News Story

Sen. Gary Peters Wants Higher Minimum Wage — Except for His Unpaid Interns

But senator wants others to be subject to wage mandates

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, is a proponent of increasing the minimum wage for low-skill, limited-experience workers. Unless, that is, they work for him.

Earlier this year, Peters joined with 32 of his colleagues to co-sponsor a bill that would hike the federal minimum wage mandate to $12 an hour by 2020.

"Nobody who works full time in this country should have to live in poverty, but that is the brutal economic reality for millions of families across the country right now who can't make ends meet in the face of stagnant wages and increased costs of daily necessities," Peters said in a news release touting the legislation.

However, Peters' office participates in internship programs in which young people work without pay for Congress. These unpaid internship positions are offered on the basis that they are an opportunity to gain experience.

A notice posted by Peters’ office seeking applicants for the intern positions Included this:

“An internship provides an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience and observe firsthand how our government operates. Interns gain practical work experience by undertaking a variety of administrative and legislative responsibilities in the office.”

It would appear that Sen. Peters understands well enough that gaining experience can be valuable enough to justify someone working for nothing, at least if the job is in government. But he refuses to apply the same principle to employment in the private sector, which also provides experience to entry-level employees.

The Michigan Democratic Party also uses unpaid interns, advertising that the positions provide a “well-rounded experience." However, the party continues to support imposing a minimum-wage mandate on private businesses.

Another example in the news of "mandated minimums for thee but not me" involves a Los Angeles City Council proposal to mandate a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Unions there have lobbied to exclude their own members by creating an exception for unionized employers with collective bargaining agreements. A union spokesman told the Los Angeles Times: “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Peters’ office in Washington, D.C. and the Michigan Democratic headquarters in Lansing did not respond to requests for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.