The Dear White Staffers Instagram account is calling out Congress' lack of diversity, low pay, and terrible bosses — and isn't afraid to spill the tea in public
- The Dear White Staffers Instagram account publishes anonymous stories from Capitol Hill staffers.
- It's exploded in popularity as Hill staffers call out bad bosses, low pay, and a lack of diversity.
An ironclad rule about working in Congress is that you never, ever publicly call out your boss for bad behavior. And according to decades of investigations, reporting, ethics violations, personal anecdotes, and gossip, there is plenty of bad behavior to go around.
Now an Instagram account called @dear_white_staffers is blowing that all to hell, serving as an outlet for a furious workforce with no other real recourse.
The account solicits and then publishes the anonymous accounts of purported Capitol Hill staffers, who share horror stories about terrible salaries, poor treatment by members and chiefs of staff, harassment, and more. There is a particular focus on documenting racism, and the lack of diversity on Capitol Hill. Though the account's politics lean left, it reserves most of its ire for Democratic members for allegedly not living up to their pro-labor, pro-diversity values. And crucially, it's not afraid to name names.
"I lasted less than a year because I was so stressed that I developed ulcers, my hair fell out, and I broke out into hives," one submitter wrote of her experience working for an unnamed and "emotionally abusive" member of Congress.
"I lived in Section 8 housing all three years of working on the Hill for the same member," another anonymous follower wrote.
Dear White Staffers has become the talk of Capitol Hill, with aides flocking to the account's Instagram Stories to read their colleagues' war stories, and communications directors keeping an eye out for any negative mentions of their bosses.
"If someone tells you they don't know what it is, that means they don't have an Instagram account," said one senior staffer who works for a Democratic member. "For the people that are in offices, that are the voices that are suffocating, this is a way for their voices to be heard."
The account manager, or managers, remain anonymous, and only identify themselves as "Congressional BIPOC" "on Capitol Hill." They acknowledged Insider's interview request but did not respond.
Its exploding popularity is a sign that Capitol Hill staffers, like so many others across the American workforce, have grown tired of accepting burnout hours, microaggressions, abusive managers, and terrible pay — and are finally mad enough to do something about it.
Within Congress, some believe that this public airing of grievances will force members and bosses to finally re-assess the wider workplace culture on Capitol Hill.
"Nothing anybody's saying anonymously on that account will affect the members' ability to get re-elected," said the senior staffer. "It will force you to reevaluate how you run your frickin' office."
Calling out the lack of diversity in Congress
Dear White Staffers has existed since at least January 2020. It first began as an account that posted memes about life as a person of color working on Capitol Hill, and as a safe space for those staffers to speak up about their negative experiences working for an overwhelmingly white institution.
As its name suggested, it focused on calling out the lack of diversity in Congress' ranks and the policy implications of not hiring enough staffers from Black, Latino, Asian American, Indigenous, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities. Much of its criticism is leveled at lawmakers —including members of color — who espouse progressive values, but supposedly don't live up to them when it comes to hiring, pay, or office culture, according to anonymous submitters.
One archetypal meme posted by Dear White Staffers featured two pictures of pop star The Weeknd side by side, one showing the singer as his youthful self, and another in character as his elderly alter ego.
"BIPOC staffers before January 6," reads the caption above youthful Weeknd. "BIPOC staffers after January 6," states the caption above the grizzled photo.
Crucially, all the information is submitted anonymously and is not apparently vetted or verified before posting. Readers must use their own judgment when tapping through posts and Instagram Stories. Because of that anonymity, Insider could not independently verify the allegations posted on the account.
However, their stories align with what Insider's previous reporting has revealed about Congress as a workplace and the paltry pay, long hours, and exploitive policies that staffers endure. Several submitters have written about relying on second jobs or low-income housing to scrape by; Insider has spoken to staffers who needed both.
The account blew up over the last two weeks as politics aficionados on Twitter discovered it, and it received a shoutout from the ultimate anonymous celebrity gossip account, @deuxmoi. It now has over 20,000 followers as of Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Pablo Manríquez, a reporter with LatinoRebels tweeted that his Hill sources had been instructed by their bosses not to follow or engage with the account.
—Pablo Manríquez (@PabloReports) February 1, 2022
The senior staffer for a Democratic member was more skeptical of such orders because they'd surely backfire. "I don't know what foolish power crazy chief or member said that, but you're really shooting yourself in the foot," he told Insider.
Regardless of how widespread the directive was, Manríquez's tweet boosted Dear White Staffers' notoriety. The account is widely read on the Hill, two staffers told Insider, though it's unclear if any lawmakers have actually perused the account.
"I told my staff they should be reading it," said a senior Democratic legislative staffer.
Dear White Staffers is a virtual manifestation of the long-running whisper network on Capitol Hill that guides staffers on which offices to avoid, and a Congress-wide group chat for employees to share frustrations. However, instead of taking place in private over happy hour drinks or Signal threads, the tea is being spilled in public for everyone on — but especially off — the Hill to see.
The account has turned into a lively community where Hill staffers not only share their grievances, but also tips about how to negotiate better pay, access mental health resources, and apply for assistance programs for which lowest-paid staffers might qualify.
Dear White Staffers recently began a series called "Vibe Checks", where it solicits opinions about working for specific members. It's a series reminiscent of the popular college review site Rate My Professors, except instead of finding out if one might have an easier time passing Comparative Literature, a follower can surmise whether or not the congressional office they just applied to will be a rewarding experience or an absolute nightmare.
Users have lately been requesting "vibe checks" on lawmakers from across the political spectrum. Their peers have been happy to oblige. Dear White Staffers has pulled in hundreds of submissions from alleged Hill employees as of late and has published 22 editions of the Vibe Check series as of this writing.
"I think that account exposes the very glaring difference between the Hill experience that's popularized and the experience that is sort of not spoken about," the senior staffer said.
Some of the tea that gets spilled on Dear White Staffers has real-world implications. In 2021, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat and chair of the progressive caucus, was a frequent subject of criticism from Dear White Staffers submitters.
One submitter called Jayapal's office "famously a nightmare" while another said hers was "notoriously one of the 5 worst offices" on the Democratic side of Capitol Hill.
That September, BuzzFeed News published a story about staffers' negative experiences working for Jayapal. Several of them spoke about employees being let go without severance, receiving low pay, and getting yelled at by the congresswoman. The accusations are reminiscent of others that had been leveled anonymously on Dear White Staffers.
Jayapal's office did not provide comment to Insider for this story.
But of course, any such account is bound to stir up controversy. Not all staffers are pleased about Dear White Staffers' rogue behavior.
One woman of color who works in the Senate said that following the Instagrammed gripes of Hill staffers was unnecessary. "There's enough of that on Twitter," the Democratic aide told Insider.
Followers also criticized Dear White Staffers this week after some Hill employees' names got dragged into the mix, arguing the focus should be on the lawmakers who are ultimately responsible for the working conditions in each office.
The senior staffer who followed Dear White Staffers hoped the account would be more careful about posting such content in the future and be aware that submissions could get taken out of context.
"Be careful about the stories that you're posting, because you don't want it to devalue the mission, which is to expose toxicity in offices, and drive the conversation towards having some entity staffers can go to that isn't tied to the member and the chief of staff," he warned.
Minor scuffles aside, Dear White Staffers has burst open a dam of worker discontent that is unlikely to recede anytime soon. Low pay, burnout, discrimination, and sexual harassment have been features, not bugs, of the congressional workplace for decades. The question that Dear White Staffers' followers have now is: what will become of all this anger?
"I just hope it moves from beyond gossip to actual organizing action," said the Democratic legislative aide.
Warren Rojas contributed to this report.
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