April 29, 2014


Even as it pushes Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, the Obama administration is resisting calls to pay interns who serve in the White House.

The White House declined multiple opportunities to comment on whether it would rethink its position on not compensating the roughly 300 interns who work there each year. Also met with silence was Stephen Lurie, who elevated the issue in a recent Washington Post op-ed. In it, he told the president: “Unpaid internships contradict your commitments and your economic agenda.”

“It is pretty indefensible from a publicity point of view, given the nature of their outreach on a lot of other economic subjects,” Lurie said of the lack of a response from the administration, which dates back to April 3. “There is not a huge constituency they have to answer to. Who are they going to piss off by not answering? Right now it is just young people and economic-justice advocates.”

With the Senate set to vote this week on minimum wage legislation, however, the politics of unpaid internships may get a little trickier for the administration. Already there is a lively ethical debate surrounding the practice, one that the White House has not been immune to. Previous stories have taken it to task for its intern policy, though the White House does not hide the fact from applicants that the positions are unpaid.

Most employers don’t hide the conditions of employment from applicants. That doesn’t get them off the hook from being regulated. But as usual, the White House is all rules for thee but not for me!

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