legislative staff unionize
Photo credit: iStock.com/Nadezhda Kurbatova

As unions reassert themselves in 2023, some state legislatures are considering bills allowing legislative staff to form unions. The Oregon Legislative Assembly became the first state legislature to have a unionized legislative staff in 2021. Meanwhile, Illinois General Assembly staff formed their own Illinois Legislative Staff Association, inspiring an effort to pursue legislation in the state, and California lawmakers passed legislation allowing legislative staff to unionize.

California Enacts Bill Approving Legislative Staff Unionization

On October 7, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB-1. The new law expands upon Dill’s Act, which provided an overview of collective bargaining between the state and any public employee organizations. AB-1 allows state legislative staff to form, join, and participate in union activities and also allows staff to refuse to join a union. The law also sets expectations for potential mediation and restricts the government from interfering in forming a union or proceeding with union activities.

Bill Would Allow Illinois Legislative Staff to Unionize

In September 2023, members of the Illinois State House introduced HB4148, the Legislative Employee Labor Relations Act. The bill would permit legislative employees to collectively bargain through a chosen representative. It would designate the Illinois Labor Relations Board as the key negotiator for any bargaining discussions with an employee union. Additionally, it would require any employees to pay a fair-share agreement to cover any union operating expenses. The legislation also outlines which items the General Assembly must bargain over, including wages, hours, and employment conditions. The bill was pending in the Illinois House of Representatives as of October 2023.

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