Compensation Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill: $15 Minimum Wage Supporters Hire Unpaid Interns

Last month, the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, which would hike the federal minimum wage by 107 percent to $15 an hour. However, a new Employment Policies Institute (EPI) analysis shows that the majority of the bill’s cosponsors have unpaid interns who earn $0 an hour. Specifically, at least 174 of the 184 bill cosponsors – or 95% — hire unpaid interns. (This figure should be considered conservative; members who advertise limited paid stipends were counted as paying their interns, even if they have unpaid interns on staff.)

Of those that do offer a stipend, Senator Bernie Sanders is the only member who pays an hourly wage. However, Senator Sanders’ office only pays interns $12 an hour, short of his $15 demand from the private sector.

Members of Congress might respond that paying their interns would reduce the number of available opportunities. They’re right about that–and the same dynamic applies in the private sector, where a much higher minimum wage has been proven to reduce opportunities for the least-skilled employees.

Methodology notes: All intern data was collected via the official websites of Senators and Representatives or via calls with staff members.  Offices which paid either an hourly wage, a flat stipend, or travel/housing stipends were counted as paying their interns, even if they still offered unpaid internships. In this sense, our conclusions above are conservative. Contacts with each primary sponsor and respective cosponsors were made between June 6th and June 8th 2017. Variation in the final tally could occur as cosponsors may be added after this time period. The tallies are rounded to the nearest whole number.

The full list of sponsors and cosponsors and the compensation details of their internship programs are available here.