First Branch Forecast

Demand Progress, Congressional Progressive Staff Association, and Congressional Workers Union Urge Congress to Approve Congressional Staff Pay Overtime Regulations

Demand Progress Action joined forces with the Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA) and the Congressional Workers Union to implore leaders from both chambers to enact Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) regulations to update Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions for congressional staff before the lame duck session ends. Demand Progress sent letters today to House and Senate leaders. The CPSA letter endorsed by the Congressional Workers Union and more than 220 congressional staffers is here.

Back in September, the OCWR described the current regulations as “woefully outdated” when it issued new guidelines that would bring congressional overtime pay to parity with the executive branch and private sector. The newly proposed regulations cannot go into effect until approved separately or collectively by each chamber of Congress. 

“Members of Congress must act now to grant their staff the same overtime pay rights as those enjoyed by other workers, including those in the Executive branch and private sector,” said Taylor J. Swift, policy advisor at Demand Progress. “The legislative calendar is quickly running out, so we hope to compel congressional leadership to attach a provision approving the OCWR regulations to any bill that is guaranteed to become law during the lame duck.”

“CPSA’s Congressional Working Conditions Survey released earlier this Congress found that 59% of staff work more than 50 hours a week, including 54% of non-management staff,” said the Steering Committee for the Congressional Progressive Staff Association. “Overtime protections should absolutely be another tool in our kit to address chronically low wages and improve workplace conditions in Congress. Congressional staff have been in legal limbo for far too long regarding our overtime provisions. We’re calling on leadership to improve worker protections and pass these resolutions in these end-of-year spending bills.”

The overtime regulations have not been updated since 1996. If Congress fails to act before the end of the lame duck session, it’s likely congressional staff will continue to be underpaid for overtime work. Overtime compensation is a highly relevant provision for congressional staff, particularly entry level staff. As noted above, CPSA’s Congressional Working Conditions Survey released earlier this Congress found that 59% of staff work more than 50 hours a week, including 54% of non-management staff. 

After years of falling behind industry standards in federal agencies and the private sector, congressional pay parity is slowly improving. In response to a major House staff exodus that hit a 20-year high in 2021, Speaker Pelosi mandated a minimum pay floor for House staff of $45,000 in May. The House also allocated more funding earlier this year to the Member Representational Allowance for personal and committee offices so lawmakers could pay their staff more competitive salaries.

The OCWR is an independent, nonpartisan office of the legislative branch responsible for administering the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA). It came into attention earlier this year when the House followed its unanimous recommendation and voted to allow House staff to unionize, finally enacting a resolution first promulgated by the CAA nearly three decades ago.

Today’s letters by Demand Progress are part of its efforts to improve workplace conditions for congressional staff. Earlier this year, it released a primer on Union Organizing Rights for Congressional Staff — authored by Kevin Mulshine, former Senior Advisor and Counsel on the first staff of the Office of Compliance/Office of Congressional Workplace Rights — to provide Hill staff and journalists with resources about congressional workplace rights, and it is a leading champion for congressional unionization, improved pay and benefits for staff on Capitol Hill.

CPSA was formed in June 2021 to amplify the voices and experiences of progressive staffers, to advocate for progressive issues impacting our membership, and to fight for fair working conditions for congressional employees. The association currently has over 1,300 members and is growing every day.

Congressional Workers Union is a grass-roots, worker led, independent union representing workers who are fighting for better working conditions and a safer and more democratic workplace for congressional staff across the US Congress. 

Demand Progress Action is a national grassroots group with over 1.5 million affiliated activists who fight for basic rights and freedoms needed for a modern democracy. Demand Progress Action has spent years pushing for better working conditions and pay for congressional staffers and greater public access to legislative information.       

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