Alton, IL

Double Standard for Intern Pay?

Story by WBGZ Radio

Illinois' candidates for governor support making businesses pay higher minimum wages but don't pay their campaign interns. 

J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, Bruce Rauner, and Daniel Biss have together accumulated more than $100 million in campaign funds with more than a year until the election. All of the Democrat candidates last week expressed support for a higher minimum wage than the $8.25 the state has had since 2010. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

"We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour but with consideration for the hardships that puts on small businesses," Pritzker said.

Kennedy supported a higher wage, too. He said he was brought up to think working people shouldn't have to live in poverty.

"I think we should stair-step the minimum wage up to $15 an hour so that by the time we hit 2022, people can have a full-time job and no longer live in poverty," he said. 

Biss echoed Pritzker and Kennedy.

"We need a $15 minimum wage in this state," Biss said. "If you raise wages and put money in people's pockets instead of sucking money out of local economies, that is great for small business."

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None of their campaigns offer paying internships, including Rauner's, and none responded Tuesday to requests for comment.

Trevor Smith with the non-profit "Pay Our Interns" said it's disingenuous when a politician pushes for a minimum wage hike but leaves his interns to work for free. 

"If someone is for the 'Fight for $15' but doesn't pay their interns, we see that as someone that's not truly invested in helping lower-income people," he said. "If they campaign on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but then don't pay their interns behind peoples' backs, I would call it phony."

Smith said unpaid internships also perpetuate the wage gap between students that are able to work for no pay for months and those that must support themselves and possibly others. 

Rauner vetoed a bill sponsored by Biss that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That veto is likely to come up for an override vote during the override sessions the next few weeks.

The governor, whose interns also work for free, says he supports a more modest increase of the state's minimum wage.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /


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