If anyone knows how to call injustices by their name and break away from the political paraphernalia of yesteryear, it is Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz (AOC).
This time, the Bronx Democrat has spearheaded a petition to the House Appropriations Committee to increase congressional office budgets by 21% to be used to increase staff salaries.
As reported by USA Today, the letter explains how House staff salaries were reduced last year by 20.7% from the Congressional Budget Office’s 10-year baseline projection.
“For years, pay and benefits for the staff of Member offices, leadership offices, and committees have fallen farther and farther behind what is offered in the private sector. At the same time, the cost of living here in our nation’s capital has risen substantially, placing opportunities such as homeownership, rental housing, and childcare out of reach for many,” the lawmakers penned to Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
The call comes after a year and a half of the health care crisis and after the entire country put the meaning of Capitol Hill into perspective following last year’s attacks by supporters of the previous administration.
For AOC, fair pay is part of an intricate diversity and dignity issue.
“It is unfair for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns and underpaid, overworked staff just because some conservatives want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility,'” AOC said in a statement. “The lack of diversity on the Hill can be traced directly to our failure to pay staff a living wage.”
As TruthOut explained, in 2019, the median salary for a staff assistant in House offices was $39,130, according to the Congressional Research Service. For positions such as legislative correspondent or field representative, the median salary was between $45,000 and $50,000.
According to MIT’s living wage calculator, the living wage for a childless person in the D.C. area is about $41,500. If the person has a child, that figure rises to just over $81,000.
Finally, AOC thanked her colleagues on Twitter for their support, emphasizing that the wage increases give everyone a fair chance to work for the government.
“Generational wealth shouldn’t be a requirement to work in Washington,” she wrote.
Generational wealth shouldn’t be a requirement to work in Washington.
Congressional staffers have been far underpaid for far too long. This has damaging effects on both policymaking & diversity.
Thankful to my colleagues who joined us on the effort to pay staff dignified wages. https://t.co/aRRK8q1zeX
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 14, 2021