President Obama reacted today to the failure of the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass a bill raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by once again blaming the Republican Party. He didn’t mention George Bush by name, but it is likely he thinks his predecessor going on 6 years is to blame for this too.
In his search for scapegoats, Obama might look closer to “home.” His own White House is resisting calls to pay interns who serve there. There are approximately 300 of these unpaid workers “employed” by the White House each year, and at the end of their tenure all they receive is a handshake, possibly a letter of recommendation, and if they are are really lucky a self-portrait in the company in the much-photographed selfie President.
On raising the minimum wage, Obama said that as “a chief executive, I intend to lead by example.” Mr. President: Unpaid internships contradict your commitments and your economic agenda. Lead by example: It’s time to pay your interns.
White House Internships are unpaid positions. Applicants may contact educational and other non-profit organizations to apply for funding or housing assistance. Any outside income, funding or housing assistance received as a White House intern must be pre-approved by the Office of the White House Counsel.
Stein interviewed Maurice Pianko, a New York attorney who has led lawsuits on behalf of unpaid interns. Pianko urged the Administration to change its intern policy:
Having unpaid interns undermines the concept of a meritocracy when only certain applicants can afford to spend a few months without income in one of the most expensive cities in the country, Pianko said. The internships, he noted, already tend to go to the well-connected as it is.
“Even if they were to get paid, it would be hard to get an internship at the White House. But because it is unpaid, those who can’t afford to work for free could never have the opportunity,” Pianko said. “And it is a tremendous opportunity.”
As for choosing to pay the interns, “It would cost them next to nothing and set a nice precedent,” Pianko added, noting that interns could be paid minimum wage.
Interns at the White House and elsewhere in the Government work full-time hours (and overtime when needed), typing, drafting memos, covering meetings, working with the public and even in some cases participating in strategy meetings.
While pushing the $10.10 minimum wage the President is ignoring those who labor for him directly.
Cross-posted at The Lid