The Executive Payroll
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 01:02
President Barack Obama showed a bold commitment to fair employment when he promised to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10. This promise, made last week in his State of the Union address, demonstrates Obama’s recognition that a living wage is a right for all citizens. It is therefore a frustrating contradiction that Obama continues to allow unpaid interns to work at the White House.
In the wake of the president’s call for a living wage, Michael Holper (COL ’14) created an official White House petition last week asking that White House interns be paid. Although the petition has received little attention thus far, this Editorial Board supports any initiative to reverse this current state of affairs.
Unpaid internships by nature favor those who can afford to work for free, perpetuating a cycle of exclusivity and shutting out talented students nationwide. This creates an unfair balance in any industry, but the White House has a symbolic responsibility beyond that of other employers to reform the status quo. As it stands, the executive branch is setting an example contrary to its own mission.
The merits of paying White House interns also go beyond symbolic value. The nation has an obvious interest in attracting the best and brightest to careers in public service, and the White House’s unwillingness to pay its interns sends qualified students into the arms of more lucrative industries.
Last week, Obama called on Congress to “give America a raise.” White House interns deserve that raise, too, but more importantly, all students deserve a fair chance to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Internships are changing, and more and more businesses are paying their interns. It’s time for the White House to listen to Holper and the thousands of other voices who are calling for this change.