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"Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns," said Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We will be one of them." (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

'Time to Walk the Walk': Ocasio-Cortez Announces 'At Least' $15 Wage for Interns

The culture of the unpaid DC internship, says one expert on the issue, is part of "a very nasty system that keeps rich people in control"

Common Dreams staff

While the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said its recent posting for unpaid internships was "made in error" and announced paid positions will be announced in January, fellow New York lawmaker in the House, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, declared Tuesday night that it's time for Democrats to "walk the walk" on paying Capitol Hill interns a living wage and said that her office will pay $15 per hour "at least" for those who come to work for her.

As the Washington Post reported:

study last year by Pay Our Interns found that 51 percent of Republican senators offer paid internships, compared with 31 percent of Democrats.

House interns fare worse: Only 8 percent of those who work for Republicans and 3.6 percent who work for Democrats get paid.

"It's a very nasty system that keeps rich people in control," Carlos Vera, founder of Pay Our Interns, told Rolling Stone. A former congressional intern himself, Vera explained how the system of unpaid jobs in the Capitol has everything to do with keeping working-class students and people from low-income families out of the halls of power. As a Latino, Vera said, "I saw an extreme lack of diversity, both in interns and staff in Congress."

On Monday, in a separate tweet, Ocasio-Cortez explained how she'd been at a late-night eatery in DC where she talked with several of the restaurant staff who also work on Capitol Hill.

"This is a disgrace. Congress of ALL places should raise [Members' Representational Allowances] so we can pay staff an actual DC living wage," she wrote.   "It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about 'fiscal responsibility.'"


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