A group founded by former Capitol Hill staffers wants to increase pressure on congressional offices to build harassment-free environments even before members are members.
When the progressive group Indivisible Project questions candidates to see how well they align with their resistance agenda, they also ask, “If elected, will you make every effort to create work spaces for your staff that are safe and free from all forms of sexual harassment?”
“From a former staffer’s perspective and just a human being, it’s long overdue that we are creating staffer spaces for everyone to exist at work, be supported at work,” national political director Maria Urbina said. “We’re excited that in any way our group can be helpful.”
The group has issued its first round of endorsements, which are congressional candidates Dana Balter, who is running in New York for Rep. John Katko’s seat, Andrew Learned, who is running in Florida for Rep. Dennis Ross’ seat, Shawna Roberts, who is running in Ohio for Rep. Bill Johnson’s seat, and Hiral Tipirneni, who is running in Arizona for the seat made vacant when Rep. Trent Franks resigned.
“The folks who have emerged out of Round 1, they’ve emerged supporting these principals,” Urbina said.
Indivisible is also asking candidates to commit to diversity.
“As former staffers, we saw firsthand that Capitol Hill doesn’t look much like the rest of the country,” co-executive director and co-founder Leah Greenberg said. “It’s a problem for all of us when policy is made by staff who are disproportionately whiter, richer, and more male than the American population — it means that voices who should be at the table are left out. It’s the responsibility of everyone who cares about equity to chart a different course.”
Candidates are asked, “If elected, will you seek to build a team, senior and entry level, that represent the demographics and diversity of your constituency?”
Additionally they will be asked to commit to paying staff equal pay, paid family leave and in paying their future interns.
Indivisible will be announcing its second round of endorsements in the first week of May.
The #MeToo movement has largely stalled on Capitol Hill after gaining some earlyt momentum as harassment scandals came to light. The Senate has not acted on legislation to protect victims after it passed the omnibus spending package without the House-passed harassment measure.
Male Democratic senators sent a letter to leadership requesting action on legislation on Thursday in an effort organized by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. All the female senators and hundreds of former staffers have also sent similar letters to leadership.
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