Experience Doesn’t Pay the Bills in California

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In California, Only 10 Percent of State Assembly Offices Paid Their Interns; No Senate Offices Paid Their Interns

In 2019, Pay Our Interns was inspired by Victoria Pfau, an unpaid intern in the California State Legislature. As part of a college midterm in public policy, Pfau chose to tackle issues around unpaid internships, based on her own experiences. With our guidance, Pfau drafted sample legislation called, “The Pay Our Interns Act: Investing in California’s Future Leaders.” Her writing inspired us to launch efforts for a paid internship program in the California State Legislature.

Legislative internships create pathways to careers in public service, but unpaid internships create barriers to those pathways.  Our latest research examines the state of legislative internships in California, the majority of which remain unpaid. We’re calling on the Legislature to create a paid internship program, which prioritizes funds for low-income students who have the most to gain, and creates a centralized system of support for interns in the workplace.

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Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2019, 10 percent (8 out of 80) of California State Assembly offices, and no Senate offices paid their interns.
  • As of January 2021, neither California State Assembly offices nor State Senate offices advertised paid internships. Less than half of Assemblymember offices and only a quarter of Senate offices had postings for unpaid internships.
  • In the 2021 State Assembly, 57 percent (46 out of 80) of Assemblymembers did not have any internship information accessible on their websites.
  • In the 2021 State Senate, 77 percent (30 out of 39) of Senators did not have any internship information accessible on their websites.

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