Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
(D-NY) is advocating for higher pay for congressional staffers in order to increase diversity
on Capitol Hill
On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez joined 110 other members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar
(D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass. ), in writing to the House
appropriations committee, requesting that more funds be allocated in legislative branch budgets to allow for a 21% increase in staff salaries.
Paying entry-level employees a low salary will “continue to raise barriers to entry and benefit those who are already wealthy and connected,” the lawmakers wrote, making it even more difficult to “recruit and retain the talented and diverse workforce we need to serve the diversity and needs of the American people
“It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves while relying on unpaid interns and underpaid, overworked staff just to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility,’” Ocasio-Cortez said in a news
According to Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reports, while people of color make up approximately 40% of the US population, they accounted for only 11% of top staff in Senate
offices in 2020 and 13.7% of top staff in House offices in 2018.
“We must be able to recruit and retain a diverse and talented workforce” to ensure that “Congress reflects the American people we serve,” lawmakers wrote in a letter released on Monday.
Today, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) led 110 Members in calling on Congress to reverse staff salary cuts. If we want to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce, we need to pay Congressional staff a living wage. pic.twitter.com/TXlmlY0CRL — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) June 14, 2021
According to the lawmakers' letter, pay for staff in lawmakers' offices and committees has "fallen further and further" behind private sector salaries, while the cost of living in Washington
has risen over the years, "putting opportunities such as homeownership, rental housing
, and childcare out of reach for many."
For years, Ocasio-Cortez has advocated for higher pay for Capitol Hill staff and interns.
In 2018, Congress passed a spending bill that included funds for lawmakers to pay their interns — but a recent report found that more needs to be done to increase diversity among those who are given these prestigious internships, which are still overwhelmingly young and white.
Dan Riffle, a former senior staffer for Ocasio-Cortez, stated on Twitter that he resigned earlier this year because he "couldn't afford" it.
Noting that positions on Capitol Hill pay less than those in the private sector, as well as many nonprofit and local government jobs
, Riffle stated that Ocasio-Cortez was “a great boss and I adored my colleagues, but with two kids in daycare I simply couldn’t afford the job.”