Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) received quite a bit of attention being the youngest person elected to The House, and then stirred up controversy by tweeting about the fact that although she had saved up money, she couldn’t immediately rent a place in Washington D.C. as a freshman in Congress due to the cost of living in the nation’s capital.
On Friday, she announced that she would be paying her starting staffers a salary of $52,000. Ocasio-Cortez’s decision was aimed at providing a living wage in the Washington D.C. area where average rent is nearly $2,000 per month, and the median is $2700.
‘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.’
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
Ocasio-Cortez’s “unusual policy that no one on her staff will make less than $52,000 a year” is “almost unheard of.”
Cortez’s communications director Corbin Trent said that salaries for Ocasio-Cortez’s staffers top out at $80,000, an amount far less than the median wage of $154,634 for those in chief of staff positions, according to the Legistorm analysis.
‘We think that if a person is working, they should make enough to live. I don’t think you always put the burden on the bottom.’
Trent pointed out that some staff will be faced with pay cuts to make the new policy work. However, he said that staffers are willing to endure the trade-off. He admitted that he earns $67,000 each year and supports two children. He said:
‘Is it easy? No, but part of walking the walk is understanding that everyone is going to have a little bit of a struggle. You divide it up. You work together.’
According to Newsweek:
‘The high starting salary supports Ocasio-Cortez’s frequent calls for pay equity and comes just months after the self-described democratic socialist announced a $15 an hour plus benefits wage for all interns working in her office, an unusual move considering most Capitol Hill interns work unpaid.’
Surprisingly, a 2017 study by Pay Our Interns found that only 3.6 percent of interns for House Democrats were paid, compared to 8 percent of interns working for House Republicans.
In December, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted:
‘Time to walk the walk. Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them.’
‘Gotta love the rich irony of Congressmen asking “How are you going to pay for it?” suddenly grow awfully quiet when called out on their expectation that part-time workers magically invent money to work for free.’
‘The policy, which has not been previously reported, is the latest sign that Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive Democrats intend to buck a long-established trend of ostentatious austerity in congressional offices. 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.’