Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raises the bar yet again

She had already declared that all her full-time staffers’ salaries would start at $52,000 thus freeing them from having to work second jobs just to pay the rent in expensive Washington DC. Interns would be paid $15 per hour plus benefits. She has now said that her staffers would also get three months full pay parental leave.

She goes on:

“Paid parental leave applies to ALL new parents, period. Moms, dads, parents; biological or adopted. If you’ve got a new child, you get 12 weeks to spend adjusting your family to this huge transition,” she wrote. “Our 12 weeks parental leave is up to the parent on how they want to use that time. They don’t have to take all 12 weeks at once – for example, they can take 5 weeks off and work 2 days a week to transition in; bank 3 weeks for later in the year, etc.”

“Equal pay at work is about SO much more than the salary you offer. If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms, you’re contributing to the pay gap. If you see pregnancy or family as a workplace obstacle, you’re contributing to the pay gap,” she tweeted, adding that her office allows parents to bring their kids to work and allows new parents to use her personal office for breast pumping and feeding new children.

These policies, she explained, are all part of an effort to promote a “pro-family workplace.” “We talk about what play mats + cribs we need along w/ our legislative agenda,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez.

What she is doing should be what all employers should be doing, and indeed is required by law in more enlightened countries. It is only in the US that it is seen as radical.

When I was teaching I occasionally had young mothers asking if they could bring their children to class if for some reason there was no school or their day care arrangements fell through. Of course I said yes. I have also allowed mothers to use my private office to nurse their infants because there was no place designated for that. These things seemed to me to be the least I could do within my power to accommodate genuine needs.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms, you’re contributing to the pay gap.

    If “pay gap” means “less [money+benefits] to women for same work as men”, reducing benefits to men reduces that gap.

    If you see pregnancy or family as a workplace obstacle, you’re contributing to the pay gap…

    Watching the struggles of an employed pregnant friend, I have to concede that her condition does produce “workplace obstacles” -- human necessity, yes, but a genuine burden when considered through the lens of “workplace”. That said:

    ¡Bravo, AOC!

  2. sonofrojblake says

    AOCs employees are presumably ultimately paid for by either the taxpayer or her donors… Not out of profits from sale of a product or service. Hard to emulate if your revenue stream is not, like tax, effectively a bottomless pit.

  3. Mano Singham says


    The point is that every congressperson gets the same total amount for staff remuneration. Donors are not involved. So it is not a bottomless pit.

    She chooses to distribute that total amount differently from other congresspersons in order to make salaries more equitable among her staff and also absorb the effects of staff being on parental leave.

  4. Jenora Feuer says

    The American opinions on parental leave are rather odd, yes.

    Here in Ontario (as of the last update a year and a half ago, we’ll see whether our current Premier tries to roll back this change as well) pregnancy leave is 17 weeks for someone who is actually giving birth. Parental leave is 63 weeks, and applies to everybody: the legislation explicitly mentions birth parent, adoptive parent, person who is in a relationship of some permanence with the parent and who plans on raising the child as their own (with an explicit note that this applies to same-sex couples). Parental leave is reduced by two weeks if the same person has also taken pregnancy leave, so the pregnant parent gets 78 weeks total.

    There are, of course, still companies and people that try to eliminate jobs so the person on leave doesn’t have anything to come back to, but that is not looked upon well.

  5. says

    @Pierce R. Butler:

    If you only offer time off to women, then only women will take time off. If you base your compensation on experience, then men will have more because they didn’t take the same time off with each kid that the women did.

    Less experience on your resume = lower pay.

    Only giving time off to women = women get less experience on their resume.

    Given equal time off to men & expecting them to use it = men have the same time off as women and thus the same amount of working time on which to base pay.

    Your statement has the appearance of logic, but only because it ignores relevant (and important!) facts. It is not true that the only effects are the instantaneous effects, and the constant societal insistence that women take off time to be with new children while men continue to work actually does increase the pay gap.

    Nice try, though.

  6. bmiller says

    “Hard to emulate if your revenue stream is not, like tax, effectively a bottomless pit.”

    Funny. The only “bottomless” aspect of the modern American economy I am aware of is the never ending demand for MORE PELF by people like the Waltons or the Kochs who already have more money that any human could ever spend.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Crip Dyke @ # 5 -- The secondary and tertiary effects you cite do not factor into the explanations given in the linked article. The (relatively few) resumés I’ve scanned list starting and ending times for each position filled, usually without mention of leave time for whatever purposes.

    Ocasio-Cortez, according to CNBC, stretches her staff budget for 18 workers in this way by paying less to the higher-ranking positions (genders not listed, except for one man quoted in favor of her approach). Her prestige and political effect significantly offset that sacrifice (a real one, given DC cost-of-living), but AOC’s Tweet™ about the pay gap still reflects the sloppy thinking endemic to that medium.

  8. Jean says

    Pierce R. Butler,

    Regardless of what the article mentions, pay gap does not only come when changing or getting a new job but also from promotions (or lack thereof) where the résumé is not involved. If only women can be absent for parental leaves, they are less likely to get promotions which has a significant impact on pay.

  9. file thirteen says


    My understanding is that the main purpose of providing equal amounts of paid leave is to fight endemic bias against hiring women because they take time off to have children. If men take off the same time as women, employers should be less likely to adopt that particular bias.

  10. lanir says

    @bmiller: What does PELF stand for? In context my mind wants to say it stands for Personal Equity, Luxury and F***ery but I doubt that’s correct.

  11. lanir says

    @Pierce: Equality doesn’t come from tit for tat thinking. There are factors that can never be made exactly equal. But that doesn’t mean equality is impossible, you just have to ensure that a certain minimum amount of opportunity is available to everyone. Specifically opportunities for social and financial advancement and participation in whatever passes locally for the powerful layers of society.

    Let’s use the prohibition on women driving in Saudi Arabia for an example. They could mandate that men must drive women around but that doesn’t suddenly make the ban on female drivers fair. It just adds a burden to people who are not affected by the ban without addressing the root problem.

    There is no possible solution for equality that involves treating it like an accounting ledger where misfortune is traded. The only solution is to eliminate the misfortune.

  12. ridana says

    @ lanir:
    “Pelf” is just a word that means money or property, especially when acquired dishonestly/dishonorably. I belief bmiller capped it for emphasis, rather than as an acronym.

  13. raym says

    · n. archaic money, especially when gained dishonestly.
    – ORIGIN ME (in the sense ‘booty’): from a var. of OFr. pelfre ‘spoils’, of unknown origin; cf. pilfer.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Jean @ # 9, file thirteen @ # 10, lanir @ # 12 -- Y’all make good points (as did CD), slightly tangential to mine.

    Had AOC written that If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms, you’re contributing to employment injustice… or … contributing to workplace gender bias, I’d’ve had no quibble -- but taking her statement word-for-word, she made an error of fact.

    I admire her greatly, but not to the point of deeming her infallible.

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