Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans to Pay Interns at Least $15 per Hour

‘Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them…’

(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a tweet that her congressional office will be one of the only ones to pay interns, confirming that they will get paid “at least” $15 an hour, equivalent to an annual salary of approximately $30,000.

A 2017 study by the non-profit group Pay Our Interns found that 8 percent of House Republicans and 4 percent of House Democrats pay their interns.

In the Senate, 51 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats pay their interns.

Earlier this week, Ocasio-Cortez called on all lawmakers to increase pay for their interns and staffers, saying she spoke to several staff members who were upset about how little they made for how hard they worked.

Ocasio-Cortez, who previously worked as a waitress in New York City and expressed concerns about being able to cover rent for her new D.C. accommodations before her first Congressional paycheck, tweeted that it was disgraceful for “Congress of ALL places” not to provide adequate Members’ Representational Allowances to pay staffers a living wage.

Both the House and Senate approved appropriations bill earlier this month that included $5 million to cover intern pay starting in 2019.

The House’s original version of the bill didn’t include intern provisions, but it followed the Senate’s lead shortly after.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said in a statement after the House approved its appropriations bill that the unpaid internships in Congress–like many in the private sector–provide an inside track to affluent job-seekers who can afford to forgo the cost of living expenses.

“Because the bulk of congressional internships are unpaid, they are implicitly easier for individuals from privileged backgrounds to participate in and complete,” Ryan said.

“By providing this dedicated funding to help House offices pay their interns, we are moving to level the playing field and provide opportunities for young Americans who may not otherwise have the financial means necessary to dedicate a full semester or summer to an unpaid internship.”

However, another argument might posit that providing ample-salaried Congressional internships, more than the wages many in the workforce make, will not improve the elitist culture on Capitol Hill but only reinforce it, putting taxpayer funding into the hands of those who need it least and fostering a greater sense of entitlement.