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Congressional Staffers Detail Toxic Workplaces, Poor Treatment

​An Instagram account anonymously detailing poor treatment and abuse of congressional staffers—often young college students or those fresh out of college—is blowing up as posts detail the low pay, long working hours and lack of diversity these individuals experience while working for U.S. senators and representatives.

The Dear White Staffers account, which has existed since at least January 2020, began as an outlet for people of color to relate incidents of racism in the offices where they worked. It has served as a place to warn others away from toxic office environments on Capitol Hill and as a safe space for staffers to vent—such as about how some members of Congress espouse progressive values but don't live up to them when it comes to the treatment and diversity of their own workforces. Issues include long working hours and pay so low junior staffers qualify for food stamps. And those posting to the account are not afraid to name names.

The U.S. Congress, made up of 535 member offices, exists as hundreds of individual employers. The "exploding popularity" of the account, Business Insider noted, "is a sign that Capitol Hill staffers, like so many others across the American workforce, have grown tired of accepting burnout hours, microaggressions, abusive managers, and terrible pay—and are finally mad enough to do something about it."

In January, during the swearing-in of hundreds of new senior White House administration appointees, President Joe Biden exhorted them to treat others with decency. "Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity," he said. 

"If you're ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise I will fire you on the spot," Biden added, according to a Hill report. "On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts."

SHRM Online collected the following news stories and sources on this topic. 

Inside the Hill Staffer Instagram Rebellion

The Capitol's often-overworked, underpaid and mistreated workforce is riveted by the unfiltered stories shared on the Dear White Staffers account. An array of poor conditions and treatment has prompted aides to speak up, while hiding their identities, about the realities of a workplace that most people outside of Washington tend to see glamorized on-screen. 


The Rise of the Dear White Staffers Account

Latino Rebels spoke with 17 junior staffers, eight senior staffers and two support workers about the Dear White Staffers account. All spoke on the condition of anonymity. Hill aides, especially in the junior ranks, have virtually no recourse for pushing back against their superiors.

There is no official human resources department in Congress, and the Office of Compliance has historically been a nightmare for staffers who come forward with sexual-misconduct complaints
The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights is not much better, according to what staffers told Latino Rebels.

(Latino Rebels)  

Dear White Staffers Instagram Account Calls Out Congress' Lack of Diversity, Low Pay, Terrible Bosses

Capitol Hill staffers share horror stories about terrible salaries, poor treatment by members and chiefs of staff, harassment, and more. There is a particular focus in these stories on documenting racism and the lack of diversity on Capitol Hill.

"I lasted less than a year because I was so stressed that I developed ulcers, my hair fell out, and I broke out into hives," one person wrote. 

(Business Insider)  

Can Hundreds of Congressional Offices Hire from One HR Department?

The executive branch of the federal government relies on a centralized Office of Personnel Management to govern general employee pay rates and benefits, while agency HR offices address the specific needs of their own employees. But policy and legislation has often treated congressional staff as separate from federal employees.

(Federal Times)   

House Staffers Confront Reality of Unionization

While congressional staffers' talk of unionizing its long-overlooked workforce has suddenly accelerated, they're already crashing headfirst into the more complicated reality.

Buoyed by an endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself, dozens of senior House staff, mostly on the Democratic side, are searching for the next steps for their union drive. But many of the problems with the Capitol as a workplace—notably, that there are more than 535 offices, each of which sets its own policies—double as reasons why it would be so tricky to collectively organize.


Toxic Bosses Can Go Unpunished Because Congress Lacks a Real HR Department

Hill staffers endure workplace abuse and sexual harassment while on the job. Congressional workplace violations, though, can go unresolved: There's no HR on Capitol Hill.


Report: Biden Science Advisor Resigns After Violating Workplace Policy 

An investigation found that Eric Lander violated the White House's workplace policy and "corrective action" was taken, according to an Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) spokesperson. Investigation recordings and documents that Politico obtained show that Lander bullied his former general counsel, among others.

In a note to OSTP staff, Lander said: "It's my responsibility to set a respectful tone for our community. It's clear that I have not lived up to this responsibility. ... It is never acceptable for me to speak that way."



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