WASHINGTON, D.C. — Carlos Mark Vera knows all about internships. As an undergraduate at American University, he interned in the House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the Obama White House.
All of Vera’s internships were unpaid.
The injustice of not paying interns for their work was not lost on Vera, an immigrant who escaped violence in Colombia to come to the United States.
After college, Vera founded Pay Our Interns, a non-profit organization with a clear, simple mission: get interns paid.
Launched in 2016, Pay OUr Interns has become one of the most effective nonprofit organizations in the Beltway by leveraging a network of interns, former interns, and lobbyists to force the federal government to finally provide paid internships.
After years of lobbying, dozens of Congressional offices that didn’t pay their interns now do thanks to Vera’s efforts.
In March, Pay Our Interns secured funding in the omnibus spending bill for paid internships at the State Department and White House.
On Thursday, the White House announced that it will welcome its first group of paid interns in the fall.
“This funding provides for paid internships across the Executive Office of the President,” read a press release. “Interns participating in the White House Internship Program will support the White House Office and the Office of the Vice President.”
White House interns will be paid a stipend of $750 per 35-hour workweek. The fall internship program will run between September and December and is funded by $4.5 million secured by Pay Our Interns in the omnibus.
“We’re glad to see the White House will be implementing their paid internship program for the first time this fall,” Vera said. “Generations of White House interns have worked for free, creating a barrier to entry for the many young people who wish to pursue careers as public servants.”
Unpaid internships at the White House, Congress, and throughout the federal government have long been entry-level opportunities for the children of political donors.
“Pale, male, and Yale” is how some scholars and even Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, have described diversity —or the lack thereof— at the State Department.
“We applaud President Biden and Vice President Harris for this necessary change, Congress for including $4.5 million to compensate White House interns in the FY22 omnibus bill, and all of the advocates who have worked tirelessly to make internships accessible and fairly paid,” Vera told Latino Rebels in a statement.
“This decision is a significant step towards establishing clear guidelines, and making unpaid Washington internships a thing of the past.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports