News & Politics

Congressional Staffers Are Trying to Unionize

The viral Instagram account "Dear White Staffers" has helped energize their effort.

Image via iStock.

Congressional staffers publicly declared their intent to form a union on Friday, saying in a statement that “meaningful changes to improve retention, equity, diversity, and inclusion on Capitol Hill” are required to better serve constituents. A unionized workforce on the Hill would mark a sea change for an institution long known as a place where staffers are simply expected to work long hours for little pay.

The union announcement comes at the end of a week in which calls for fairer labor practices in Congress have grown much louder.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, via a spokesperson on Twitter, that staffers would have her “full support” if they chose to unionize. The statement came after she’d earlier dodged a question about the now-viral Instagram account “Dear White Staffers.” The account has blown up in recent days as a forum for anonymous Hill staffers to share workplace horror stories about allegedly abusive bosses, surviving on extremely low salaries, and other grievances. Its popularity has helped energize the push for a union.

In their announcement Friday, the Congressional Workers Union said they’d been organizing for more than a year and that their efforts are focused on unionizing “the personal offices and committees of Congress.” Rep. Andy Levin quickly chimed in on Twitter that legislative action would take place next week to afford staffers the freedom to unionize.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.