The Congresswoman served up food and drinks to advocate for raising the minimum wage from $2.13 an hour.
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.
Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job, its 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.
Of the nearly four dozen lawmakers who left office after the 2016 election, one-fourth stayed in Washington, and one in six became lobbyists, according to an analysis by The Atlantic. The numbers were even higher for those who departed after the 2014 midterms: About half of those former members stuck around, and around one in four became lobbyists.
@AOC: “Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. Its indentured servitude.” pic.twitter.com/BqI5TPeSXT
Ocasio-Cortez and Cruz: Unlikely allies against lawmakers becoming lobbyists
In New York City, where Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender prior to 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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the tipped and general minimum wage as part of the 2016-17 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.
Within hours, the two agreed to co-sponsor a bill that, in Ocasio-Cortezs words, contained no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc – just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists.
Video: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez serves pizza to stand with tipped workers
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.
Ocasio-Cortez bartends at pricey Queens eatery for an hour in support of federal wage hike for tipped workers
She argued that the need to cover high costs of living puts tipped workers in vulnerable positions 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 youd 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.
She summed this up by saying, It is so real the amount of exploitation and harassment and labor violations that you will endue for the sake and the structure of tipped work.
There is a growing movement around the US to raise the federal minimum wage, both for tipped workers and non-tipped workers. That movement has largely been led by service industry workers, particularly fast food workers, who have led strikes and work stoppages in major cities.
“I was nervous that I may have lost my touch – still got it! That muscle memory doesnt quit,” she wrote on Twitter after an hour taking orders and swinging a cocktail shaker at a restaurant in her Queens constituency.
Some of this activity has been organized by groups like One Fair Wage and the influential Fight for $15. As Voxs Matthew Yglesias explained in 2016:
Video: AOC, Ted Cruz May Team Up on New Lobbying Ban
Fight for $15 is an organizing campaign, largely funded by the Service Employees International Union, that advocates for a $15-an-hour wage floor in the fast-food industry, but more broadly campaigns for higher minimum wage laws and higher pay for all low-skill workers. The campaign prominently features protests and quasi-strikes by fast-food industry workers, as well as a general communications and lobbying strategy.
Overnight, she went from total unknown to the toast of coastal America, profiled in Vogue, a guest on chat shows and jetting around the country lending her rock-star status to other insurgent candidates.
The group is by no means the only reason cities have been passing minimum wage hike laws, but its probably been the single most influential actor.
On the state level, these activists have seen success, with states like California, Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois passing legislation to raise their minimum wages to $15 per hour.
A Lobbying Ban Isnt Enough
The federal government last raised the national minimum wage nearly 10 years ago, on July 24, 2009, when it went from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour.
Raising the minimum wage is popular with both Democratic and Republican voters, and Democrats in the House of Representatives developed legislation earlier this year, known as the Raise the Wage Act, that would make the federal minimum wage $15 per hour. A Voxs Alexia Fernández Campbell explained:
In January, House Democrats introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would eventually double the federal minimum wage by 2024. The law would also tie future changes to changes in median workers pay. So if middle-class wages go up — or down — so would the minimum wage.
The bill, which has more than 200 co-sponsors (all Democrats), would also phase out the lower minimum wage for tipped workers such as restaurant servers and valets, which has been $2.13 an hour since 1996.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bartends in Queens to push for higher minimum wage
The House has not yet voted on the legislation, and it could face a tough time in the Senate; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not signaled strong support for raising the federal minimum wage in the past.
Ocasio-Cortez: $2.13 tipped minimum wage is indentured servitude
Despite this challenge, Ocasio-Cortez reiterated her support for the bill during her stint tending bar, tweeting, Lets pass #RaiseTheWage and get $15 an hour minimum for every worker in America.
I was nervous that I may have lost my touch – still got it! That muscle memory doesnt quit Now lets pass #RaiseTheWage and get $15 an hour minimum for every worker in America. pic.twitter.com/FR0ARUB7bd
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New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in a little bit of political theater on Friday as she returned to work at a bar in Jackson Heights, Queens. The appearance was part of a bid to draw attention to increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour across the whole country.
Ocasio-Cortez famously tended bar and worked as a waitress in Manhattans Union Square — not Jackson Heights, a neighborhood she now represents in Congress — in the time leading up to her historic primary victory over incumbent Joe Crowley on June 26, 2018.
Ocasio-Cortez Cautious About Loopholes In Any Lobbying Ban Bill
Now lets pass #RaiseTheWage and get $15 an hour minimum for every worker in America. pic.twitter.com/FR0ARUB7bd
AOC calls minimum wage indentured service as she returns to old job behind bar
“I was nervous that I may have lost my touch — still got it!” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “That muscle memory doesnt quit.”
“The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. That is unacceptable,” Ocasio-Cortez grabbed a mic and told patrons. “Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. Its indentured servitude. All labor, 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.”
The federally tipped minimum wage refers to the salary workers who receive tips must be paid. Those workers include servers and bartenders.
OAC waits tables to raise awareness for minimum wage
The minimum wage is already $15 per hour in New York City, where Ocasio-Cortez was tending bar on Friday, though tipped workers make only $10 per hour (large businesses) or $9 per hour (small businesses). New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill mandating $15 per hour for the metro area and $12.50 for the rest of the state for the 2016-17 budget.
New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland have also instituted minimum wages that will gradually increase to $15 over the next few years, following in the footsteps of New York and California, the first state to enact a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Wait, Did Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez… Agree on Something?
Democratic presidential candidates Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Beto ORourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have all promised to fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage if elected to the White House.