While the White House insists that wages for workers should be raised, it actually pays nothing to some of its workers.
People at the White House are concerned about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. They don’t think there are enough of them in Washington DC. The Weekly Standards quotes the White House announcement:
“Calling All Students: Apply for the Summer 2015 White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Internship Program.” The announcement provides details of the program, the purpose of which includes “efforts to improve the quality of life of underserved AAPIs through increased participation in federal programs.”
People who are interested find out, when they click the link for more information, that the White House expects them to relocate and work without being paid anything!
“All internship positions at the Initiative are unpaid.”
This announcement appeared the same day as the President’s demand that the minimum wage be raised.
The minimum wage proposal reappeared Monday on the White House Twitter account. The tweet notes that a number of businesses and states have raised their minimum wage rates, but also calls on Congress to compel all of the nation’s businesses to comply with a new minimum:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 23, 2015
So companies are supposed to raise what they pay while the White House expects some students to work for them for free.
Of course, I’m sure that the White House defenders would insist that this offer is a good deal and does not count as exploitation. Maybe they are right. They obviously believe that working at the White House has its own rewards above and beyond monetary repayment. They also trust that applicants are available who will have other means of supporting themselves while they work in Washington.
Elsewhere on the White House website, prospective interns are informed that all White House internships are unpaid. Recognizing the hardship this may pose, applicants are encouraged to look to “educations institutions” or “non-profit organizations” for “assistance” with “income, funding or housing assistance”
To give the devils their due, it may well be possible for a student to genuinely benefit from a trip to the White House. Thus, getting to work as an unpaid intern might be a fair exchange.
But why can’t that be true for companies as well? Yes, some jobs are low-paying, but maybe they offer other less tangible benefits—like preparing a person who has never worked before to be a better employee with some experience.
The White House isn’t wrong to offer unpaid internships. But they should demonstrate the same faith in businesses that they expect others to extend to them.