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AOC bartends in Queens in support of One Fair Wage for tipped workers

"Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. It's indentured servitude," the congresswoman said.

In an effort to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez returned to her roots at The Queensboro in Jackson Heights, where she worked behind the bar serving customers.  (Credit: Howard Simmons)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' bartending shifted from past to present Friday afternoon, following promises to "see if my margarita+mocktail game is still on point" during an appearance behind the bar in Queens.

The return to her roots at The Queensboro, in Jackson Heights, was to bring attention to One Fair Wage, an effort to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. More than 50 servers, bartenders, massage therapists and other hourly employees attended the private event, which happened to be held at the very spot where incumbent Joe Crowley conceded to Ocasio-Cortez in 2018 (and sang “Born to Run”).

"Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job. It’s indentured servitude," the congresswoman said to the crowd, pounding her fingertips on a bar top for emphasis. 

"We need to be paid a stable enough wage to reject sexual harassment, to say I'm not going to take that degrading shift. To say I'm going to work a shift on my own terms.”

Worker advocates echoed the congresswoman's sentiments and said the tipping culture has to change.

"This is how we as young people are introduced to the world of work," said Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which advocates for raising the minimum wage for tipped workers. "Our industry sets the standard for what is normal, acceptable and ethical in the workplace for the rest of our lives."

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez had taken to Twitter to taunt "the silver spoon classists saying they're going to 'make AOC bartend again.'" The punchline? "You're in luck! I'll be bartending in NY-14 this week to promote a national living wage." 

As workers mingled in the rustic-modern restaurant, the congresswoman took Aesha Polanco's order of eggplant pizza as she made her way around the dining room. 

"She's one of us. She's very comfortable and light in essence," said Polanco, 32, a single mother from Yorktown Heights.

A massage therapist, Polanco also works as a waitress part-time and lives on tips.

"Your income fluctuates every day. It's easier to know I'm making this this week, so this is what I'm going to put into this bill and this is what I'm going to save."

After bringing out two pizzas, Ocasio-Cortez made her way behind the bar. She mixed up a margarita with a shaker and poured a glass of red wine.

"Obviously she knows her way around the bar," said Larry Obregon, 30, a bartender at The Queensboro.

"It's nice to see someone who can represent us, who has political power to be able to empathize." 

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