Minimum Wage, Maximum Hypocrisy: At Least 95 Percent of $15 Minimum Wage Cosponsors Hire Unpaid Interns

New analysis shows progressive legislators’ “do as I say, not as I do” minimum wage approach
  • Publication Date: June 2017

  • Topics: Minimum Wage


Washington D.C. – Today, the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released a new analysis showing that at least 95 percent of U.S. House and Senate cosponsors of recently introduced $15 federal minimum wage legislation hire interns who earn no wage at all. In total, 174 of the 184 “Raise the Wage Act” cosponsors and primary sponsors hire unpaid interns.

In the Senate, Senators Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and 20 other cosponsors hire unpaid interns. 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 proposal. In the House of Representatives, Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Keith Ellison, Maxine Waters and 145 other cosponsors do not pay their interns. Only 9 members from both chambers offer some form of a stipend, representing 5 percent of cosponsors.

You can find our ad in The Hill here, along with a shareable infographic here.

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.

“It’s hypocritical to rally for a $15 minimum wage when these lawmakers don’t pay their own entry level employees a cent,” said Michael Saltsman, EPI’s managing director. “Policymakers might object to paying interns because it will reduce the number of available opportunities–but the same dynamic applies in the private sector, where businesses are forced to cut staff or close down.”

For more information, visit To schedule an interview, contact Sean Kumnick at  (202) 463-7650 or

The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth. In particular, EPI focuses on issues that affect entry-level employment. EPI receives support from restaurants, foundations, and individuals.