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February 2, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit advocating for practical work experience for young adults regardless of socioeconomic status, released a report on the state of internships in the California State Legislature. The report found the majority of California State legislative interns go unpaid, despite being considered one of the country’s most progressive states and a leader in the world economy

Unpaid internships act as a barrier to the workforce for young people from low-income backgrounds—who, in California, are more likely to be Black or Latinx—because they cannot afford to take on the financial burdens associated with working for free. As new and returning California legislators deliberate over the 2021 California state budget, they have the opportunity to create more equitable opportunities for young people by allocating funds toward intern pay. The same steps were taken at the federal level in 2018, after a similar 2017 report from Pay Our Interns. 

Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2019, 10 percent of California State Assembly offices, and no Senate offices paid their interns. Of the Assemblymembers that did pay their interns, only one was Republican. The other seven were Democrats.
  • 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. 

“The fact is that unpaid interns are answering the phones for nearly every State Legislative Office, and are on the frontlines in helping Californians navigate the COVID-19 crisis. It is unacceptable that these essential workers are unpaid, and we need to take action,” says Carlos Mark Vera, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pay Our Interns. “California is a leader in creating equitable workplaces, and the state’s government must be the next priority for progress. If the state of Indiana has prioritized paying its interns, I’m confident that California can do the same.” 

The report recommends $4.8 million from the state’s annual budget for a paid internship program, which would allow each of the 120 offices nine interns per year. It also recommends a centralized system to offer interns workplace support and protection from harassment, as well as ensuring the funds go to young people who really need them.

Pay Our Interns was founded in 2016 and led by two formerly unpaid interns of color. The organization fights to ensure individuals from all backgrounds are represented across industries impacting their communities, through paid internships that provide equitable access to professional career paths. In doing so, Pay Our Interns is working to create a more equitable workforce, more diverse leadership, and a more just world. Stay updated on our work and join the conversation about economic justice for young people by following Pay Our Interns on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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., and Los Angeles.