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Historic Union Drive Makes Delaware The ‘First State’ Again - State Legislative Staff In Delaware Become The First In The United States To Seek To Unionize

Union Organizers Hope Being The First Legislative Staff To Unionize ‘Will Motivate Other Legislative Workers Around The Country’

Published Tuesday, January 28, 2020
by Paul Blest/
Historic Union Drive Makes Delaware The ‘First State’ Again - State Legislative Staff In Delaware Become The First In The United States To Seek To Unionize

(DOVER, DELAWARE) - For what appears to be the first time ever, the Legislative Staff of a U.S. State is announcing its intent to Unionize. 

State Legislative Workers in Delaware announced a Union Drive on the first day of the new session, requesting voluntary recognition from State Legislative Leaders.

Organizers from the Delaware General Assembly Union said a majority of Legislative Workers have already signed Union Cards, although Republican Legislative Staffers - as well as Legislative Leaders - only recently found out about the Union Drive.

The proposed Unit would be affiliated with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 81 and would include 44 Staffers, including two non-partisan Staffers who work for the Delaware House and Senate clerks. 

In a release, the Workers say their effort “aims to create the first fully-inclusive state Legislative Union that cuts across partisan lines in the history of the United States - a historic step forward for Public Service Workers across the country.”

Council 81 Lead Organizer Katherine Caudle, whose Union currently represents roughly 7,500 Public Sector Workers in Delaware, tells The Prospect that through their conversations with the National Union, they could find no other examples of State Legislative Staff Unionizing.

“As far as we could tell this is the ‘first time’ partisan aides have organized for better working conditions,” Caudle says. 

Caudle added that a review by Council 81’s Legal Counsel found no legal barriers to the Workers forming a Union and Organizers said that the legal basis for forming a Union was bolstered both by an Executive Order by former Governor Jack Markell, as well as a law signed last year by Governor John Carney expanding the right to collectively bargain for higher wages to all State Employees. 

“A lot of people, if not the majority of people on Staff, are working in the Legislature ‘because they believe in a Workers’ right to organize,’” Organizing Committee Member and House Democratic Digital Media Director Sam Barry tells The Prospect.

“A lot of us have worked on legislation expanding that right, so it feels like a ‘natural place to go’ with the work we’re already doing,” Barry said.

Organizing Committee Member and Delaware Senate Democratic Deputy Communications Director Dylan McDowell fully expected at least 60% of proposed Unit Members to sign cards shortly, and he’s hoping Legislative Leaders will swiftly recognize the Union voluntarily.

“Luckily in Delaware we have Legislative Leaders ‘who’ve stood by Labor for a decade,’” he says.

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