Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams low wages and stressful jobs: ‘Working people are set up to fail’

NBC News / YouTube Alexandria Ocasio Cortez gives inaugural address 1553459993.jpg...
NBC News / YouTube

Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing New York, is no stranger to politics that hold the wealthy accountable. She is also isn’t afraid to speak her mind and advocate to break tired social norms. With that in mind, her tweets on Sunday about low wages and the working poor weren’t too surprising. But they’re still a huge deal.

Socioeconomic class is still a relatively taboo topic in the United States. For people living in poverty, it can especially be a mixed bag. Working long hours for low wages is, objectively, terrible. But for people working these jobs, actually acknowledging this can be risky.

Will people jump to the old stereotype that low-income people are “lazy” or “whiny” when they hear about work stress or fatigue? Too often, it’s acceptable for people in white collar industries to vent or blow off steam after work, but when working class people to do it, it’s seen as a mark against their character. And this scenario even assumes that working class people have time to blow off steam, which not everybody does.

A great example of people policing the working class happened recently in Washington, DC. Natasha Tynes, a writer, confronted a WMTA worker (who was apparently on her lunch break) eating on the metro. She then took her photograph because you’re not supposed to eat on the metro and she felt it was her job to police that, shared it to Twitter, and reported the worker’s information to the WMATA. (For the record, Tynes has since deleted the tweet and apologized. She’s also lost her book deal over the incident.)

Can working class people be given any sanctity? Too often, the answer is no. 

With this in mind, let’s look at Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s inspiring thread.

This is a great and important point. Many jobs that pay low or inconsistent wages are draining and stressful. Food servers, in particular, have the added pressure of being at a customer’s will when it comes to making enough to survive, thanks to our country’s tipping culture.

Anyone in customer service, however, experiences pressure to people-please and present a happy face, even when conditions are bad and customers may be difficult. It’s no surprise that this mental load doesn’t help workers when they leave these jobs and go home to deal with, you guessed it, more stress.

This short note on character is important, too. Too often we subconsciously conflate someone’s character with their career success; a “good” job suggests that someone is a hard worker or smarter than someone who is working class.

Many people (rightly) criticized the now infamous Chase tweet for being out of touch and patronizing, but it’s always helpful to see a politician with a huge reach and following spell it out as well. The idea that cutting down on any bit of happiness or convenience (such as buying a coffee at a shop or using a rideshare service) is what makes people poor is not only untrue but harmful. First of all, it ignores systemic barriers. This idea also suggests that low-income people aren’t worthy of enjoying their lives or treating themselves, which is also unfair.

This is also a great point: Taxing the rich in the way Rep. Ocasio-Cortez proposes would only affect a small, small amount of the population. Conservative rhetoric overemphasizes how many people would be impacted as a means of making people panic. In reality, most people aren’t super rich. So even if you aren’t onboard ethically, on the practical end, her policies are still unlikely to hurt you.

Yes, yes, yes. And lastly:

What do you think?

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3 Comments on "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams low wages and stressful jobs: ‘Working people are set up to fail’"

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S Farr
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S Farr
I’m behind her all the way on this! The average person who has a “blue collar” or “low income” level job just can’t make it these days. I’m in Chicago, and our minimum wage is like $11/hr. Now, if you work 40 hours a week, you would make $440 a week before taxes. After taxes, maybe $325-$350. Let’s go even higher and say $375, which would give you $1500 a month. Now, the rule of thumb is supposed to be that you shouldn’t spend anymore than 30% of your income on rent. Yeah right! You can’t live anywhere in Chicago… Read more »
Michael owens
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Michael owens

Im hearing u S Farr. Here in Australia, workers fought tooth n nail to protect liveable wages, primarily in the 70’s n 80’s. I cant imagine what starvation wages is doing to the mental health of blue collar workers… all i can think of, is they were unwell enough to vote Trump in…….sad

Michael owens
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Michael owens

Couldnt agree more with AOC. Im an old retired Australian. We had this problem in the 60’s n 70’s of low paid wages and class warfare. The unions are very strong here still, however you carnt drive jobs offshore and a balance was produced. $20 per hour is the min wage for anyone…i can only speak for us here in Australia, it has worked.