When Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, she argued that the United States should “make sure our minimum wage is set to a level that works” for employees.
Sen. Murray should start with her own staff–as should most of her other colleagues who sign on to the bill. A new Employment Policies Institute (EPI) analysis of Congressional pay policies finds that, of the 198 sponsors of the Raise the Wage Act in the House and Senate, 94 percent don’t pay any of their interns. Fully 98 percent offer unpaid internships.
High-profile minimum wage advocates, including the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Murray and Rep. Robert C. Scott, don’t pay their interns. Nor do Nancy Pelosi, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Progressive luminary Elizabeth Warren’s interns “may be eligible to receive stipends,” and Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders pays his interns — but only $10.10 an hour.)
Some members of Congress who don’t pay their interns suggest these unpaid employees will benefit in other ways. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says, “Interns will gain practical experience.” Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) claims interns in his office will acquire “valuable experience and knowledge”. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) indicates her interns will strengthen “their communication, problem solving, and time management skills.”
These same legislators appear blind to the fact that their proposal to raise the federal minimum wage by 66 percent would mean that similar valuable experiences are eliminated for other early-career employees as job opportunities disappear.