Tell President Obama to Pay His Interns!

Would you, my kind readers, help me out?

First, it’s simply unjust to work without pay and, second, it means that only the wealthier students can afford to hold an internship where the contacts and influence acquired will benefit them their entire lives. If the President is serious about wealth inequality, then he should fix the inequity in his own backyard.

That’s why I created a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:

“White House internships should no longer be unpaid. These positions can be applied for by those who are in college or just graduates or military veterans with at least a high school education. Only a handful of this pool can afford to work without salary and so only the wealthy need apply. “

Will you sign my petition? Click here to add your name:


James Pilant

From around the web.

From the web site, Money.CNN.

For employers who rely on unpaid interns, it’s been the summer of reckoning.

Hundreds of interns have filed lawsuits or raised complaints over working long hours for free. But one group of former interns is sidestepping the courtroom and going straight to the White House to fight for fair compensation.

The Fair Pay Campaign, a grassroots lobby set to launch around Labor Day, is calling on President Obama to pay White House interns in order to set an example for other government agencies and private employers.

“We have a minimum wage law in this country, and just because you call someone an intern doesn’t mean you get out of it,” said Mikey Franklin, the leader of Fair Pay’s charge.

From the web site, Minding the Workplace. This blog belongs to my colleague, David Yamada, an expert in the field of workplace bullying.

This summer, countless numbers of students will work in unpaid internships, in many instances for large corporations that could easily afford to pay them. Not only is this widespread practice often in apparent violation of state and federal minimum wage laws, but also it creates barriers to those who want to break into an occupation but who cannot afford to work for free.

Now there’s an emerging movement against unpaid internships (especially in the private sector), and here’s evidence of its coming out party:


Well-publicized legal claims for back pay by unpaid interns have played a significant role in bringing this common practice to public light.

It started last fall with a lawsuit filed by two unpaid interns, Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, who worked on the production of the movie “Black Swan,” alleging that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime rules.

Earlier this year, Xuedan Wang, a former unpaid intern for Harper’s Bazaar, filed a claim against the magazine’s publisher, the Hearst Corporation.

David Yamada Talks Interns

David Yamada
David Yamada

David Yamada Talks Interns

Yamada posts a timeline of the key events in the unpaid intern controversy. It’s a good story. Suddenly, an industry practice of extorting labor for access and hope became controversial. Needless to say, I was pleased. Yamada has been a major player in the anti-bullying movement for years. You should pay attention to what he has to say.

James Pilant

It played at a summer near you: “The Unpaid Intern Strikes Back”

  • It started in June, when a New York federal district court ruled in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures that lead plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alex Footman, who worked as unpaid interns on the production of the movie “Black Swan,” were entitled to back pay under federal and state minimum wage laws.
  • The Glatt decision triggered a wave of mainstream national media coverage that, in turn, spurred public discussions about the intern economy and whether unpaid internships should be permitted under the law.
  • In the immediate aftermath of Glatt came a marked increase in filings of legal claims for unpaid wages by former interns.
  • ProPublica, the non-profit investigative journalism organization, created a project to examine the intern economy in America and conducted a well-publicized and successful crowd sourced fundraising campaign for a paid project intern.
  • When a senior official with the Lean In Foundation, a charitable organization launched by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg to support the careers of women, advertised for an unpaid editorial intern in August 2013, the result was a loud public backlash. Within 48 hours, the Foundation announced that it would create a paid internship program.
  • Interns at the Nation Institute in New York, publisher of the political magazine The Nation, submitted a letter to the editor to the magazine, calling upon it to pay its full-time summer interns a living wage, rather than the $150 weekly stipend it currently paid. The Institute’s director responded by saying that it will raise the internship stipend and raise money for travel and housing grants.
  • As Intern Labor Rights continued its key role as a face-to-face and social media organizing presence in New York, the movement expanded beyond its New York base to Washington, D.C., another common site of unpaid internships. The Fair Pay Campaign went public with a call for the White House to pay its interns, citing the Oval Office’s hypocrisy in calling for a higher minimum wage while failing to pay even the current one to interns for their work.

From around the web.

From the web site, Thoughts from an Unpaid Intern.

When life gives you lemons, start a blog.

As one of the many unpaid interns/waitresses that, I like to think, run this town, I leave work every day with frustrations I need to vent and a days worth of my own pent-up political commentary that no one wants to listen to…yet…I hope.

So I’m going to throw it all up here and see what happens.

Here’s my attempt to find humor in the thankless jobs of unpaid interning, waitressing and my humble thoughts on the assorted tidbits of news I come across at work and the many foreign policy-related talks that DC has to offer.