House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she would support congressional staff organizing a union as stories of poor pay, long hours and a toxic work environment in Congress are bubbling up online.
"We just unionized at the DCCC, and I supported that," Pelosi, D-Calif., said when asked about a potential union during her Thursday press conference. She was referencing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
If that answer was not definitive enough, Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hamill doubled down that Pelosi would back a union for Hill staffers.
"Like all Americans, our tireless Congressional staff have the right to organize their workplace and join together in a union. If and when staffers choose to exercise that right, they would have Speaker Pelosi’s full support," Hamill tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The comments come amid the 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.
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.
As momentum apparently builds behind a union drive, some progressive Democrats are vocally getting behind the idea.
"Congressional staff need unions now!" Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mass., tweeted Thursday. "Congress couldn’t run without them and I’m committed to supporting their voice at work."
"On Capitol Hill, interns are often unpaid, many staffers don’t make a living wage, and lack of work protections can pave the way for unhealthy environments," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., added. "[S]ounds like a perfect place for a union."
Fox News' Jason Donner contributed to this report.