Nathan’s experience is emblematic of a growing concern on the left: For a movement that wants to reach young people, low-income workers and people of color, progressive organizations and candidates don’t offer many paid opportunities.
“This is why we see attrition in the movement,” said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, the youth arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (which pays its interns, incidentally).
For decades, internships, fellowships and paid travel to conferences have acted like a tractor beam, drawing young people into political movements and holding them long enough to become researchers, strategists and candidates. But the funding to support those kinds of programs hasn’t kept up with the economic realities of the young people who today’s progressives are trying to reach.
[Carlos Vera, the executive director of Pay Our Interns, a watchdog group] has been calling nonprofits and think tanks and asking them [if they pay their interns.] So far he’s found the same pattern: The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity pay their interns. The Progressive Policy Institute, Let America Vote and the Human Rights Campaign don’t.
New America offers course credits to its interns, which means they may actually be paying to work. (Following the publication of this article, New America contacted HuffPost and said it is rolling out paid internships for its interns in the future.)
Here is Think Tank Watch's guide to think tank salaries.