Instagram Confessional Reveals Dark, Grimy Details of What It’s Like to Work on Capitol Hill

© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNSTA flag of the United States is seen at halfstaff on the U.S. Capitol building during a prayer vigil in observance of the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A flag of the United States is seen at halfstaff on the U.S. Capitol building during a prayer vigil in observance of the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.02.2022
An army of Congressional staffers keeps the wheels of Congress turning, helping lawmakers with everything from paperwork and scheduling to reminders on how they should vote or even bringing their morning coffee. Now, an Instagram account gone viral has exposed the seedier underside of what it’s like to work in the heart of US legislative power.
‘Dear White Staffers’, an ironically named Instagram page featuring hundreds of testimonials about what it’s like to work in Congress, has attracted national media attention amid a unionization drive.
The account, created in January 2020 to post memes about the purported lack of diversity among Congressional staffers, both Democrat and Republican, has since amassed more than 30,000 followers, and contains horror stories from aides complaining of low pay, abuse, discrimination and unimaginable pettiness from their $170,000+ a year salaried employers.
“I’m a house staffer and I’ve lived in DC’s affordable housing for a year and a half. It takes my rent from $2k to ~$1,400. I support myself and qualify (really unfortunately easy to qualify as a hill staffer, too, it’s something like anyone under $75k annually)…My managers know I’m on this program and it’s never been a ‘really?’, it’s always been a ‘oh yeah, that’s common for staffers.’ And for what it’s worth I still don’t have a comfortable amount of money left over at the end of the month to avoid going into my savings accounts to cover costs, let alone put anything substantial into savings,” one person wrote.
“Ok, Kinda wanna keep this anon because I still have friends who work in this office and in other offices on the Hill and I want to protect them. My second member was [a Member of Congress]. I lasted less than a year because I was so stressed that I developed ulcers, my air fell out, and I broke out in hives. He was incredibly emotionally abusive and passive toward his senior staff, and the stress the senior staff endured would result in the trauma getting passed down to lesser staff, which didn’t help and honestly hastened my exit,” another wrote.
“At the time, he would sleep in the office because he refused to rent an apartment. His [assistants] basically became like maids, making sure his office was clean and dusting off footprints in his sofa bed. My most horrifying memory was that he apparently would walk around the legislative office at night and look at our desks, which we knew because he would make notes in his nightly binder specifically about the fact my desk was messy,” the poster added.
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“Wait are you actually not supposed to do personal errands for Members of Congress or their families? I have myself done or seen with my own eyes staff coordinating travel for a MOC’s spouse (including the MOC making a staff member drive the spouse to the airport during office hours using the staff member’s personal car), MOCs making their schedulers call to get them out of parking tickets, working overtime to arrange wheelchair services for a MOC’s mother (did not get paid for that time), making sure that the MOC’s family had snacks and drinks for swearing in day, setting aside the best snacks the office got for the family, and a MOC making someone carve a pumpkin for their front porch,” another wrote.

“I’m just waiting to get a better offer and I’m out. This work is not sustainable and I’m done draining myself for minimal successes,” one person complained.
“I have been on the Hill for 10 years and don’t have the courage yet to share my experiences, but there is power in numbers and watching these stories has been sadly validating,” another chimed in.
Some called their lawmakers out by name. “Anon: my friend worked for [Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten] Sinema (ugh) when she was first in the house as her scheduler. Sinema would make her drive her to the grocery store in the evening and just wait in the car until she was done shopping so she could drive her home. She also had to get her car professionally cleaned weekly (out of her own pocket) because she had a dog and Sinema didn’t want dog hair on her stuff,” one person wrote.
“Anon, Just remembered a Sinema story. When her staffers went home early early pandemic, like April 2020, she was furious with them, threatened to fire them if they didn’t come back to DC but said it was irresponsible for them to risk getting on a plane and giving her Covid so she made them all drive…from Arizona,” another alleged.
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) leaves a basement office meeting with other senators including Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) (not pictured) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.01.2022
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“[Democratic Maryland Senator] Chris Van Hollen’s wife is overly involved in his office and is volatile and abusive,” another anonymous poster wrote. “Has a desk, weighs in on staffing, joins calls. Chris is nice, but knows full well how she treats people, so is complicit. There are absolutely no boundaries. Seems like he’s content letting her get all her poison out at his staff rather than at him. I’ve seen staff quit and seek therapy over the way she treats them. Everyone on the Hill knows.”
Not all the testimonials were horror stories. Asked about Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, one person wrote that he was “literally the BEST boss I have ever had.”
“He’s not only invested in our success as staffers, but also our success as individuals. He’s invested in our families, future families, spiritual growth, etc. anon please,” the person indicated.
The vast majority of posts are negative, however, with one staffer recounting how their congressperson threw a pair of reading glasses at them after being given the wrong pair, and another recalling an instance where lawmakers ate lunch while staffers had to stand with their backs against a wall. A common theme features staffers complaining that their congresspeople and senators make them pay out-of-pocket for expensive coffee or use their personal vehicles to run errands.
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Users have flooded ‘Dear White Staffers’ in droves to express their support and solidarity with the congressional aides. “Our federal laws are being written and edited by folks [meanwhile] we can’t pay enough to EAT and pay RENT?” one person raged. “Getting my master’s in public policy right now and had thought about looking at Hill jobs. Now definitely not,” another wrote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would support an effort to unionize staffers “if and when” staff want it. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he would sign on to the initiative.
The Congressional Workers Union, one group seeking to organize, issued a statement Friday announcing plans to unionize to give staffers protections and “a voice at work” amid senior Democrats’ statements in favour of the measure.
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