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Pelosi dodges question about Dear White Staffers Instagram account, won’t say whether she supports staffer unionization efforts

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on February 3, 2022.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

  • Pelosi skirted a question about whether she supports congressional staffers who want to unionize.
  • “Well, we just unionized at the DCCC and I supported that,” she said.
  • She also didn’t comment on Dear White Staffers, an Instagram account documenting poor working conditions on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dodged a question on Thursday about whether she supports unionization efforts by congressional staffers working on Capitol Hill, as advocated by an anonymous Instagram account called Dear White Staffers that has rattled lawmakers by publishing staffers’ experiences with lack of diversity, bad bosses, and low pay.

Asked by LatinoRebels reporter Pablo Manriquez whether she supports “staffer attempts to unionize here in Congress,” Pelosi first paused for several seconds.

“Well, we just unionized at the DCCC and I supported that,” she then said, referring to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ political arm. Pelosi offered no further details.

—Graham MacGillivray (@GWMacGillivray) February 3, 2022

Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment asking for a clarification of her position.

Insider first reported that staffers at the Democratic National Committee had unionized, with two-thirds of the eligible staff voting to do so early last month. Employees at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which focuses on electing House candidates, on January 28 signaled their intent to unionize with the Teamsters.

Pelosi also dodged a question at the outset of her press conference about the Dear White Staffers Instagram account itself.

“If you’ve got something extraneous, I’m happy to get to it,” she said, waving down the reporter. “But let’s talk — we’re trying to keep government open, we’re trying to be preeminent in the world.”

She then took questions from other reporters, returning to Manriquez later, when he asked about unionization efforts.

The anonymous meme account that shook Congress

Since January 2020, the Dear White Staffers Instagram account has posted memes about life on Capitol Hill from the perspective of staffers of color. It also publishes horror stories about working in Congress — and names the lawmakers who allegedly make their staffers’ lives miserable. 

The account is revealing the less glamorous side of life on Capitol Hill, where burnout, low salaries, and a lack of accountability for bad behavior are the norm. Its willingness to name names flies in the face of decades of unspoken Capitol Hill dogma that puts loyalty to the member and their reputation above all else — even if that dedication isn’t repaid in kind.

“I think that account exposes the very glaring difference between the Hill experience that’s popularized and the experience that is sort of not spoken about,” one senior Democratic staffer told Insider.

Screenshots of anonymous Capitol Hill staff account submitted to the Dear White Staffers Instagram Account.Screenshots of anonymous Capitol Hill staff account submitted to the Dear White Staffers Instagram Account.

Instagram/@dear_white_staffers

Dear White Staffers picked up steam recently as submissions from Hill staffers began to flood in, and the political press corps trained its spotlight on their submissions. Its Instagram Stories feature is currently teeming with stories about lawmakers who shout at their staff or fail to pay them a living wage. 

One user wrote about qualifying for federal housing assistance because their salary was so low. Another said the stress of working for an “emotionally abusive” member caused ulcers and hair loss. 

Other followers have submitted anonymous accounts of sexual harassment, or written about the financial strain of being forced to maintain a car to drive their member of Congress at all hours despite barely getting paid enough to afford a vehicle.

Because the submissions are anonymous, Insider could not independently verify the submissions published to Dear White Staffers.  But Insider has previously reported on many of the employee grievances that Dear White Staffers features, such as salaries that make it nearly impossible to live in Washington, DC, working second jobs to scrape by, and verbal abuse from managers.

The Dear White Staffers Instagram account, whose politics lean left, is also openly in favor of unionizing the Congressional workforce. Several of its posts have explicitly called for a union that would establish clearer workplace protections and pay floors.

A post shared by 𝔇𝔢𝔞𝔯 𝔚𝔥𝔦𝔱𝔢 𝔖𝔱𝔞𝔣𝔣𝔢𝔯𝔰 (@dear_white_staffers)

However, a series of regulations and technicalities currently stand in the way of congressional office staff forming unions.

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