Philip Bennett, the newly selected president of the Congressional Workers Union and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is the first individual in American history to hold such a title because the CWU is the first collective bargaining unit ever allowed to be organized by the U.S. House of Representatives for staff aides.
Bennett is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Staffers Association, the Hispanic Staffers Association, and the Native American Staffers Association.
The California native’s actual job on Capitol Hill is serving as scheduler for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of the radically left-wing group of representatives known as “The Squad.”
Before his new duties with CWU were made public, Bennett was among a group of six staffers to be arrested on July 26 during a sit-in by 17 aides in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) office. The sit-in was to protest what Bennett and the others protesting described as too little action by Congress against controversial predictions of dire global warming.
Bennett could not be reached for comment, as a message on his official email said he is out of the office until Aug. 15. A request for comment sent via the CWU’s media inquiry email did not receive a response.
Bennett is one of 12 House staffers announced by the CWU as “interim” members of the union’s governing board. It is not known how Bennett and the other board members were selected.
The first-ever congressional staff union was approved by the House in May and the initial offices to begin organizing bargaining units included those of Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), as well as Omar.
Levin led the effort among House members to gain the authorization to form the staff unions, but he was defeated in Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary by Rep. Haley Stevens, who touted her credentials as a centrist Democrat after the two were redistricted into the same district. Stevens defeated Levin by nearly 20 points in a decisive victory.
To form a collective bargaining unit, a majority of staffers in a congressional office must vote to support the action. It is not yet clear how many of the 435 representatives will ultimately see their staffs organize bargaining units. Negotiations will be between the employing member and the CWU bargaining unit.
The CWU is needed, according to its website, because “congressional staff are underpaid and overworked. Work conditions on the Hill are so poor that burnout and turnover are at an all-time high. These systemic issues are long-running and have only been exacerbated by the pandemic, the [January 6] insurrection, and hostile work environment on the Hill.”
The CWU declares on its website that it is currently involved in “closed discussions with several unions regarding potential affiliation and representation.”
Staffers on both sides of the partisan aisle in both the Senate and House have long been known for putting in long hours. Younger staffers in entry level and junior positions are often paid less than the $44,428 minimum “living wage” for a single resident living in the District of Columbia.
But wages for middle and senior level Hill staffers with a few years of experience are typically relatively generous, as is demonstrated by the compensation paid to Bennett and his 11 colleagues. And Hill staffers with four or five years of experience are routinely recruited by K Street lobbying firms, which pay them substantially higher salaries.
All but two of the interim board members are paid more than the $63,214 that was the national average individual income in America in 2021.
Bennett at $67,658 is not the highest-paid member of the interim board. That distinction belongs to Kyle Decant, CWU’s Vice-President for Bargaining, who is paid $125,583 in his regular position as Labor Policy Counsel to the Democratic majority of the House Committee on Education and Labor, according to Legistorm.
Decant began in his present position with the committee in 2017 with a salary of $65,833.
The second highest paid member of the interim board is Emma Preston, vice-president for member services, and a legislative assistant for Khanna, who pays her $73,646. Preston supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ failed 2020 presidential campaign and, during her time at the University of Chicago, was a member of the Graduate Student Union. Preston also did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
Courtney Rose Laudick, CWU’s vice-president for organizing, is a senior legislative assistant for Levin and receives $68,500 in annual compensation. Laudick expects to complete her Masters Degree in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts in 2024.
Laudick also supported the Sanders’ 2o20 presidential campaign and was a co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Staff Association. In an Aug. 6 Twitter post, Laudick said “I think I want my new job to be helping workers start independent unions. Or just generally being a labor lawyer without the whole spending $$$ on a bogus law degree.”
The average salary for the top six interim board members is $73,992, which is 17 percent higher than the average individual American annual income. That average is boosted higher by Decant’s paychecks.
The average for all 12 of the board members is $66,256, or about five percent above the average individual American’s annual income.