Have you ever grabbed a drink and had the bartender talk to you about fair wages and livable income? Me either. But if you and I had been at a New York bar on Friday, May 31, we would have gotten the rundown from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). Since we missed it, feast your eyes on this video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bartending while discussing the Raise the Wage Act.
According to Vox, the freshman congresswoman, who worked in the service industry before winning her current seat in the House of Representatives, served up bar drinks and pizza while promoting the bill, which aims to raise the federal minimum wage. "I was nervous that I may have lost my touch - still got it!" tweeted Ocasio-Cortez on Friday. "That muscle memory doesn’t quit."
During her "shift," the New York representative took aim at the minimum wage for tipped workers, like servers and bartenders, which has been at $2.13 an hour since 1996.
“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.”
Shen then argued that wages should be increased to prevent what she called the "exploitation" and "harassment" of individuals in the service industry, using her own experiences to make her case. She said:
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 [end] of the month. And the first of the next month was rolling right around and you have a rent check to pay. And so you are more likely to stand up for yourself and to reject sexual harassment [in the middle] of the month, when you could pick up an extra shift to make up for telling that guy to go buzz off.
Pretty interesting way to make a point, right? The Raise the Wage Act was introduced by House Democrats back in January and aims to increase the hourly federal minimum wage from $7.25 for most workers to $15 by 2024. Vox notes, though, that the House has yet to vote on the bill and that it could face obstacles in the Senate, so it's probably a good thing Ocasio-Cortez and others are trying to draw as much support and attention to the bill as they can.
Since becoming a member of Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has been mocked by conservatives, including President Donald Trump, over her history as a bartender. But she's fielded the criticism perfectly. In response to Trump reducing her to a "young bartender" in April, Ocasio-Cortez said:
I'm proud to be a bartender — ain't nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with working retail, folding clothes for other people to buy, there is nothing wrong with preparing the food that your neighbors will eat. There is nothing wrong with driving the buses that will take your family to work.
She continued, "I, in fact, am encouraged when people remind the country of my past. Not because of anything about my story but because it communicates that if I could work in a restaurant and become a member of the United States Congress, so can you."
The White House did not return Elite Daily's previous request for comment on the matter.
When it comes to fighting for living wages, Ocasio-Cortez is walking the walk there, too. Back in February, she announced no one on her staff would make less than $52,000 annually, and she tweeted on Feb. 22, "It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill."
Upping wages for her own staff isn't enough to placate AOC, though. Leave it to the freshman congresswoman to keep pushing for her cause by getting behind the bar to raise awareness. Let's see what she whips up next.