Pay Our Interns: It’s Time to End Unpaid Work
An outcry of support on Twitter can lead to economic justice
Washington, DC–Today, unpaid internships began trending on Twitter with more than 60,000 tweets posted, and many people reflecting on the economic burden of their unpaid internship experience. Internships are an essential path to the workforce for millions of students, but when those opportunities are unpaid, studies have shown they exclude low income students, and oftentimes, students of color. Pay Our Interns has been leading a movement to end unpaid work for more than four years. We started by successfully pushing Congress to allocate funds towards paid internships on the Hill, helping to secure over $48 million to date. As a result of our ongoing advocacy, there is momentum in Congress to pay interns at the State Department, as well as to use key COVID relief funds to expand youth employment programs nationwide.
“Experience does not pay the bills, and today’s outpouring of personal stories shows just how many people have made considerable sacrifices to take an unpaid internship, or were shut out of an experience altogether because they couldn’t work without getting paid,” said Carlos Mark Vera, co-founder and Executive Director of Pay Our Interns. “We must build a more inclusive economy, and that starts with ending unpaid internships and making sure that, as we build back the economy, we are investing in young people as they begin their careers.”
Government should use all levers to ensure this happens through congressional appropriation of funds for paid internships in federal agencies. For example, in Congress, Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) has introduced a bipartisan bill to pay State Department interns. This type of legislation can be introduced to ensure that every federal intern is paid. On the state and local level, governors and mayors have the authority to allocate a portion of COVID relief funds toward youth employment programs. And through the Department of Labor, there should be greater oversight of the private sector and the payment and working conditions of interns.
When a student is offered an unpaid internship, they ultimately bear the cost. When accounting for housing, food, and transportation, a paid internship costs approximately $6,000. Factor in tuition to earn academic credit as compensation, instead of pay, and an unpaid internship can cost a student as much as $13,000. This has effectively created a glass ceiling, keeping out working class youth and those of color.
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Pay Our Interns is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates for more paid internships and expanding workforce development opportunities among youth. A student’s socioeconomic status should not be a barrier to getting real-world work experience. POI is headquartered in Washington, D.C. For more information visit www.payourinterns.org.