Boooooy, I don’t know what New York City Mayor Eric Adams got for Christmas last month, but somebody should have gotten him a teleprompter and a speechwriter because, apparently, he hasn’t learned yet that words matter and being insulting and condescending to the workers he’s purporting to go to bat for just isn’t a good look.
During a Tuesday press conference in which the mayor urged businesses to return to the office instead of working remotely so employees can better protect themselves from Omicron and the pandemic, Adams made a mistake one would usually expect from conservative Republicans—he referred to undervalued laborers as “low skilled.”
First, let’s back up a bit and give his ill-advised language a little context.
“That accountant—I need him to go to the cleaners. I need him to go down to Dunkin’ Donuts. I need him to go to the restaurant. I need him to bring in the business traveling,” Adams said. “And if we say that, ‘Well I don’t have to go in. I’m still getting my salary,’ then you are not helping those New Yorkers who need us to come in.”
From those words, it appears Adams is under the impression that people who work from home never actually leave their homes to eat out or take their clothes to the cleaners. They’re working remotely, bro, they’re not Grinches plotting to steal Christmas next year.
But even if one isn’t in agreement with the idea that if an employee can work remotely while the pandemic is still ongoing then they should, the rest of what Adams had to say should definitely raise the eyebrows of anyone who believes workers of all professions deserve to be spoken about with respect and dignity.
Adams went on to say that businesses need to remind workers that they are part of the “ecosystem of this city” and that means contributing to its economy.
“My low-skilled workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe-shine people, those who work at Dunkin’ Donuts—they don’t have the academic skills to sit in the corner office,” he continued.
At this point, I’m starting to wonder if Adams wasn’t just really hungry and craving Dunkin’ Donuts. Does he have some kind of endorsement deal with the company? If he mentions Dunkin’ three times in a speech does he get free coffee and bear claws for a month?
Also, anyone who doesn’t think cooks are skilled workers has never had to avoid a company potluck before.
Finally, the assumption that any and all people who work what many consider menial jobs are lacking in “academic skills” is just gross. There are far too many people with college degrees who work low-paying jobs until they can find something in their field for that to be true. (Also, cops are generally not considered to be academically inclined, and yet look at Adams going from being a transit cop to a cop to a mayor as if he happens to be smart and stuff.)
Obviously, people were unhappy with Adams’ choice of words.
Then there are those who are far more offended by his rush to reopen the city in the midst of a pandemic than they are about him insulting workers.
According to Newsweek, New York City “had a daily average of 39,132 new cases per day on Monday, up from an average of 1,729 one month earlier.”
But Adams isn’t trying to hear any of that noise and he certainly doesn’t appear to think referring to workers as “low-skilled” is something he should hit the brakes on.
During an interview with CNN Tuesday, he kept that same energy.
“We have to open up,” he said. “What we must understand is the resiliency of returning back to a normal life. If we don’t open our cities, there are almost a million people that are behind in their rents right here in this city. We have low-skilled employees who can’t do remote employment from home or telecommuting. That’s not a reality in a city like New York and America. I need my cities to open.”
Bruh, learn to read the room.