working class

Mayor Eric Adams' remarks about "low-skill" workers set off a firestorm of responses.

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."

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."

"There’s no such thing as a 'low-skilled' worker."

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.