PUBLISHED: 21:17 EST, 22 July 2013 | UPDATED: 21:48 EST, 22 July 2013
As President Obama campaigns to increase the minimum wage, his own interns aren’t getting paid a cent to work a minimum of 45 hours a week.
White House interns are expected to show up to work ‘at least’ Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the administration’s website. Housing and commuting assistance aren’t provided either, so the White House encourages applicants to petition nonprofits for help funding their living expenses.
Just this summer alone, the White House ‘hired’ 147 interns, saving the administration roughly half a million dollars if it had otherwise paid each intern minimum wage for 45 hours of work per week. The internship program, which lasts 11 weeks in the summer, runs year-round.
President Obama’s administration has 147 unpaid interns. In this July 18, 2013, file photo Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act in the East Room at the White House in Washington
Unpaid internships are widespread in Washington. It’s estimated that the federal government uses as many as 30,000 uncompensated interns every summer.
But with Obama calling for an increase to the minimum wage – which is set at $7.25 an hour – activist Mikey Franklin says it’s particularly disdainful for the White House to be relying on free labor.
He’s planning to launch a campaign this fall to ramp up pressure on the White House – and on Washington – to start paying its interns, reports Buzzfeed journalist Evan McMorris-Santoro.
Franklin and other critics of Washington’s free-labor culture argue that unpaid internships make it impossible for people from low-income backgrounds to attain the same opportunities as students whose parents can afford to subsidize their children’s’ living expenses while they work for free.
More importantly, the prevalence of unpaid internships in Washington has made it nearly impossible for anyone to obtain a paid job on the Hill without first working their way up through a series of uncompensated gigs, critics argue.
Supporters of the free internship culture say, however, that the jobs provide educational opportunities that would otherwise not exist. If Washington was forced to pay its interns, in other words, then the internships would dissolve.
Franklin is calling his effort the ‘Fair Pay Campaign’ and he’s planning to formally launch it around Labor Day, McMorris-Santoro reports.
The campaign will hire activists to get out the word on college campuses and encourage students to only apply to paid gigs. It also plans to vilify organizations that take on unpaid interns, while rewarding those that compensate the young workers.
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