Washington state’s Congressional delegation, eight Democrats and four Republicans, nearly all share at least one thing in common: not paying their interns.
The news website Mic reports roughly 90 percent of U.S. House members and more than half of U.S. senators don’t pay their interns.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, is the only member of Washington’s congressional delegation who offers pay for internships, according to Mic.
The debate over whether employers should pay interns has raged in recent years.
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Supporters of paying interns say it offers experience to people who can’t afford to work without pay. Some who don’t pay interns argue employers can’t afford it and that offering unpaid internships provides valuable experience that boosts resumes, experience that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
Some members of Congress blame their unpaid internships on empty pockets, Mic reported. Most budgets for members of the House were roughly $1.3 million in 2017, which has to pay for travel, at least a dozen staff members, office expenses including rent, constituent mail and more, according to Mic.
Congress once offered a limited paid internship program, but it was cut in 1994.
Budget cuts over the last decade have reduced even the number of paid aides working for rank-and-file members of the House, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The News Tribune and The Olympian reached out to the nine members of Congress who represent Pierce or Thurston County — or are close to the counties — to ask why they either do, or do not pay their interns.
Kati Sills, a spokeswoman for Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said in an email that “internships are an educational program, and we offer full support if someone is seeking college credit.”
Heck’s website says he offers internships in his Washington, D.C., office as well as in Lacey.
The office of Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Issaquah, also pointed out many of his interns receive school credit.
Rep. Smith said in an emailed statement that he offers paid internships “to provide equality of opportunity and to ensure both my Washington, D.C., and Renton, Washington offices have strong diversity of ideas and backgrounds to best represent the constituents of the 9th District.”
The 9th Congressional District includes Renton, Tukwila, SeaTac and portions of Tacoma, southern Seattle, Bellevue and Federal Way.
“It is important to allow youth in our community the ability to engage in our legislative process and civic service, regardless of their income,” Smith said.
The offices of Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside and Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell could not be immediately reached for comment.