House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through party-friendly legislation on Tuesday allowing House staff to unionize, though it remains unclear whether the effort will succeed.
The California Democrat passed the measure using a special legislative procedure that tied it to a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine.
Officially, lawmakers passed the union measure when they passed a rule to begin debate on the aid bill.
The measure passed along party lines, with 217 Democrats voting in favor and 202 Republicans opposed.
“Let tomorrow be the dawn of a new era of worker voice and power in the People’s House,” said Rep. Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat who led the charge for union organizing.
The vote allows House staffers to immediately begin forming a union, but the path forward is uncertain. Congressional offices operate as individual entities whose members set their own individual workplace policies. Even supporters say the Congressional union will only have power over offices that choose to acknowledge its existence and allow their staff to join.
Republicans say the reality is something union champions will have to confront immediately.
“Not only are most congressional staffers already getting the benefits that most unions are fighting for… [unionization] would create serious problems and lead to even more dysfunction in Washington,” said Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee. “Congress’s single office structure, fluctuating partisan balance, unpredictable schedule changes, and inevitable turnover due to elections make unions impractical in our offices and committees.”
There is also significant uncertainty about the union’s survival if Republicans retake the House this cycle, as most political strategists predict. GOP lawmakers can easily pass a resolution next year limiting the ability of staff to unionize.
A vote on a similar resolution in the Senate will likely be tenuous if lawmakers have to meet the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster threshold. Apart from certain tax and expenditure measures, most laws must meet the rule to become law.
Since the Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties, the enabling resolution would require the support of at least 10 Republicans as well as all 50 Democrats. Proponents of unionizing Senate staff are considering whether the resolution could pass with a simple majority.
But the push to unionize on Capitol Hill goes hand in hand with similar push to organize campaign staffers working for Democratic candidates and elected officials. Since the 2020 Democratic primaries, the number of Democratic candidates with unionized campaign staff has increased significantly.
The House vote allowing staff to unionize came the same day the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced that its employees were forming a union.
“We look forward to meeting at the negotiating table, rolling up our sleeves, and securing a contract to ensure the DCCC is the best place to work in Democratic politics for all current and future staff,” Jacob said. Haythorn, a DCCC representative. union.