Ocasio-Cortez announces staff starting salary of $52K to champion ‘living wage’

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced this week that no one on her staff would make less than $52,000 a year, a move aimed at championing a “living wage.”

The progressive firebrand’s policy creates an unheard of salary for young House staffers in Washington, D.C., where the average rent is more than $2,000 a month, Roll Call reported Friday.

“It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. “We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, Corbin Trent, told the outlet that salaries for the congresswoman’s office would top out at $80,000 — well below the $154,634 median wage, according to a Legistorm analysis of congressional chiefs of staffs.{mosads}

Some Ocasio-Cortez staffers might be required to take pay cuts, Trent acknowledged. He is making $67,000 a year and has two children.

“Is it easy? No,” he said. “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.”

Ocasio-Cortez announced in December that she would also pay her interns at least $15 an hour. 

The lawmaker wrote on Twitter that she was facing pushback from people who didn’t understand how congressional salaries work.

“Each member is given a set amount that they disburse. GOP has refused to increase budgets in years to give hard-working staff a raise, which means people helping to run the country are getting paid $30k/year,” she wrote.

The New Yorker said it was “pretty sad” who people thought the low salaries were a good thing.

“Low pay a big reason why money in politics is a problem – you can make a lot more money becoming a lobbyist & setting up a relationship w/ one, since the actual job doesn’t pay enough,” she wrote. “Domino effect.”

Her office has not yet finished hiring, but Trent told Roll Call that hiring will likely cap out at 18 staff members, the congressional limit.

Ocasio-Cortez has previously called for lawmakers in Congress to increase pay for members of their staff, stating that some don’t make a living wage.

In December, she wrote that she had met several bartenders, managers and servers in D.C. who also work in Senate or House offices.

“This is a disgrace. Congress of ALL places should raise [Members’ Representational Allowances] so we can pay staff an actual DC living wage,” Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star on the left, wrote in a tweet.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez congressional staffers Intern Minimum wage
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