'This is a disgrace': Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams her future colleagues in Congress for employing unpaid interns and failing to pay staffers a 'living wage'

Scott Eisen/Getty ImagesNew York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected US House representative, called out her future colleagues in Congress, including Democrats, for paying their low-level staffers salaries below the “living wage” and for employing unpaid interns, even as members of Congress are paid multiple times more than the average American.

The incoming New York Democrat, who took service industry jobs to support herself and her family in the years before she ran for office, tweeted on Monday that she’s met congressional staffers who wait tables to supplement their government wages.

“This week I went to dive spot in DC for some late night food. I chatted up the staff. SEVERAL bartenders, managers, & servers *currently worked in Senate + House offices,*” she wrote. “This is a disgrace.”

Ocasio-Cortez said Congress should raise wages for staffers so they can afford to continue living in Washington, one of the most expensive cities in the country. The 29-year-old elected lawmaker has said she can’t afford a DC apartment before her $US174,000 congressional salary kicks in in January.

“It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility,'” she added in another tweet.

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House members are paid between $US174,000 and $US223,500 a year, and 40% of senators and representatives are millionaires, according to a March 2018 Roll Call report. The median American household income was $US59,039 in 2017, according to the census.

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet came just a few hours after a reporter saidSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, another New York Democrat, is hiring an unpaid intern. And her message may have made an immediate impact, because later on Monday Schumer’s office announced the job posting had been made “in error” and his interns will be paid a stipend in the new congress.

Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign rejected corporate donations, and the representative-elect – who is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress – has frequently criticised the influence of money in politics, the expense of running for office, and the lack of working-class representatives in American politics.

“Many members of Congress were born into wealth, or they grew up around it,” she told Bon Appetit last month. “How can you legislate a better life for working people if you’ve never been a working person?”

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