on Twitter that it’s not clear the House GOP will even be able to put its plan into action.

There is “some question as to whether the House GOP can even do this,” given that “last year’s House resolution on staff unions just implemented a provision of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995,” Dayen explained, so it is “not certain a rules package can take that away.”

Levin similarly tweeted Monday that the “GOP may be so reflexively anti-union that they want to strip their employees of the chance to form one — but it’s not that easy. Under the Congressional Accountability Act, rights that have been implemented can’t simply be taken away absent new legislation to change the act itself.”

Demand Progress policy director Dan Schuman pointed out that the 1995 law was passed under Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

CNN reported Monday that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty (R-Calif.) “outlined some of the concessions that he has agreed to in his campaign for speaker on a Sunday evening conference call — including making it easier to topple the speaker, according to multiple GOP sources on the call.”

Noting that the rules package was released after the call and “formalizes some of the concessions that McCarthy has agreed to,” the outlet added that “the House adopts its rules package only after it selects a speaker, which McCarthy has not locked down, so there could be additional compromises made in the coming days.”

This post has been updated with comment from Democratic Congressmen-elect Chris Deluzio (Pa.) and Maxwell Alejandro Frost (Fla.).

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