On Thursday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the White House would start paying its interns for the first time in history. That’s pretty good news but, uh, shouldn’t they have been doing this all along?
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are announcing the launch of the White House Internship Program and that, for the first time in history, White House interns will be paid,” the White House said in a statement first obtained by CNN. “The first session will commence in Fall 2022.”
The statement called the move a “significant milestone” that “will help remove barriers to equal opportunity for low-income students and first-generation professionals at the beginnings of their careers and help to ensure that those who receive internships at the White House – and who will be a significant part of the leadership pipeline across the entire federal government – reflect the diversity of America.”
Interns will make $750 a week and be expected to work at least 35 hours per week. Again, this is a win and removes a barrier for low-income students seeking to get a foot in the door in politics, but it’s a little strange that it wasn’t happening until now. The White House has been facing pressure to pay its interns for years, with a major 2013 effort to convince former President Barack Obama to pay interns that coincided with Obama’s push to boost the federal minimum wage.
In 2019, a nonprofit advocacy group called Pay Our Interns started pushing for Biden and Harris to be the first administration to pay interns for their work. Now, it looks like those efforts were successful.
“We are pleased that the WH has taken this important step forward so that the opportunity to serve the country is open to every person, not just those who can work for free,” Pay Our Interns co-founder Carlos Mark Vera told CNN. Vera, who was himself an unpaid White House intern, thinks the move will be a big step for all interns in the U.S., said that “we are hopeful this new announcement will send a strong message to the rest of the federal government and other sectors that it is socially and morally unacceptable to have unpaid internships.”
Better late than never!