AOC Calls Minimum Wage Debate 'Embarrassing,' Touts Danish McDonald's Wages

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called the debate surrounding raising the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour "utterly embarrassing" and compared the figure against higher hourly pay for McDonald's workers in Denmark.

President Joe Biden has backed increasing the minimum wage $15, but plans to push it through with COVID-19 relief measures via budget reconciliation have stalled after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it should not be passed using this process.

Progressive Democrats have urged Vice President Kamala Harris to overrule the parliamentarian, though the White House has indicated she will not do so.

Ocasio-Cortez backed these calls in a tweet on the matter that also questioned the debate over the increase.

"It is utterly embarrassing that 'pay people enough to live' is a stance that's even up for debate," she wrote. "Override the parliamentarian and raise the wage."

She also highlighted the wages of McDonald's workers in Denmark.

"McD's workers in Denmark are paid $22/hr + 6 wks paid vacation. $15/hr is a deep compromise - a big one, considering the phase in," she said.

In Denmark, McDonald's workers are unionized and several years ago negotiated a basic pay package that works out to around the $22 an hour mark, as well as other benefits, such as a pension, all of which is buttressed by state-mandated labor rights.

Republican lawmakers have suggested raising the minimum wage but to figures below $15. Previously questioning a proposal that suggested $10-an-hour, Ocasio-Cortez said that amount would be "legislated poverty."

Despite the setback of the parliamentarian's ruling, progressives are continuing their push to up the minimum wage.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has said he will introduce an amendment in another attempt to increase the minimum wage to $15-an-hour. On the current minimum wage, he said: "No one can survive on $7.25 an hour."

Sanders also previously referred to McDonald's wages in Denmark, in a tweet from May 2020.

This point was also previously raised in a Reuters opinion piece in 2014, with a Danish McDonald's worker writing a piece with the headline: "I'm making $21 an hour at McDonald's. Why aren't you?"

A New York Times opinion piece from May 2020 under the headline "McDonald's Workers in Denmark Pity Us" noted that starting pay at the fast-food chain in Denmark "is about $22 an hour once various pay supplements are included."

While the White House has rejected the idea of overruling the Senate parliamentarian, it has reiterated Biden's desire to increase the minimum wage.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president will "use his political capital" to push for this.

Asked about what plans Biden might have, Psaki did not give specifics but said: "He's going to be in conversations, and we will be at a number of levels, with members of Congress with their staffs about the best vehicle moving forward.

"But we don't have a clear answer on what that looks like at this point. It just remains a commitment and something he will use his political capital to get done."

Newsweek has contacted Ocasio-Cortez's office for further comment.

alexandria ocasio-cortez at dc rally
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks outside of the Democratic National Committee headquarters on November 19, 2020 in Washington, D.C. She is continuing to push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Drew Angerer/Getty Images