WASHINGTON — The federal labor movement reached a major milestone on Monday after staff in the office of Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) voted to unionize, creating the first congressional office union in history.
The vote was unanimous, according to Congressional Workers Union, an independent organization created to represent the staffers of Congress.
“Today, my staff became the very first in the 233-year history of the U.S. Congress to form a union. I’m proud of their bravery and initiative, and I look forward to bargaining a just contract with the Congressional Workers Union,” said Rep. Levin in a statement to Federal Times.
In February, Levin introduced a resolution to grant organizing rights to House staffers, which passed in May by a vote of 217-202.
Two months later, workers from the offices of seven other Democratic members of the House of Representatives filed motions to hold initial elections, with Levin’s workers now moving forward on that initial vote.
Similar votes could be held in the offices of Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), Ro Khanna (D-Ca.), Ted Lieu (D-Ca.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.)
Spokespeople for the Congressional Workers Union were immediately available for comment.
Levin, however, lost his House seat in the Michigan primary election to fellow Democrat Haley Stevens on Aug. 2.
Other unions representing federal workers have applauded staffers for their organizing efforts, saying they, too, deserve a seat at the bargaining table.
“On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers that AFGE represents, I welcome House staff to the labor family,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley after Levin’s resolution passed.
“Organizers worked tirelessly to make this happen—may this be the first of many more!” tweeted Liz Shuler, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
President Joe Biden has also shown public support for union-friendly policies in trying to make good-paying jobs priorities of his administration, especially with inflation and the pandemic destabilizing the lives of workers around the country.
“I intend to be the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history,” Biden said in a September speech.
As of July, 55% of U.S. adults say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, unchanged from August 2019, according to Pew Research Center. However, the percentage of American workers who belong to a labor union has declined in recent decades, despite a slight uptick last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With reporting by Ryan White.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.