By  Hayley Peterson

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 

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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