Working for Congress Is Hardly Worth It
The Hill’s Cheri Jacobus wrote recently about the need to treat younger, lower-level employees better. Nasty comments aside, this piece has a point.
Staffers must wear suits and ties even while doing meanial labor, and could be at the office 12 hours a day and be on call after that. Some staffers have to drive the Member around, or walk their dogs, etc. And to get the job with humbling responsibilities and long hours, you have to have amazing connections, a great resume, and most often agree to work for free for as much as six months as an unpaid intern.
For a personal example, in 2005, I finally got an interview with Senator Rockefeller’s office, the Democrat from West Virginia. With a master’s degree and three years working for the pension fund of his state’s biggest labor union, I got a five minute sit-down with his office manager for an entry-level receptionist job making $20K. My work hours could nearly double, and my salary would be cut by nearly half – and I’d have to start wearing suits to the office. I was even willing to do all that. Yet my resume was deemed not good enough for even a callback!
The one good nibble I got on the Hill was when I approached my then-Congresswoman’s office. As a fellow UF alum with similar interests to the Member’s committee work, I seemed to have a shot. But with the congressional session winding down and the Member facing a tough, redistricting-created reelection battle, it wasn’t going to happen just yet (and definitely didn’t after the election). And this was before my master’s degree and several years of work experience kicked in.
Even in this recession, most businesses in “the real world” don’t thrive on free or slave labor and don’t always get shouted down by their investors for wanting to give out raises. But we’re talking DC, where enough trust fund babies live that Congress gets away with substandard business practices. They’re even letting their buildings decay while Members waste millions buying off complaints about sexual harassment.
Paying low-level Hill staffers decently is a must. And for those wanting to bitch about government spending or misplaced used of funds, there are much bigger targets even on Capitol Hill.