Days after a group of congressional staffers announced their efforts to unionize, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made clear — unsurprisingly — that he is not enthusiastic about the idea.
“No. I don’t think it would be productive for the government,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News on Monday.
The House and Senate would both need to pass resolutions greenlighting staffers’ unionization. In the Senate, it would likely go through regular order, requiring at least 10 Republicans, as well as all Democrats, to support it.
Although he currently heads the minority caucus of the House, McCarthy’s opposition to congressional staffers’ unionization efforts could carry heavier weight if Republicans take back the majority in the midterm elections later this year and lead an effort to block or overturn the effort.
Senior Republicans also stated their opposition to congressional staffers to unionize in recent days.
“I’m not for it,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is viewed as a potential successor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as GOP leader, told Politico on Monday.
It might not only be Republicans who would stand in the way of unionizing Senate staffers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) didn’t back the effort right off the bat when asked about it on Tuesday.
Manchin first told reporters he hadn’t heard of the unionizing effort, before seeming to discuss the concept of “at-will” employment.
“I’m here at the will and pleasure of the people. They have a chance to change and things of that sort,” Manchin said. “So we got to make sure we’re doing it and doing it right. My greatest thing is to have the best staff I possibly can to serve the people of West Virginia.”
Manchin added if there are any staffers who are being treated “unfairly,” then “that should be looked into and taken care of.”
Manchin then offered that he was a “big supporter” of unions and the right to unionize, but argued that people who are “working for tax dollars” are also “at the will and pleasure of the people.”
“They have a chance to change and things of that sort so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing it and doing it right,” Manchin said.
Other Democrats have articulated full-throated endorsements of the idea. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voicing their support of the unionization effort, at least 80 Democratic members of Congress have backed the push thus far, according to a tally by the activist group Demand Progress.
Among those is Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who unequivocally stated his support of it.
“Look, I’ve always been a supporter of people’s ability,” Tester told reporters on Tuesday. “So I don’t, I don’t have a problem with it.”
Tester added that he’s “not worried” about how unionizing might work practically among congressional staffers.
The Congressional Workers Union announced its organizing effort on Friday amid rising discontent with congressional staffers’ pay and working conditions. The group cited a recent survey from the Congressional Progressive Staff Association that found that 91% of congressional staff respondents, including management staff, “would like to see more protections to give them a voice at work.”
“After more than a year of organizing as a volunteer group of congressional staff, we are proud to publicly announce our efforts to unionize the personal offices and committees of Congress, in solidarity with our fellow workers across the United States and the world,” a statement from the group read.
“While not all offices and committees face the same working conditions, we strongly believe that to better serve our constituents will require meaningful changes to improve retention, equity, diversity, and inclusion on Capitol Hill. That starts with having a voice in the workplace. We call on all congressional stuff to join the effort to unionize, and look forward to meeting management at the table.”
The announcement of the union drive came as congressional staffers aired their grievances about working conditions, particularly through the anonymous Instagram account @dear_white_staffers.