A group of 13 interns at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a signed letter to chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.) on Thursday demanding that they be paid for their internships.
Lydia Murray, who is Chinese-American, penned the letter and got the signature of 12 of her colleagues, also calling out her fellow interns who did not want to sign the letter. She characterized those who refused to sign the letter as “white and wealthy,” adding that they don’t have a “real understanding of the perspectives of everyday working Americans,” according to Roll Call.
“Most of our fellow interns, while undoubtedly bright, are white and wealthy and have no real understanding of the perspectives of everyday working Americans, nor do we have fellow interns with diverse backgrounds to discuss issues, ideas, or experiences with,” her letter stated. “This disconnect is then reflected [in] policy positions, now and in the future.”
The letter was written in coordination with Pay Our Interns, a bipartisan non-profit organization that advocates for government and non-profit organizations to increase the amount of money interns make.
“There is a certain insulation from the actual impacts of many policies that comes with this sort of privilege, which at times can lead the Party astray from the actual needs of the voters (and to electoral defeat),” she wrote. “It is impossible for us to champion the working class when at the most basic levels, those who work in the party do not represent them on a socioeconomic or racial basis.”
Trevor Smith, the communications director for Pay Our Interns, released a statement to Roll Call, saying that they “counseled her on how to go about it, but she wrote the letter on her own.”
“The letter is by no means us vs. them. It’s her speaking the truth, and she was even able to get interns who are not low-income or [people of color] to sign on to it, which shows solidarity,” he added.
The group said they will continue to work with Murray until the DCCC offers paid internships.
“She believes keeping DCCC internships unpaid only allows people from well-off backgrounds to have these opportunities and does not accurately represent the values or voters of the Democratic Party,” Smith said.
Meredith Kelly, the DCCC communications director, responded to the letter by voicing her appreciation for the recommendation from the interns and said that they will continue to discuss increasing diversity.
“Under Chairman Luján’s leadership, the DCCC has made incredible strides when it comes to diversity and building a pipeline of young, vibrant talent for the Democratic Party, which has resulted in a historically diverse group of DCCC staffers, candidates, and consultants,” Kelly said.
Luján, the first Latino chairman of the DCCC, started its first training and diversity scholarship program earlier this year to help interns gain invaluable skills to get paid, full-time jobs working on political campaigns. As of April 27, the DCCC reported that it had a racial diversity of 38 percent among its staffers. They also reported that the diversity among senior staff was 52 percent and women make up 50 percent of the staff.
Pay Our Interns monitors how many of the Congressional offices pay their interns. The Democratic National Committee started paying their interns stipends back in December and the Senate just approved paying money to their interns last month, appropriating $5 million in the fiscal 2019 legislative branch appropriations bill markup.