On National Intern Day, three of the four progressive congresswomen known as “the Squad” explained why it’s so important to pay interns.
“Today I was asked why we should bother paying interns if they’re ‘getting experience for their résumé,’” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Thursday.
To respond, she attached a NowThis video of her with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) shouting, “Experience doesn’t pay the bills!”
The video was filmed for Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit group that advocates for more paid internships in the government, for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
In September, Congress approved a spending package for the 2019 fiscal year that set aside about $14 million to pay congressional interns, the first time that the Hill allocated funds for paid internships. The House received about $8.8 million to distribute across lawmakers’ offices, and the Senate got $5 million. The appropriations bill added an average of $20,000 for each House member and $50,000 for each senator to pay interns.
Last month, Pay Our Interns released the results of its House internship audit and found that only 9% of congressional offices advertise paid internships, while 61% advertise that they don’t offer paid internships.
“Many believe our work on Capitol Hill is done because Congress appropriated the funds, but these numbers prove that our work is only beginning,” Pay Our Interns co-founder Guillermo Creamer said in a June 25 statement. “It is astonishing to see that so many offices have decided not to use any of the $20,000 allocated for intern pay. What is even more alarming is the percentage of offices that provide no information about intern salaries whatsoever.”
Ocasio-Cortez has pointedly advocated for a living wage for congressional interns. She said in December that all interns in her office would be paid $15 an hour with benefits, and announced in February that she would pay her staff no less than $52,000 a year. The amount, first reported by Roll Call, was almost unheard of for many congressional staff members in their 20s who work long hours with little to no pay.