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Overwhelming majority of lawmakers sponsoring $15 minimum wage bill hire unpaid interns

An overwhelming majority of progressive lawmakers advocating for a $15 minimum wage hire unpaid interns, according to a new study. (2016 file photo/David McNew/Getty Images)

The overwhelming majority of lawmakers pushing for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $15 per hour pay their interns a whopping $0 per hour, a new study revealed.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced its minimum wage proposal, the Raise the Wage Act, last month. Newly released analysis from the Employment Policies Institute found that at least 174 of the act’s 184 co-sponsors — or 95 percent — hire unpaid interns.

“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 at the time. “For years, the CPC 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.”

But apparently, many of the bill’s liberal co-sponsors have no problem with interns struggling to make ends meet.

According to data compiled by the EPI, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) offer some financial assistance or stipends under certain circumstances. For Leahy, though, no monetary aid is guaranteed.

Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), and Robert Scott (D-Va.) offer stipends to their interns. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) offer some stipends or limited financial assistance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only co-sponsor who pays his interns, though his office pays them just $12 per hour — $3 less than the minimum wage Sanders is seeking to impose on private-sector employers.

The EPI pointed to a 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which determined that minimum wage increases are most harmful to low-skill workers because, when employers are having to spend more money, those with less qualifications are the first to get the boot.

“If Democrats in Congress are passionate about raising the wage to $15, they should start by paying it to their own staffers,” EPI managing director Michael Saltsman told the Washington Free Beacon. “It’s the height of hypocrisy to hire interns for $0 an hour, while asking private small businesses to pay $15.”

He noted that low-income, entry-level jobs and unpaid internships can provide young people with valuable experience. Those jobs, Saltsman said, would be “difficult if not impossible” to find if government hikes the minimum wage.

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