WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to concerns about working conditions for some Capitol Hill aides, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday announced a $45,000 minimum annual salary for House staff and prepared for a vote next week a resolution that would pave the way for assistants to join. a syndicate.
While Capitol Hill jobs are highly coveted and can command big paydays, the job often involves grueling hours and low wages in an area where high housing costs can leave little money for other necessities.
Legislators set the salaries of their assistants. The money comes from an allowance made available to each member to cover rent, equipment, salary and other expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties.
Pelosi noted that the recent approval of a 21% increase in this allowance should more than cover the salary increase. She encouraged members to use the raise “to honor the hard work of your staff members.”
“It will open the doors to public service for those who may not have had the means to do so in the past,” Pelosi said. “It’s also a matter of fairness, as many of the youngest employees working the longest hours often earn the lowest wages.”
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The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Washington is around $2,425 per month, according to Rent.com. And the average price for a studio is $1,942 a month, which over a year would still be more than half of the new minimum wage for House employees.
An advocacy group called Issue One noted in a report earlier this year that the average House staff in a member’s office has only been in their position for about 2.5 years, and that the backlog of pay and other factors led to what he described as a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill.
“If Congress wants to attract a skilled workforce, it must start by raising the wages of entry-level workers,” said the group, which describes itself as a political reform group aimed at reducing the influence of big money in Politics.
The deadline for implementing the $45,000 annual minimum will be September 1. The median salary for staff working for an individual legislator was $50,000 last year, according to the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Pelosi’s moves come at a time when the Biden White House is seeking to enact policies aimed at strengthening unions. Workers in Democratic groups such as the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to unionize. And those efforts have extended to the House, where Michigan Rep. Andy Levin’s resolution calls for the approval of settlements that would give staff the ability to bargain collectively if they choose.
It is not possible for a bargaining unit to represent all or most of the employees of the House. The collective bargaining that workers undertake would take place separately with hundreds of legislators and committees.
Republican lawmakers are generally opposed, calling unions impractical for congressional offices that have unpredictable schedule changes and inevitable turnover due to elections.
“This is a concept that can create many conflicts of interest and impact members’ constitutional responsibilities to the American people without the guarantee that any improvements in staff welfare will actually materialize,” said said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. a hearing in March on the matter.
But in her letter to lawmakers on Friday, Pelosi said congressional staffers deserve the same basic rights and protections as workers across the country, including the right to bargain collectively.
A group of volunteers called the Congressional Workers Union led the organizing efforts.
“Next week, the credibility of lawmakers will be tested. Will our bosses finally lead by example? the band tweeted in response to Pelosi’s announcement.