Last month, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (the left of the left on Capitol Hill) unveiled their Raise the Wage Act of 2017. The bill calls for the increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 – a 107 percent increase from where the current wage stands now at $7.25. Members believe the raise will help lower income families earn more money as they struggle to get by.
The caucus released a joint statement during the introduction of the bill:
“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. 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.”
There is just one major detail that makes this announcement a little ridiculous: the vast majority of the congressman who support this bill actually benefit from unpaid labor.
Following the introduction of the wage proposal, the Employment Policies Institute conducted a study of the labor practices of every co-sponsor’s office. They discovered that at least 174 of the bill’s 184 co-sponsors employ interns who work for $0 an hour. That means 95 percent of the lawmakers who support the Raise the Wage Act not only employ workers who make less than $15 – they hire people who don’t earn any money at all.
A bit hypocritical, no?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with interning for free (I’ve done it). It’s a superb way to gain know-how when you’re young and lack skills. Interning gives you the type of real world experience that you just can’t find at any school. If interns felt they were being taken advantage of on Capitol Hill, they’d simply leave. No one is forcing them to work for free.
The amazing part – this same concept applies to low wage jobs. Working for less money gives unskilled laborers a chance to a earn a paycheck and get their foot in the door to other opportunities. Time after time, we see where wage hikes result in higher unemployment for the most unskilled of workers. These are the people first to go if jobs are on the chopping block.
Increases in the minimum wage hurt unskilled employees. We know Democrats understand this because they practice it in their congressional offices every day.
If only they could preach it, too.