Do Presidential Candidates Pay Interns? It's Not Fair To Just Focus On Hillary Clinton's Campaign
With her newest call for young staffers, the world is reminded that Hillary Clinton doesn't pay her interns. In a tweet earlier this week, the Democratic candidate promised "free coffee, great views, and a chance to make history," but no pay. It's not a new revelation. Back in June, Clinton made headlines when a potential intern wrote about her disappointment that the former secretary of state utilized unpaid workers. But is it fair to criticize Clinton without knowing if any of the 2016 presidential candidates pay their interns?
Anyone who has sought to complete an internship will know that it's extremely difficult to find a position that pays, let alone pays well. And political internships are no exception. The overwhelming majority of political interns are unpaid, or receive small stipends for their efforts, and are expected to work 20-50 hour weeks. This extends across the board. While the White House does offer a year-long, paid fellowship, their normal interns are not paid. The vast majority of Capitol Hill interns aren't paid either.
There is an intrinsic problem with the unpaid internship. While those offering it promise education and possible college credit, it's extremely exclusionary. Internships are basically a prerequisite to entering any work force and can provide crucial training. But unpaid internships are only viable for those who are privileged enough to live without pay for several months at a time. As the majority of internships are unpaid, yet an internship is practically required to be hired for a full-time job, it continues a cycle of excluding lower-income individuals who can't afford to take unpaid positions, blocking them out of the work force.
For many who have worked 60-hour weeks without being paid, or for those who can't afford to break into the work force, it's important to know how a potential president treats his or her interns. Unsurprisingly, that information is a little hard to find. While Clinton may face the wrath of the intern generation, at least she's transparent about the program. With the exception of Rick Santorum and Scott Walker, none of the other 2016 candidates even offer information on whether or not they offer internship programs for their campaigns. Neither Santorum or Walker provided information on whether their programs were paid.
But many, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have had congressional interns, and he holds the distinction of being one of the few politicians on Capitol Hill who actually pays his interns. Currently, individuals working in his Burlington, Vermont, or his Washington office make $12 an hour. While it's a bit shy of his $15 minimum wage goal, it's still considerably higher than interns working for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, according to The Atlantic, make nothing.
Although Florida Sen. Marco Rubio doesn't pay his interns either, he at least tries to show them some love. Rubio, who likes to talk about the various internships he completed when he was younger, formally thanks his interns by name in the official Congressional Record. He even provides detailed information about each intern, as well as what they did for him. It's all extremely heartwarming, but that still doesn't pay the high price of living in the nation's capital. Luckily for Rand Paul's interns, the Kentucky senator offers a small stipend to cover the cost of living. Otherwise, they are unpaid.
There's no word on if Donald Trump pays his campaign interns, though he does seem to use them as scapegoats. After Trump tweeted out a picture that included Nazi soldiers, the Photoshop gaffe was blamed on a "very young intern" who reportedly apologized. But outside of his political campaign, Trump does appear to offer paid apprenticeship work. His company Trump Entertainment Resorts offers a variety of internship opportunities, and interns are paid $10 an hour and receive one free meal a day.
To be fair to all of these candidates, there is every possibility in the world they are all paying their individual campaign interns. Maybe they learned from the past that using college students as unpaid workers is wrong, and that a campaign built on free labor is wrong. But before we rush to throw Clinton on the pit for her unpaid interns, maybe we should question each candidate more thoroughly, and hold them all equally accountable. Because free coffee, as nice at is it, does not make up for free work.