With voluntary recognition, Ed Markey’s staff will be the first in the Senate to unionize – JP


But the Senate never passed its own authorizing resolution, leaving would-be organizers there unprotected by federal labor laws. In February, the CWU sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Rules and Administration Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Bernie Sanders, asking for a vote on resolution to sanction Senate unions. None of those four offices responded to JP’s request for comment.

The umbrella group warned back then that two member offices could seek voluntary recognition if the Senate didn’t act. It’s unclear whether that second office remains ready to unionize. “At this time, the only office seeking voluntary recognition is Markey’s,” a CWU spokesperson said.

Democrats now enjoy a slim 51-49 majority, but they would need to get support from the GOP to overcome the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster before the Senate could implement the unionization rules OCWR wrote pursuant to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 — a law Republicans passed to subject Congress to the same workplace laws as the private sector.

Federal labor laws normally protect workers by forbidding management from retaliation against them for assembling together to improve their working conditions. But with the Senate still exempt from such statutes, Markey’s staff theoretically risked reprisals ranging from mild rebukes to a mass firing, but, in truth, they never had much to worry about, given the progressive Massachusetts senator’s stalwart support for the labor movement. The AFL-CIO gives Markey a 99 percent lifetime legislative score on union issues, and Markey, in turn, has enjoyed considerable union support in his campaigns over the years. 

By voluntarily recognizing the union, Markey will effectively pledge to follow federal labor laws, even though the workers in his office would lack recourse to OCWR or the National Labor Relations Board. But for most workers, the chance to collectively bargain employment contracts is the primary reason to unionize, as it provides them leverage they otherwise would lack, while the ability to file grievances to federal overseers is an ancillary benefit. 

Las Vegas News Magazine

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