It’s been two days since the press conference in which New York City mayor Eric Adams proclaimed, somewhat awkwardly and absolutely disastrously, “My low-skilled workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe-shine people, those who work in Dunkin’ Donuts, they don’t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office.” As others have written, the larger point Adams was trying to make was to advocate for people whose livelihoods depend on workers returning to offices. Adams himself has also walked back the comment by clarifying that he actually meant “low-wage” workers and mentioning that he himself has worked as a cook. But the fact remains that the mayor said what he said — while wearing quite the statement sweatshirt — and clips of the comment have ping-ponged around social media, with restaurant workers chiming in to offer their version of the same basic sentiment: WTF?
Many chefs, owners, and former hospitality workers (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among them) were quick to support their employees and put forth the obvious: Restaurant jobs are hard. Others mentioned they had specifically left or avoided corner-office jobs to work in restaurants. Also, the fact that these are the same jobs that politicians referred to as “essential” in 2020 — when they were forced back to work while other people were able to stay safely at home — was not lost on critics. Finally, there are the people who decided to take the more direct and time-honored approach of simply calling the mayor a POS.
And yet this is not an entirely expected turn of events since Adams has in the past proudly declared his plan to single-handedly help New York’s restaurants in the face of this ongoing crisis. He is, you’ll recall, the same person who less than two months ago said he was committed to the city’s nightlife, “every night finding a new place to eat at throughout the city … Exposing all the people to the great nightlife because it’s jobs.”
It’s hard to imagine a more sympathetic group than the people who perform these jobs, having been asked — like all Americans — to curb or curtail their social lives while also being expected to continue working in unsafe conditions as if nothing is wrong. “Low-skilled”??? No. And oh, by the way, the entire restaurant industry is deeply screwed at the moment for any number of reasons; forcing white-collar workers back to their open-plan offices will not solve most of these problems. (Seems like we’re all excited about the idea of to-go cocktails coming back, though!)
So is our new vegan mayor going to have to start looking out for rogue hunks of bacon hiding in his takeout salads? Probably not. It’s to be expected that people who supported the arrival of our new mayor would eventually grow to loathe him since it happens to literally every mayor. Although it is impressive that it took Adams only three days in office to sabotage whatever support he might have had among restaurant-world workers in the first place.