The majority of lawmakers sponsoring legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour do not pay their interns, according to a report from the Employment Policies Institute.
The Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, was introduced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus in May.
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"The federal minimum wage has been a stagnant $7.25 for far too long, forcing workers to juggle multiple jobs while barely making ends meet," the caucus said in a statement. "For years, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and progressive groups like Fight for $15 and Good Jobs Nation have fought for workers' right to a living wage and have continued to show how low wages impact the daily lives of working families."
However, the analysis conducted by the Employment Policies Institute shows that the majority of the lawmakers who have co-sponsored the measure do not pay their interns a wage at all. The study found that of the 184 lawmakers who supported the bill, 174, or 95 percent did not pay their interns.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), Rep. Betty McCollum (D., Mn.) and Rep. Robert Scott (D., Va.) pay their interns with a stipend. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said they offer some stipends or limited financial assistance.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hi.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hi.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) offer stipends or some assistance but they are only under certain conditions or to cover expenses like travel or housing.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) said stipends are often available but they are not guaranteed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt. ) is the only lawmaker who pays his interns at $12 an hour, which is still less than what the legislation demands for the private sector.
"If Democrats in Congress are passionate about raising the wage to $15, they should start by paying it to their own staffers," said Michael Saltsman, managing director at the Institute. "It's the height of hypocrisy to hire interns for $0 an hour, while asking private small businesses to pay $15."
"Entry-level jobs, like unpaid internships, provide young employees with valuable experience–experience that will be difficult if not impossible to come by if the minimum wage is hiked by 107 percent," he said.