Politics

Braley Calls for Minimum Wage Hike, Pays Interns Nothing

Braley says proposed increase would fight poverty

U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley / AP

Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) is calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage despite offering no pay to his congressional interns.

Braley appeared with Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) on Sunday at a small Iowa business to advocate for legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The Iowa Democrat is running to replace the retiring Harkin, who sponsored the minimum wage hike bill.

Braley touted the proposed increase as a measure that would fight poverty.

"No one in Iowa should work a full-time job and live near or below the poverty line," he said. "It’s been over five years since the last federal minimum wage increase, and the minimum wage buys less and less for Iowa’s workers."

However, the congressman does not pay his interns, according to his website.

"All internships are unpaid and candidates who are chosen for the Washington, D.C., office may be responsible for paying their travel and living expenses," the website says. "However, interns in any office can arrange to receive academic credit for their work."

"Preference will be given to those available full-time," the website adds.

Republicans and conservative groups have previously criticized Democrats as hypocrites for backing the minimum wage hike while leaving their interns unpaid. A study by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) last year found that 97 percent of the sponsors and cosponsors of wage hike legislation do not pay their interns.

"These legislators know that mandating more pay for interns would mean fewer internships," EPI research director Michael Saltsman previously told the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s unfortunate that they don’t understand that this same dynamic exists for entry-level positions in the private sector."

Braley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans have criticized Braley and other Democrats for the potential job losses that would result from raising the minimum wage.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected in February that a $10.10 wage would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers. Additionally, only 19 percent of the $31 billion in increased earnings would accrue to families living below the poverty line—while 29 percent would go to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold.

"Braley’s proposal sells workers short, it doesn’t create jobs, and is a political ploy so he can keep a job in Washington," said Iowa Republican Party spokesman Jahan Wilcox in a recent statement. "Iowa deserves better than Bruce Braley."

Some experts say the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a better antipoverty tool because it is more directly tied to household income. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) recently proposed an expansion of the EITC for childless workers as part of his agenda to combat poverty.

Republicans have also noted that unemployment rates remain in the double digits for workers between the age ranges of 16 to 19 and 20 to 24, ages when many workers seek entry-level jobs that pay the minimum wage.

Braley is in a dead heat with Republican Joni Ernst for the Iowa Senate seat, according to an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. The race could be crucial to Republicans’ efforts to retake the Senate majority this fall.