President Biden supports efforts by a group of congressional staffers to unionize, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
“He does,” Psaki said during a briefing, when asked whether the President supports the push by congressional staffers to unionize.
“He supports the right of any individual to seek to join a union, to collective bargain. And, of course, Capitol Hill staffers are certainly individuals who are pursuing that,” Psaki continued.
Asked whether White House staff have been in touch with congressional staffers who are pushing the effort, Psaki directed the question to congressional leadership.
Psaki’s comments come less than a week after the Congressional Workers Union announced its organizing efforts 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.”
Prior to Psaki stating Biden’s support of the effort, many Democrats on Capitol Hill have offered 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.
Thus far, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) appears to be the only Democratic lawmaker who has expressed skepticism of congressional staffers’ push, telling reporters on Tuesday that he hadn’t heard of the unionizing effort, before floating 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.”
Unsurprisingly, some figures in GOP leadership were quick to express their opposition to congressional staffers’ efforts to unionize.
“No. I don’t think it would be productive for the government,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Punchbowl News on Monday.
Senior Republicans, such as 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 that he is “not for it.”
Both the House and the Senate would need to pass resolutions approving staffers’ unionization. It would likely need to go through regular order in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans, in addition to all Democrats, would need to support it to pass.
The President’s endorsement of unionization efforts on Capitol Hill comes as no surprise. During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.”
Last year, the President raised brows when he tweeted a video appearing to offer his full-throated support of a unionization effort by Amazon warehouse staffers in Alabama — going further than all recent past presidents, on both sides of the aisle.
The Biden administration has continued to advocate for workers’ right to organize since then.
Psaki’s remarks on Biden’s support for organizing efforts on Capitol Hill also come a day after the White House’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment released a 43-page report detailing how the federal government can work to increase union participation and strengthen workers’ right to organize. The release of the report came as union organizing in the U.S. nears a historic low, with just 10.3 percent of wage and salary workers belonging to a union in 2021, down threefold from a high in the 1950s.
“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that increasing worker organizing and empowerment is critical to growing the middle class, building an economy that puts workers first, and strengthening our democracy,” the report begins.