Staff working for members of the Delaware House and Senate have launched an effort to organize a union, which would be the first of its kind in the United States according to public employee union officials.
The move blindsided elected members of the General Assembly and many staff in Legislative Hall, who say they learned of the intent to organize only after it was publicly announced.
The legislative staffers aim to organize with the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 81. It is unclear what motivated the union bid by the unnamed staffers, but legislative support positions are well known to be untraditional government roles that serve at the pleasure of elected politicians.
In a press release announcing the action, employees said their “group spends every day working full-time, nights and weekends,” saying “a union will help us do a better job of retaining talent, providing basic worker protections and delivering results for the people of Delaware.”
The statement also drew protests and rebukes from legislative aides by claiming “the majority of Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan staff” were supportive of the effort.
“That’s a lie – they completely lied,” said one staffer. “No staff person in either Republican caucus knew anything about this until the press release went out.”
Sources in Dover said roughly 44 staff members were potential targets for the organizing campaign but they noted it was unlikely the effort would be successful because of state law exempting the General Assembly
The proposed “bargaining unit” have requested “voluntary recognition” by legislative leadership while their organizing campaign gets underway.
Unionization and collective bargaining rights for legislative staffers could radically transform the inner-workings of legislative bodies across America, where many staffers are political appointees who serve for short periods and are used to working unorthodox schedules given the unique demands on the legislative branch of government.