Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez returns to bartending in support of wage equality for restaurant workers: 'I was nervous that I may have lost my touch'
New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continued her advocacy for an increase to the federal minimum wage on Friday night by serving up cocktails in Queens in support of raising wages for service workers.
The Democratic socialist poured the drinks at the Queensboro bar in Jackson Heights as she pushed for a $15 minimum wage for bartenders and waiters who also receive tips. The Congresswoman did so in partnership with One Fair Wage, an organization that works to increase the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers, like bartenders, is $2.13 an hour.
"I was nervous that I may have lost my touch- still got it!" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted following the appearance. "That muscle memory doesn't quit."
I was nervous that I may have lost my touch - still got it! That muscle memory doesn’t quit 😉— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 31, 2019
Now let’s pass #RaiseTheWage and get $15 an hour minimum for every worker in America. pic.twitter.com/FR0ARUB7bd
"Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job, it's indentured servitude," Ocasio-Cortez said. "All labor has dignity. And the way that we give labor dignity is by paying people the respect and the value that they are worth at minimum. We have to make one fair wage and we have to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, nothing less."
In New York City, where Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender before becoming a member of Congress, tipped workers must be paid a minimum of $10 an hour by their employer with a guarantee that through tips they will receive at least $15 an hour. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo increased the topped and general minimum wage as a part of the 2016-2017 budget.
Ocasio-Cortez argued a federal tipped minimum wage needs to become law in order to protect workers both from increasing costs of living and workplace harassment. "When our rents are running away, when our food costs are running away, in dense cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, we need to make sure that people are paid enough to live, period," the lawmaker said.
She argued that the need to cover high costs of living puts tipped workers in vulnerable positions that are not faced by workers that take-home set salaries. "I remember working in restaurants, and, you know, you would have someone say something extremely inappropriate to you, or you’d have someone touch you, and the thing is it would be the 28th of the month, the 29th of the month. And the first of the next month was rolling right around and you have a rent check to pay," she said. "And so you are more likely to stand up for yourself and to reject sexual harassment on the 15th of the month, or maybe the 10th of the month, when you could pick up an extra shift to make up for telling that guy to go buzz off."
But it's not like her campaign hasn't met with opposition. A survey of tipped employees from industry publication Upserve found that 97% prefer this current payment system of a base wage plus tips. Respondents said that the increase in the minimum wage would lead to higher menu prices and negatively impact their tips.
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