Internships are important for professional growth. You are more likely to get hired with intern experience. You get a taste of the career track and develop professional skills before stepping into the workplace. You have the opportunity to network with higher-ups who have years of wisdom and knowledge about the field.
Unpaid internships frequently lead to two options: depending on our parents for help (quite difficult if your family isn’t well-off) or sacrificing sleep, a social life and, often, internship performance for a side job. As many first- and second-generation Latinx get paid less on average than their white counterparts, that might mean two side jobs (at least).
This past Tuesday, Congressperson-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her promise to pay her interns $15 an hour. Quoting a tweet from a Washington Post reporter that confirmed Ocasio-Cortez’s decision, she said it was time “to walk the walk.” She will practice what she preaches since commenting a day before on the “rich irony” of congressmen asking “How are you going to pay for it” while seeking unpaid interns — particularly as rent in D.C. is exorbitant.
The new U.S. rep of Puerto Rican descent added to the quoted tweet: “Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them.”
These tweets were part of a thread that included stats on both unpaid internships and financial perks in Congress. According to the nonprofit group Pay Our Interns founded by Carlos Mark Vera, only 31 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans pay their interns. The Bronx native, just 29, explained that each member gets an operating allowance that is meant to cover all staff salaries (which includes both D.C. and the home district), services, contracts and travel expenses. The crazy part? It’s around $1.2 million.
This isn’t the first time the youngest woman elected to Congress has kept it real about what scene on the Hill is really like. In early November, she revealed her financial struggle with finding an affordable place to live in D.C. She also shared that her healthcare insurance payments were much higher as a waitress than as a congressperson.
The breakout politician has her eyes set on many issues involving the working class. While the 2019 Legislative Branch bill allocates $8.8 million for the House, which includes House operations, it’s still unknown how our political leaders will budget their own perk and allowances moving forward.