Aides for eight members of the U.S. House have filed petitions to be recognized as the Congressional Workers Union. They hope to collectively bargain for wage hikes, vacation time and sick leave.
The president of the Congressional Workers Union is Philip Bennett, a staffer for Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. He says union backing helps people address toxic work environments.
“For too long in an institution that has condoned racism and misogyny, workers have finally a tool to protect themselves and their coworkers,” Bennett said.
The unionization process has been in the works for over a year, and became possible after the House passed a resolution last May.
Michigan Congressman Andy Levin introduced the measure. He says the Senate must pass its own measure – but it’s blocked by Republicans.
“This is yet another reason why we have to get rid of the Jim Crow relic called the filibuster, because we just need a majority of senators to be able to vote on this,” Levin says.
Related: Rep. Andy Levin’s new labor bill, and why he’s running for re-election in the 11th district
Congressional staffers still need to vote and show that organizing is something a majority of the office wants. If the vote goes through, workers will then be able to collectively bargain for higher wages and protections.
“We are proud to support our workers who want to form unions and if some workers don’t want to that’s fine, it’s everybody’s free choice, this is America,” Levin said.
Soon after Levin spoke at a news conference about the issue, he, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and several other progressive members of Congress were arrested at an abortion rights rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.