Levin's effort – backed by 130 lawmakers – comes after an anonymous social media campaign called "Dear White Staffers" exposed toxic working conditions on Capitol Hill, including low-pay, bad bosses and lack of diversity.
"In recent weeks, congressional staff have shared bravely their workplace experiences, good and bad, clearly illustrating their need for the protected right to organize," Levin, a freshman lawmaker and former union organizer, said Wednesday at a news conference at the Capitol announcing the legislation.
Levin said this legislation should have been passed a generation ago following the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. Levin said the Office of Compliance and Workplace Rights ruled in 1996 that the passage of such legislation was the final step to give congressional workers legal protection to organize and bargain collectively.
"My colleagues and I are listening to the workers and taking this first, critical step to get done what we should have decades ago: recognize congressional workers’ right to organize without fear of retaliation," Levin said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she backs the effort for staff to organize but didn't offer a timeline on when it would get a floor vote. She said she supports the legislation, but members are also looking to modernize the 1996 language and bring it up to date.
"I support what he's asking for, but we probably should … modernizing," Pelosi said.
The effort comes amid surging popularity of the Instagram account "Dear_White_Staffers," which started posting in early 2020 largely about alleged unequal treatment of minority staffers on Capitol Hill. More recently, the account's served as a clearinghouse for more general complaints about poor pay, alleged harassment and generally poor working conditions – often naming individual members.
Indeed, staffers are paid notoriously low salaries, especially in an expensive city like Washington, D.C. According to the Congressional Research Service, the median salary for a staff assistant in a House office was $39,130. The median legislative assistant in a House office was paid $55,058 in 2019 – although some made below $45,000.
Offices also rely heavily on unpaid internships and fellowships, positions aspiring Hill staffers often need – sometimes even after graduating from college – before they're able to land a paid position. There's been also been an ongoing effort to pay interns on Capitol Hill amid complaints that lower-income students can't afford to work for free and are therefore cut off from the congressional pipeline.
Poor working conditions are allegedly bipartisan, according to the anonymous posts on "Dear_White_Staffers." The account generally supports Democrats' political positions and attacks Republicans but does not hesitate to skewer Democrat and progressive members who allegedly mistreat staff.
The resolution just affects House staffers. The Senate would have to take separate action.
FOX Business' Tyler Olson contributed to this report.