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Pay Our Interns Calls on Department of Labor to End Unpaid Internships and Form Internship Task Force 

Initiative Part of Coalition Effort for 2021’s National Intern Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Pay Our Interns announced the “Protect Interns” campaign in honor of National Intern Day. The campaign is a multi-coalition effort to pressure the Department of Labor to end unpaid internships and contains four key requests: 

  • The reversal of a 2018 Trump Department of Labor rule, which created guidelines which made it easier for interns to be hired but not be paid; and 
  • Collecting data on internships, which are largely unaccounted for and unregulated; and 
  • Paying interns at the Department of Labor at least $15.00 an hour; and
  • The establishment of an Internship Task Force, similar to the Department’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, with the goal of studying and preventing exploitative internship practices. 

“The four requests we’re making to the Department of Labor are a part of our ongoing efforts to improve the economic mobility and rights of young people,” said Carlos Mark Vera, Executive Director at Pay Our Interns. “The Department helps regulate internships for the rest of the country, and it’s important they not only set a precedent by paying their interns, but ensure there are criteria and accountability created for detailing internship statistics from across the rest of the country. This is particularly important for young and low -income interns of color, who we must stand up for and make sure their work is counted. ” 

“Not only are interns critically important to the success of every congressional office but for so many, internships are a pipeline to public service,” said Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA 29th). “Yet, between the cost of housing, transportation, and food, low-income students and students of color continually face impenetrable barriers to access. To truly advance equity, congressional staff and the next generation of policymakers must reflect the diversity of our nation which means making internship opportunities accessible to every community and every student. That is why the fight to adequately pay and support our interns continues today, and every day after that.”

“Internships are a critical part of career growth for young people,” said Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA 9th). “Unpaid and low-paying internships severely limit opportunities for people who want to pursue a career in public service, but cannot afford to take these positions. In particular, this represents a significant barrier for people of color seeking internship opportunities, which perpetuates a lack of diversity among Congressional staff. Earlier this year, I led a letter with 90 other members of the House to support higher funding for interns, and ensure they are paid at a rate of $15 an hour. I am very pleased that the House Appropriations Committee increased the intern pay fund by 40% for next year. It is essential that internships are paid a fair wage, and that congressional internships are a feasible option for a diverse pool of candidates.”

“Unpaid internships encourage race and class discrimination and access to earnings and high-quality work-based learning”, said Dr. Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

“For too long, there’s been a toxic expectation that if you care about social justice, you should be ‘passionate enough’ to work for little to no pay,” said Mariam Martin, Co-founder of Second Day. “Not only does this prevent millions of people from bringing their skills, perspectives and energy to create lasting, community-driven solutions  for crises like climate change, racial injustice, and inequitable access to healthcare and education, but also creates an industry which perpetuates burnout and high turnover rates. Pay Our Interns is on the forefront of fighting the institutional practices which take advantage of eager young people who want to dedicate their careers to service. We join them in calling on the Department of Labor to end the practice of unpaid internships, and for allies to sign the Pay Our Interns petition. If you care about creating a more just world, paying fair wages to those at the forefront of this work is paramount.” 

The full letter and petition to the Department of Labor can be viewed at the Pay Our Interns website. 


Pay Our Interns is a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 2016 and led by two formerly unpaid interns of color. It is the nation’s only organization fighting to ensure all students—especially Black, Latinx, and Native American students—have equitable access to professional career paths through the implementation of paid internships countrywide. 

Pay Our Interns (POI) seeks to ensure individuals from all backgrounds are represented across industries impacting their communities and develop pathways for advancement. In doing so, POI creates a more equitable workforce, more diverse leadership, and a more just world.  POI is headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

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