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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promises to pay her staffers a living wage, and it’s somehow controversial
Almost no decision made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is uncontroversial—and her decision to pay all of her staffers at least $52,000 a year is no exception.
Ocasio-Cortez wrote of her decision on Friday: “It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill. We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.”
Leadership starts with our choices.
That’s why I decided that no one on my staff will make less than $52k/year.
It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill. We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.https://t.co/IxfNH4632h
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 23, 2019
The series of tweets on Friday and Saturday discussing the issue attracted more than 20,000 replies, some suggesting she distribute all salaries in her office equally, and others recycling a rumor about her employing her boyfriend, which has been debunked.
So if it is so sad, cut your pay and give everyone equal salaries including you.
— Kendra Fite (@KendraFite1) February 24, 2019
Why do you get to make 3x as much as your staff? Doesn’t seem very “fair” of you
— Charles Newman (@ClnewmanXCV) February 24, 2019
Shouldn't you take your allotment, including your $175,000 salary, and pool it into one fund, then distribute the money equally among all on your staff, including you? Thought you were a Socialist, or is that just your schtick?
— VetteGuy09C6 (@VetteGuy09C6) February 24, 2019
Maybe you should take your salary and pay all of your staff (yourself included) an equal amount. I mean practice what you preach with socialism, right?
— Parker Stohlton (@pstohlt15) February 24, 2019
good thing u got your boyfriend on the payroll asap 👍🏻 great job sandy
— tom stone (@TomRok5992) February 24, 2019
Making your boyfriend rich on taxpayer money? Classy.
— Jake Gerace (@JakeGerace) February 24, 2019
On Sunday, Fox & Friends slammed Ocasio-Cortez over the decision, with host Pete Hegseth calling the decision “socialism and communism on display,” according to the Hill.
According to Roll Call, “Government watchdog groups say deep cuts to office and committee budgets have contributed to a lack of diversity in Hill offices, high turnover and congressional brain drain.”
The story adds that members of both parties had begun to call for better staff compensation even before the Democrats took over the House in January 2019.
Washington, D.C., is the fifth most expensive city to live in in the country. According to inc.com, it takes $90,811 to “live comfortably,” and rent is typically about $2,170 per month. The definition of “living comfortably” is based on a budgeting formula wherein 50 percent of your income should go to necessities, 30 percent to disposable income, and 20 percent to savings. In March 2018, median staffer salaries ranged from $35,925 to $81,491, according to USA Today.
In December 2018, Ocasio-Cortez announced that she would pay interns working for her at least $15 per hour.
Time to walk the walk.
Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them. https://t.co/BuKCDSai0K
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 5, 2018
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Stéphanie Fillion is a French-Canadian journalist covering politics and foreign affairs in Montreal, Canada. She has worked for Radio-Canada in Vancouver and was a San Paolo fellow at La Stampa in Turin. In 2015, she won the Eu-Canada Young Journalist Award. She holds an M.A. in Journalism, Politics and Global Affairs from Columbia Journalism School and a B.A. in Comparative Politics, History and Italian Studies from McGill University. Her work appeared in outlets such as Quartz, Vice News, Ipolitics, and PassBlue.