NYC mayor's comments on protecting non-remote workers prompt people to defend 'low-skill' jobs
Sometimes it's surprising how quickly politicians can step in it, even when they're trying to say something legitimately important or helpful.
In trying to convince the public that people who can't work remotely need the support of other New Yorkers during the current wave of COVID-19 infections, New York City Mayor Eric Adams artlessly referred to cooks, messengers, shoe shiners and Dunkin' Donuts employees as "low-skill workers" who "don't have the academic skills to sit in a corner office."
Eric Adams just said \u201cLow skill workers like cooks, messengers and Dunkin\u2019 Donuts employees don\u2019t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office\u201dpic.twitter.com/KaoY9MNZ8J— Achmat X (@Achmat X) 1641326272
To be fair, he was trying express support for the workers he seems to insult, but it came across all wrong. His remarks set off a firestorm of responses from people who have worked as service workers and who took issue with the idea of those jobs being "low-skill."
I second that. I'm a Grocery store worker and I challenge anyone to come and work one single holiday week of their choice and then call us "low skill"\n\nI've been working in a grocery store for 8 years now and I'm terrified of trying to be a server in a restaurant.— Vardex23 \ud83d\udc89\ud83d\udc89 \ud83d\ude37 (@Vardex23 \ud83d\udc89\ud83d\udc89 \ud83d\ude37) 1641332465
Hardest job I've ever had. You get in the weeds and the whole place goes down. A restaurant has to run like a Ferrari engine just to keep that from happening. Waited tables next to a guy with an MBA as well. This guy has no clue.— Jason Orton (@Jason Orton) 1641332987
I cleaned toilets, swung a pick axe, hauled garbage and climbed inside dry cleaning machines, among other things, to get my JD magna cum laude from Harvard. I think we can put to rest the notion that the skills required are low or that people who do those things can't think.— Robert Wade (@Robert Wade) 1641416626
"There’s no such thing as a 'low-skilled' worker."
"Anybody can flip a burger at McDonald's" not actually true. Also, frankly, a lot of the office workers I know also don't have a great deal of academic skill. You don't need to be a rocket surgeon to answer phones.— You, in the bushes. (@You, in the bushes.) 1641331053
Let's be honest, academic skill isn't necessary for most office jobs in the first place.\n\nIt's just an acceptable way to filter "less desirable" applicants.\n\nI'm confident I could teach the folks from my local Dunks to do most jobs at my firm. All they'd need is time to learn.— Matt Gibbs (@Matt Gibbs) 1641331870
Naturally, different jobs require different skills, and "academic skills" could mean a lot of different things. But "low-skill" has an insulting ring to it
Adams tried to clarify his meaning in an interview on CBS This Morning, saying, “The goal is we need to open the city so low-wage employees are able to survive."
If he meant "low-wage," he probably should have said so. And that correction doesn't really address the "lacking-the-academic-skills-for-a-corner-office" thing.
Some people pointed out that "low-skill" or "unskilled" jobs are an actual category of work, meaning that they don't require any specialized education or long-term training. However, that wording minimizes the skills that are required to succeed in many of those jobs, so perhaps we should reconsider that wording altogether.
What Mayor Adams really meant was that people who work in jobs that can't be done remotely still need to be paid during the pandemic. Is encouraging office workers to go into the office in the middle of a raging pandemic so they can help keep those people employed the way to go? Questionable, but everything is questionable right now.
What's clear is that while his intentions may have been good, his delivery definitely needed some polishing. Don't insult a large swath of your constituents by saying they don't have the brains for a corner office. Not a good message, not a good look.
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