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Progressive staff groups make a late play for overtime pay

Give congressional aides the same protections as other federal workers, they say

Long hours are a staple of the lame-duck session in Congress. Now, some Hill staffers are calling for overtime pay.
Long hours are a staple of the lame-duck session in Congress. Now, some Hill staffers are calling for overtime pay. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The annual rush to wrap up legislative work before Christmas means some harried weeks of late nights and early mornings in the office for congressional staff. The added crush of lame-duck legislation that won’t have a shot under GOP control of the House compounds the long hours. There’s a lot to do, and not a lot of days left to do it in.

That’s precisely why the Congressional Progressive Staff Association and the Congressional Workers Union want to add another item to their bosses’ to-do lists: enacting overtime regulations for Hill staffers.

The staff groups joined Demand Progress, an advocacy group for congressional reform, in sending letters to outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the presumed, but far from assured, incoming speaker — asking that the House pass a resolution adopting regulations drafted by the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights that would provide aides with the same overtime protections as federal and private-sector employees.

Nearly 60 percent of Hill staffers said they worked more than 50 hours a week, according to a CPSA survey released earlier this year. Under the new protections, nonmanagement staffers who worked more than 40 hours in a week would be entitled to time-and-a-half pay.

Like so many other bits of liberal legislation trying to hitch a ride on the last must-pass bills out of the 117th Congress, the overtime rules can’t wait until next year, said Taylor J. Swift, a senior policy adviser at Demand Progress.

“The political reality is once Republicans take the House, they probably won’t move these issues forward for staff,” he said, adding that he’s hoping the regulations can be tacked on to an expected omnibus spending bill.

Demand Progress also sent letters to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A spokeswoman for CPSA said her group is focused on the House right now given the urgency to change things before the GOP takes control. With the Senate remaining blue next year, there’s more time.

Like the regulations allowing staffers to unionize that the House adopted this spring, each chamber could apply these overtime regulations to their own staff without needing the other to act. 

OCWR promulgated the regulations under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, a law passed under the banner of the GOP’s “Contract with America” that aimed to subject Congress to the same workplace laws as the private sector. Nearly 30 years later, some of the statute’s provisions remain unimplemented.

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