Obama: Interns for me but not for thee

The Obama administration recently decided to fight a war over the use of interns, arguing that for-profit corporations offering spaces for interns are really attempting to avoid minimum-wage laws.  Apparently, that “for-profit” distinction was deliberate, although somewhat inexplicable; after all, if internships are exploitative, does it really matter whether the exploiter makes a profit?  The worker still doesn’t get paid in cash for their efforts, which is supposedly the core of the objection.  Kerry Picket reports on why the White House seems to be making that distinction:

The New York Times reported that Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division said, “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”

The unemployment rate among teenagers and college students is at 26 percent, and if companies are forced through government regulation to pay these interns, companies will look re-work their budgets to be in compliance, and less students will be offered internships. This means less students can be brought in and gain valuable experience in a work place environment. The federal government is attempting to change the entire point of gaining work place skills and create yet another under – served demographic of victims falling prey to private sector companies.

It is amusing to see the Obama administration creating the image of poorly treated unpaid interns, when Mr. Obama’s Organizing for America offered internships to help elect the president in during his presidential campaign and are still offering up unpaid internships today. The Summer organizing program also does not even offer food, transportation, or housing stipends[.]

Kerry has screen-captures of the websites that advertised these unpaid internships.  Not only will these interns not get paid, they won’t even have their expenses covered, according to the FAQ:

Is this a paid position?
This is an unpaid position.

Are stipends available to cover food, transportation and housing?
Stipends for food, transportation and housing are not available.

Well, at least they won’t work them too many hours a week, keeping them from getting paid for their efforts in a second job, right? Er …

How many hours a week will I be working?
Summer Organizers will be required to work 40 hours a week.

Meet the Democrats … exploiters of the disadvantaged — at least according to their own definition. On the other hand, conservatives recognize that internships offer students an opportunity to add real-world experience that increases their ability to compete in the labor marketplace later. If the intern volunteers for that kind of relationship, it’s no more or less exploitative if the free labor benefits a private business, or if it benefits a class-war politician who imposes rules on others that he doesn’t abide for himself.

Update: Last week, William Jacobson noted a similar hypocrisy at the New York Times.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET