You thought the Republican agenda was just about investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and doing something to Dr. Fauci? Well… wrong. They are rarin’ to go to end congressional staffers right to form unions. As Semafor reported yesterday. “Last year, House Democrats voted to let congressional offices organize and collectively bargain for the first time… But that measure will be revoked under that rules package the GOP is getting ready to introduce when it takes over this week; none of the offices that voted to unionize last year will be recognized in the new House.”
So far staffers for Andy Levin (MI), Ro Khanna (CA), Ilhan Omar (MN), Melanie Stansbury (NM), Cori Bush (MO), Dina Titus (NV) and Sean Casten (IL) have unionized. No Republicans have allowed their staffs to even consider working with the Congressional Workers Union (CWU).
This morning, Randy Bryce reminded me that his congressional campaign was the first in U.S. history to unionize and he has been very supportive of congressional staffers doing the same. “It’s not just fast food workers who have been undervalued for so long. Unfortunately in addition to making Hunter Biden’s laptop a national priority we now also learn that union busting is also an issue for Republicans. [However] once a union is recognized there are laws in place to protect it. Will the new class of lawmakers follow them or create new laws to keep workers from having a voice? Most Republicans just do what they’re told so it’s not a surprise to see their opposition. It will be interesting to see what side is chosen by the other representatives in the House. Unions are democracy in the workplace and the United States IS a union. I can’t think of a better place to have union representation.”
Our old pal, John Laesch, a union carpenter and steering committee member for Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, is running for Alderman-at-Large in Aurora. I asked him what he think about the congressional Republicans' move. "It appears," he told me yesterday, "as if Republicans and corporate Democrats will resist all efforts by working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. Inflation and the growing wealth gap in America will lead to more contentious organizing efforts and we need to know where our lawmakers stand, and vote, with respect to working people. I hope that the Republicans take this issue to the floor to expose their pseudo populism in their party and test the mettle of the corporate Democrats. Congressional staffers work long hours, deal with stressful negotiations, and some face culturally accepted sexual harassment. The cost of living in the beltway is astronomical. The time to support the unionization efforts for workers on Capital Hill is now."
He also told me that "If elected I will always stand on the side of working women and men, and fight to close the wealth gap. When I was on the East Aurora School Board, I drew the ire of fellow board members by making it known that I would NOT support a lockout of teachers during a contentious contract negotiation. In a heated discussion one board member, Dan Barrairo, even started yelling at me as the majority sided with the administration. Taking a stand prevented the board from making a disastrous mistake and the administrator decided to take a different course and replace the negotiating team. Taking a stand matters and sometimes allows the minority voice to win. I hope that pro-union lawmakers in DC take a stand like Andy Levin did when he stood up for cafeteria workers."
Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, who represents very pro-union Seattle, told me that “Republicans have been viciously anti-worker and anti-union for decades and this is just another reminder of that. Even as we have the worst income and wealth inequality since the Depression, and minimum wage hasn’t been increased in decades, all that the GOP wants to focus on is stripping the right to unionize away from the only group of workers on Capitol Hill that has been left out. It’s shameful and it’s an indication of how this House Republican majority will choose to govern— against the people.”
Over the last decade or so Republican-controlled state legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and other states have moved to weaken organized labor. Keep in mind, 40% of households with at least one union member voted for Trump in 2020. Just before the midterms, The Guardian reported that “After years of struggle, America’s labor unions enjoy greater public approval than at any time in more than 50 years. Yet even as the Republican party seeks to rebrand itself as the party of the working class, its lawmakers, by and large, remain as hostile as ever toward organized labor. It doesn’t look like that situation is about to change.” Wisconsin state Senator Chris Larson told me yesterday that "It's almost poetic that on the first day the anti-worker party retakes control of the House they will start things off by blocking the ability of their staffers to unionize for fair treatment and compensation."
This morning, Matt Cartwright (D-PA), a strong union supporter, said, "Nothing new here. As hard as Republican politicians try to distract the regular working men and women of this country with their nonsensical culture wars; as hard as they keep trying to peddle their long-debunked trickle-down economics; and as hard as they work to convince us that whole industries, bent on savagely fleecing ordinary Americans out of their hard-earned dollars, are actually good for us, they cannot hide the truth. Republican politicians have never supported the American labor movement, do not support it now, and never will support it, because their well-heeled and well-connected corporate masters forbid it, and place themselves above the common good of regular working people."