President Barack Obama has not paid interns to work a minimum of 45 hours per week, but some activists with the Fair Pay Campaign say the practice is problematic, according to reports.
Interns with the White House have to work Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. without any compensation, according to the Daily Mail. It says that housing and transportation assistance are not provided by the administration, suggesting to interns they should seek aid via nonprofits and other means.
The Mail estimates that the 147 free interns hired for the summer will save the administration around $500,000 by not choosing to pay them the federal minimum wage.
Around Washington D.C., however, it is commonplace for agencies to hire unpaid interns. As many 20,000 to 30,000 federal government workers are not paid each year.
Labor activist Mikey Franklin told Buzzfeed News that it is problematic for the White House to not be paying its interns, while Obama touts higher minimum wages across the United States.
“We are not impressed,” Franklin told the website. “The White House is fighting for a raise in the minimum wage while still taking on, at any one time, dozens of staff at $7.25 below the minimum wage.”
Franklin said that he will launch the Fair Pay Campaign to aim at internships for the federal government. “Thousands of people are forced to go into debt just to get ahead, and thousands more are having their dreams denied because they can’t afford to work for free,” reads its website.
He told BuzzFeed that the campaign was started after he tried getting a job in the federal government but was turned down because he wouldn’t do a free internship.
“I was thinking about maybe going for a job on the Hill or with the government. And essentially everyone said, ‘You can’t go straight to a job; you’ve got to start as an unpaid intern.’ And I said, ‘I can’t afford to do that. I can’t afford not to eat and not live anywhere,’” he told the site.
An unnamed intern said he supports himself via a “through a mix of financial aid and parental support,” adding that “if one was living strictly on the stipend, you’d be living not so nicely in D.C. and eating not so nicely.”
In late June, Vice President Joe Biden spoke on the 75-year anniversary of the minimum wage act to raise wages.
“It’s time to raise the minimum wage and keep faith with the Fair Labor Standards Act,” he said, according to MSNBC.
Earlier this year, Obama in his State of the Union address proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour.