By Mike Elk / Payday Report

Tom Perez on Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th Anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” March from Selma to Montgomery (CNN).

While running for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez pledged to eliminate unpaid internships at DNC.

“Millennials need more than just a seat at the table, they need a voice in every part of the conversation at the DNC,” tweeted Perez during a DNC chairman’s debate in February. “And creating a paid internship program is a part of my plan to bring in more millennials.”

However, it’s been nearly four months since Tom Perez became chairman, and now the DNC— under Perez’s watch—is employing another set of unpaid summer interns and is currently accepting applications for unpaid internships for the fall.

According to the DNC’s website, unpaid interns are required to work 40 hours per week, leaving little time for interns to work part-time jobs to pay their bills.

It’s unclear if the internships meet the U.S. Department of Labor criteria that determine whether the internships financially benefit the employer. The DOL’s six point test is intended to clarify whether unpaid or educational arrangements are truly beneficial to the intern, and whether or not interns must be paid at least a minimum wage.

When pressed by Payday Report to explain why they had yet to implement Perez’s pledge, the DNC said that they are still exploring ways to find the means to pay them.

“As Tom often stated while he was running for Chair, unpaid internships limit the diversity of our talent pipeline, the opportunities available to young Democrats, and the future of our party as a whole,”  wrote DNC spokesperson Michael Tyler in a statement to Payday. “The current intern program was started before the current leadership was in place, but as we build our team, we’re exploring every possible means for paid internships.”

The DNC’s failure to start paying its interns has angered even those who worked closely with Perez during his tenure as Secretary of Labor under President Barack Obama.

“What are the top salaries at the DNC? Could Tom Perez or his top lieutenants afford to shave $10 an hour from their own salaries to pay interns? Could its millionaire consultants be taxed a little to make sure interns get paid the minimum wage?” asks Ross Eisenbrey, a senior fellow at the union-funded Economic Policy Institute. “A party that claims to want a higher minimum wage should pay it to every employeeeven those it calls interns.”

The continued efforts of the DNC to recruit unpaid interns underscores a heated debate within the DNC on how much the party pays its top consultants. Currently, the DNC does not publicly release its budget, and not even the elected Democratic National Committee members are allowed to see it.

“If the DNC members and the executives are fundraising for the party, they should know where that money is going and know that it’s being allocated properly,” says former DNC member Nomiki Konst, who was picked by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to sit on the DNC’s Unity and Reform Commission, which aims to mend divisions between Sanders and Clinton supporters.

Konst has helped lead an effort to get the DNC to publish its budget and allow participatory budgeting from its 447 elected Democratic National Committee members.

The DNC did not respond directly about whether or not Perez supports making the budget of the DNC transparent.

“We’re in the middle of restructuring the DNC, and that includes a top-to-bottom review of all of our spending and finances,” says DNC spokesperson Michael Tyler.

If Perez resists calls to make the budget public, it would be a role reversal for the former Secretary of Labor. As Secretary of Labor, Perez enforced the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which requires both unions and employers to file annual reports online detailing their expenditures on union activity.

“There is really no excuse for the budget not to be transparent to executive membersno excuse unless they are hiding something,” says Konst. “They have a duty to those that run for office and those that donate to the party.”

Mike Elk is a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild and is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO and has written for the New York Times. He also writes for The Guardian.

Follow him on Twitter @MikeElk or email him: melk@paydayreport.com

Mike Elk

A native of the East End of Pittsburgh, Mike Elk is a Sidney award winner and a lifetime member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.  As a pioneering leader in the digital media unionization movement, he has been profiled by NPR, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Newsweek, and Pacific Standard.

As an investigative reporter, Mike Elk’s work has been featured everywhere from the front page fo The New York Times to being debated by Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on ABC’s The View. His work was credited by the Obama Administration for leading to an end of the use of the subminimum wage for the disabled workers and a massive pay raise for the domestic violence survivor advocates on 48 Army bases across the country. Speaking of his reporting covering the lockout of Honeywell uranium workers, Daily Show Co-Creator Lizz Winstead said “Mike Elk is the new John Wayne. I believe he is the real Matt Taibbi”.

At age 22, his first job was working as a field staffer for President Obama’s campaign in rural Western Pennsylvania. Afterward, he followed the President to Washington, D.C., where he heeded the President’s call to his young staffers to hold him accountable and became a labor reporter. He spent all eight years of the Obama Administration based out of Washington, D.C.  crisscrossing the country, visiting over 30 states, covering strikes, lockouts, and tragic workplace deaths.

He has worked as a workplace safety expert for MSNBC, as an investigative reporter for In These Times Magazine, and has also written for The New York Times, Washington Post, and Reuters. He is co-author of the book “We Are Wisconsin”.

At the age of 28, he rose to be the senior labor reporter on largest labor desk in the country when he co-founded POLITICO’s labor desk. After being illegally fired for union organizing at POLITICO, Mike used his NLRB settlement money to move to Chattanooga, Tennessee to found Payday Report

As the son of UE Director of Organization Gene Elk, he prefers to hide the fact that he attended a university as elite as Bucknell on a full scholarship. During college, he spent a year half in Brasil, where he covered the landless workers’ movement and the fallout of the drug war. He speaks Portuguese.

When Mike isn’t reporting on workers, he can be found listening to Sharon Jones, cooking salmon, and talking about the Civil War. He can be reached at melk@paydayreport.com or on twitter @MikeElk.