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August 8, 2013 4:26 PM   Subscribe

An editorial in the Nation recently argued in favour of higher wages for WalMart employees, many of whom make only the minimum wage. WalMart responded by pointing out that the Nation employs its interns at less than the minimum wage. The Nation replied that since interns are at the beginning of their careers, the situation is different.
posted by modernnomad (75 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
This isn't a dilemma. They are both in the wrong.
posted by srboisvert at 4:28 PM on August 8, 2013 [121 favorites]


This is like the mother and the father each yelling at each other about how crappy their lives are, while the poor kids sit mutely, sadly watching.
posted by JHarris at 4:29 PM on August 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


Far be it for me to agree with The Nation, but people who are working full time at Walmart are often people with families, maybe don't have access to other jobs because of education, geography, etc.. Magazine interns are often highly educated, single, just out of school or IN school, and not at all going to spend their career there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Soon, we'll all be unpaid interns and have to trade body parts for consumer goods.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


If a company cannot afford to pay their employees a livable wage (and I mean interns at the Nation as well as greeters at the Wal-Mart), they are run by incompetent businesspeople and should get out of the way of companies that can (e.g. Costco).
posted by chimaera at 4:35 PM on August 8, 2013 [37 favorites]


Whenever I hear someone mention how it's different when they do it, I wait for the facile excuse to immediately follow.
posted by adipocere at 4:35 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well on one hand I agree that the two situations really are quite different, but on the other hand, they're both still crappy.
posted by aubilenon at 4:35 PM on August 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Un- and under-paid interns is one a huge injustice that helps to continue existing networks and increase stratification of the classes. Who has the wherewithal to spend your summer during college or a year post college getting paid nothing or almost nothing? That's right, people who have existing financial support primary. (Not entirely at least, no discussion like this will ever be universally true, but these are the trends.)

Duncan Black has been talking about this for years. See Unpaid Internships and Most Unpaid Internships Are Clearly Illegal for a couple of examples:
Aside from the exploitation, it effectively excludes all those people who can't afford to work for free from certain elite segments of society (media, publishing, politics). It's a way elites can screen for other elites.
posted by skynxnex at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2013 [82 favorites]


There was a recent court ruling about interns that clarifies the exact difference between an intern and an employee. An intern is primarily there to be educated, not just as cheap/free labor. If The Nation is not doing so they're open to lawsuits, and regardless of whether they are or not, WalMart is always full of shit.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:39 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


If a company cannot afford to pay their employees a livable wage (and I mean interns at the Nation as well as greeters at the Wal-Mart), they are run by incompetent businesspeople and should get out of the way of companies that can (e.g. Costco).

The average Costco employee makes $45K a year. I didn't know that, and will go out of my way to patronize Costco in the future.
posted by eugenen at 4:40 PM on August 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


The Nation Institute is a small non-profit trying to raise money to support serious public interest journalism in a challenging fundraising landscape. Walmart earned $17 billion in profits last year.

That says it all, and it's so fucking obvious that they shouldn't even need to say it. The Daily Beast is total shit, from the top down-- they know it's apples to oranges, but they want to crap on a rival. And they're willing to feed the god damn Wal-Mart PR machine to do it. Revolting and hastening the death of journalism.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:40 PM on August 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


Paying interns full professional wages can end up wrecking their financial aid.
posted by mullingitover at 4:44 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Soon, we'll all be unpaid interns and have to trade body parts for consumer goods.

But if we can learn to be handy with a sharp knife, at least it will be other people's body parts. And then, even if we can't sell them, we can eat them. It's the capitalist way.
posted by Grangousier at 4:46 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong that I do some things for free? They're useful things, but there is no money to pay me for them.

I find this pretty confusing, actually. How is interning different from volunteering?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2013


I find this pretty confusing, actually. How is interning different from volunteering?

IMHO, volunteering is something you do for the good of the people you are volunteering for. The people at the soup kitchen, the cats at the shelter. Interning is something that will advance your career. It may be helpful for the place you're at to have free or cheap labor, but they are doing you a favor.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:50 PM on August 8, 2013


The average Costco employee makes $45K a year. I didn't know that, and will go out of my way to patronize Costco in the future.

Ironic that the news should come out of HuffPo.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:51 PM on August 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have no problem with unpaid or underpaid interns at non-profit organizations. Because they're non-profit. They are basically volunteers. I also have no problem with for-profit organizations properly employing unpaid interns in a learning role (aka: taking a loss to productivity and therefore profit to recruit or train potential future employees).

Walmart is doing neither of those things, so I can't help but think that raising the issue of interns is a red herring.
posted by muddgirl at 4:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I find this pretty confusing, actually. How is interning different from volunteering?

If its non-profit, not much different at all. For the music, fashion, publishing industries, unpaid internships are the norm and they're cranking out their for-profit product using this labor.
posted by dr_dank at 4:52 PM on August 8, 2013


I find this pretty confusing, actually. How is interning different from volunteering?

It isn't, really. Any distinctions are bullshit justifications. Non-profit? Bullshit. And damn near meaningless, as far as I'm concerned. Work is work. The important factor is the ability to voluntarily agree to the particular situation.

Once again, this whole thing is bullshit Walmart bashing. If you have an argument, argue with the minimum wage, which is hardly limited to Walmart, and begins to encompass mom and pop shops across the country. Life is tough for a person with no other prospects than a Walmart-level job. That isn't the fault of Walmart.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


unpaid internships mean that many jobs are available only to people who can afford to work and not be paid. If you can't get training except by basically working for no pay, then anybody who is getting by paycheck to paycheck won't be able to move up, even if they have the capacity.

Further, there is no means tested funding/loans for internships. If we want to acknowledge that they are part of education, then they should be supported as education. If they are work, then they should be either entirely learning oriented and of no direct benefit to the company and supported as an educational outlay, or they should be paid.
posted by gryftir at 5:00 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


That says it all, and it's so fucking obvious that they shouldn't even need to say it.

But it doesn't say it all.

Significant opposition to raising the minimum wage comes from 'honest joe' or mom & pop small businesses that we are all supposed to be rooting for. They don't make billions. They make a living. They just make the money they do make off of slightly more socially acceptable labour exploitation. They don't draw the same attention as Walmart because they are not multinational corporations with big balance sheets and there are thousands and thousands of them in every big city to defuse their immorality.

Exceptions to doing the decent thing don't really exist.
posted by srboisvert at 5:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Any distinctions are bullshit justifications.

Distinctions help us separate solid ground from horseshit. Step lively!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:04 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


What the Law Says

Unpaid internships at For-Profit organizations are usually illegal, and those that aren't adhere to *extremely* strict guidelines.

A&L Cheat Sheet
posted by stagewhisper at 5:09 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, if The Nation starts paying its interns minimum wage, will Wal-Mart start paying $12/hr then?
posted by Western Infidels at 5:09 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are whole sectors where a large number of people are working as interns for no or little pay. Think publishing, film, and TV as the most obvious, but also include the not for profit sector. So, we've developed a whole economy around the promise of some future benefit (a job in publishing, film) but no or inappropriately low pay now. That's a problem, especially when you have high unemployment for young people.
posted by sfred at 5:10 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Soon, we'll all be unpaid interns and have to trade body parts for consumer goods.

And thus, along with YouTube channels providing everyone with a broadcasting platform if desired, did yet another part of Max Headroom comes to pass.
posted by hippybear at 5:11 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Once again, this whole thing is bullshit Walmart bashing. If you have an argument, argue with the minimum wage, which is hardly limited to Walmart, and begins to encompass mom and pop shops across the country.

Thankfully for most people concerned about this, it's not an either/or binary. And mom and pop shops are nowhere even near the majority of the pressure against minimum wage.

Life is tough for a person with no other prospects than a Walmart-level job. That isn't the fault of Walmart.

Apart from the fact that in smaller localities, Walmart is often responsible for ensuring that there are no other prospects for jobs, you mean.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:11 PM on August 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Work is work. The important factor is the ability to voluntarily agree to the particular situation.

I disagree. It seems to me like there's is a distinction between self-directed and externally-directed work - the kind of engineering work I do in my free time is very different from what my employer wishes me to do on their dollar. Many, many people don't have the option to perform self-directed work and live (people like me). I'd like my government to protect me from the capitalist drive to pay me the least amount of money to generate the most amount of profit for owners, knowing that I don't have many other options.

Volunteering and the spirit of unpaid interning (a learning opportunity rather than a job) seem closer to self-directed rather than externally-directed work, as anyone who's tried to organize volunteers can attest.
posted by muddgirl at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


FYI: Aldi also pays its workers a living wage.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:20 PM on August 8, 2013


Paying interns full professional wages can end up wrecking their financial aid.

This not an argument for not paying interns, but an argument against our batshit insane method of financing higher education.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2013 [34 favorites]


Magazine interns are often highly educated, single, just out of school or IN school....

....and as a result have staggering amounts of student debt to pay on top of their food, utilities, rent, etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:27 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pot, meet Kettle.

Both of you make hash out of employees.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, the Nation needs to pay its interns minimum wage.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:32 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, for a nonprofit publication working in the public interest, the ads on this Nation page seem awfully interested in selling me some penny stocks and insurance scams...
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:36 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


since interns are at the beginning of their careers

Their careers in the American magazine industry? Well then.
posted by ODiV at 5:49 PM on August 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Regarding the interns at The Nation (from the link to The Nation above):

As of next month, The Nation Institute will be able to pay interns New York City minimum wage. (For more on this read here.) Additionally, The Institute will continue to help interns in need with additional funding for housing and travel, and The Nation pays interns as contributors if they write for the magazine or website.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:49 PM on August 8, 2013


That isn't the fault of Walmart.

But you know, it is. They're the country's largest employer; they are a model, a huge downward force on other retailers' wages, and part of the whole horrible mindset that working class jobs have to be eliminated or made miserable. They could pay every one of their 2 million employees $2 more an hour and still be making profits of $9 billion. Plus, if retailers paid workers more, workers would have more money to spend.
posted by zompist at 5:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


Walmart is doing neither of those things, so I can't help but think that raising the issue of interns is a red herring.

I also think interns should be paid and I agree with muddgirl's statement. From the same link I quoted above:

Walmart earned $17 billion in profits last year. To compare a multi-billion dollar, for-profit company and their wages for employees to a small non-profit that has raised funds to make its internship more accessible is simply absurd. For a more apples-to-apples comparison: unlike at Walmart, the staff of The Nation is unionized, and our newest employees make almost double the New York City living wage calculation.

posted by triggerfinger at 5:53 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even the US Government and specifically, the Department of Justice, is not above exploiting unpaid labor, hence the rise of uncompensated "Special Attorney" positions, wherein recent law school graduates 'volunteer' to work without pay for up to a year in hopes of a full-time position.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2013


At my for-profit public relations firm, we pay our undergraduate interns $10/hour, and those who have graduated $12/hour. They're doing valuable work, and while I think they're probably underpaid, we go out of our way to make sure that we're educating them even as they do the grunt work of the office. This is as it should be.
posted by Amplify at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2013


zompist: "They could pay every one of their 2 million employees $2 more an hour and still be making profits of $9 billion. Plus, if retailers paid workers more, workers would have more money to spend."

Oh how cute, you think Walmart lets very many employees get 40 hours per week? How precious. / snark

Seriously, though, as soon as that Reason article mentioned that interns at The Nation weren't eligible for health insurance, but full time employees at Walmart do, I knew they weren't even remotely an unbiased reporter.
posted by notsnot at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


that 'well paying internships ruin financial aid' article seemed odd - I've read about older students who quit a good job to go to school getting their financial aid adjusted to not count the income, why can't this kid do that?
posted by jacalata at 6:09 PM on August 8, 2013


...uncompensated "Special Attorney" positions, wherein recent law school graduates 'volunteer' to work without pay for up to a year in hopes of a full-time position.

From the listing: "Preferred qualifications: The preferred applicant for this position will have a solid academic background, strong legal research and writing skills, experience with complex case investigations, and five to seven years legal experience since law school."

Five to seven year attorney, in an uncompensated position? Madness.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:49 PM on August 8, 2013


Seriously, though, as soon as that Reason article mentioned that interns at The Nation weren't eligible for health insurance, but full time employees at Walmart do, I knew they weren't even remotely an unbiased reporter.

I worked at Wal-Mart for awhile, ten or eleven years ago. The health insurance would have cost most of my full-time wages, and only one doctor in town (in a mid-sized Midwestern city) was covered, and the deductible was atrocious. Wal-Mart's employee health insurance exists for no other reason than for Wal-Mart to be able to say that they "offer" health insurance and that employees are "eligible" for health insurance, in the same way that you're "eligible" to win the lottery.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:53 PM on August 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


Wal-Mart's employee health insurance exists for no other reason than for Wal-Mart to be able to say that they "offer" health insurance and that employees are "eligible" for health insurance, in the same way that you're "eligible" to win the lottery.

This will all change under the PP-ACA. Exactly how, I cannot tell you. But plans like this are the exact reason the PP-ACA was created.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 PM on August 8, 2013


If a company cannot afford to pay their employees a livable wage (and I mean interns at the Nation as well as greeters at the Wal-Mart), they are run by incompetent businesspeople and should get out of the way of companies that can (e.g. Costco).

Costco and Walmart are not going after the same customers. That's why Walmart invented Sam's Club.
posted by gjc at 6:55 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worked at Wal-Mart for awhile, ten or eleven years ago. The health insurance would have cost most of my full-time wages, and only one doctor in town (in a mid-sized Midwestern city) was covered, and the deductible was atrocious. Wal-Mart's employee health insurance exists for no other reason than for Wal-Mart to be able to say that they "offer" health insurance and that employees are "eligible" for health insurance, in the same way that you're "eligible" to win the lottery.

How does it compare to just paying for a similar policy from an independent broker? I mean, if it is any cheaper at all, then Walmart is offering something they don't have to.

The fact that health insurance is tied to employment has nothing to do with Walmart. Blame the people who implemented wage freezes in the 70's.
posted by gjc at 7:00 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that health insurance is tied to employment has nothing to do with Walmart. Blame the people who implemented wage freezes in the 70's.

Gosh, you make it sound like nobody currently doing business in America is actually at fault so why expect them to be ethical and moral towards their employees? Why demand change from them?
posted by padraigin at 7:09 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interns for the nation ARE at the beginning of their careers. Internships with elite institutions do indeed pay off. But for the other 99% percent of "interns", tough luck.
posted by Halogenhat at 7:17 PM on August 8, 2013


The fact that health insurance is tied to employment has nothing to do with Walmart. Blame the people who implemented wage freezes in the 70's.

The problem with this is it assumes there is only one option on the table, and one party responsible for the situation in the first place. Walmart could pay better and offer better benefits, with hardly a scratch. The fact that there's no universal care doesn't change this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:19 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interns for the nation ARE at the beginning of their careers.

If "the beginning of your career" means working for free and paying all your own expenses, how much are you telling the world your career is worth, overall?
posted by hippybear at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


If "the beginning of your career" means working for free and paying all your own expenses, how much are you telling the world your career is worth, overall?

Agreed. I'm a litgeek working crappy retail jobs because they give me money and health insurance. My debt-ridden English grad friends and I would love to work the entry-level litgeeky writing-type jobs, but they want internship experience. And the internships don't pay (enough).

The response is usually something like "It's not hard, just work the crappy retail jobs to support yourself AND the internships at the same time, like the rest of us did, exhaustion is traditional and glamorous!" Thanks for that.

I'm still not clear on how well the under/unpaid internship industry that supports most of the literary world meshes with the "Never work on spec!" ethos held so dear in other creative professions.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:44 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I doubt there are many people look to WalMart for internships as a path to a better life with the dream of attaining a lofty title like Shelf Stocking Engineer Associate. Also, when one gets to a point at WM where your wage barely rises above the minimum wage, that could very well be the zenith of your WM career. At least with a credit from The Nation, that could translate into an interview at a larger news organization. For the lowly WM employee, maybe that WM resume credit will get them a call back at Dollar General Stores, but not much else.

This does not mean that interns should be abused and I am sure The Nation has their share of interns that are being exploited to whatever degree they are. That can happen because they really want that resume credit, but I would bet the powers that be at The Nation are happy to keep on unpaid interns for the sake of the bottom line. So The Nation is not squeaky clean here as are many places that over utilize their interns. The only saving grace might be that a Nation internship offers the potential career payoff far greater than a Walmart low paying job.

But there is one unwrittern perk with Walmart - these days, a WM job will likely will qualify you for SNAP. With that positive career outcome in place, you can then shop at WalMart for your groceries. Double up that shopping trip with the multitude of 3.5 hour shifts you pull there each week, and the advantage is clearly yours. With the time saved from the extra trips, you can pore over your McDonalds supplied budget worksheet. Plus you get the warm fuzzy knowing you did your part to keep the poor tattered Walton Family in the #9, #10, #11, & #12 slots on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. WINNING!

All snark aside, Walmart needs to stop trying to justify their bad employment practices by cherry picking the practices of companies the size of The Nation. The Nation also needs to make sure its ducks are lined up beak to tail....and for the right reasons too.
posted by lampshade at 7:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


That isn't the fault of Walmart.

As the largest employer in the US, how much lobbying influence do they have on the setting of the minimum wage? My guess is a lot, so in some way it really is their fault.
posted by jontyjago at 8:54 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Enough with the continuing comparisons between Walmart and The Nation. It should be clear to anyone who has RTFAs that The Nation while imperfect is working very hard to pay it's Interns as much as they can, and that they are "now" paying them Minimum wage in an industry that traditionally pays it's Interns nothing or next to nothing. They are obviously on the side of reform and that should be the absolute end of that argument.

Yes Unpaid Internships that really are just Unpaid regular jobs that take advantage of students or just graduates are BAD. That is clearly not the situation with the Nation. Enough.

Walmart on the other hand clearly is doing absolutely everything they can to pay their employee's as little as they can. Not even "as little as they Legally can"... as little as they can get away with where their Legal costs are less than the savings in wages paid..
posted by cirhosis at 8:59 PM on August 8, 2013


Enough with the continuing comparisons between Walmart and The Nation.

Why, it's what TFA is about? We're discussing the article.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:56 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry but to me the article is pretty much about how it's a false comparison... Yet I see a whole bunch of posts that seem to buy into Walmart's attempt at obscuring their bad behaviour. I'll grant that the way modernnomad posted could be read to take that side of the issue.

I'm sorry but what am I missing something that some of you are seeing where there is ground that makes the conversation of The Nation v/ Walmart into an interesting one?

Are we supposed to reward shitty PR attempts? "Sure we dump toxic waste everywhere, but the EPA sometimes produces more paper waste than they should" This is not a defense and I really can't see how Walmart's stance here is any different.
posted by cirhosis at 10:20 PM on August 8, 2013


The difference for interns isn't that they are "at the beginning of their careers".

The difference is that you do it for a few months and get school credit for what is meant to be an educational experience.

Why do people NEVER say this?

Why do they give ANY explanation other than this?

I mean, half the time it's not true -- look at all the Craigslist ads for long term/indefinite "internships" for non-students which offer no educational value, and often require the "intern" to already have post-entry level skills.

But for The Nation? They're most likely doing internships right, and they should make that clear.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are whole sectors where a large number of people are working as interns for no or little pay. Think publishing, film, and TV as the most obvious, but also include the not for profit sector.

I can't speak to other industries, but in film and TV this is absolutely not the case. None of the (union, studio) features I've worked on have had interns at all. The series I've worked on have had one intern per semester, who was on a special educational program and NOT a productive worker at all.

Indie projects exploit unpaid labor all the time, of course. Sometimes that's in the form of "internships" -- just getting a bunch of unskilled kids to come around whenever they feel like it and maybe do useful work, but more likely not -- but more often it's in the form of people working for free in order to gain marketable skills or important experience. And in the latter case, it's largely on projects that will never turn a profit, anyway.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 PM on August 8, 2013


Wait a sec, I take it back. I did work on a studio film that had an intern. She was a nineteen year old college student whose mother ran our post-production accounting firm (which is how said internship came into being*). She came in 3 days a week and helped out around the office for about half the normal shift of a Production Assistant. While she was not un-helpful, her labor did not in any way contribute to the overall success or failure of the film or any profit the studio might have gained from it. I think she was mostly there to get out of the house and because she was a fan of some of the actors in the movie.

*Also for all I know she was paid.
posted by Sara C. at 11:04 PM on August 8, 2013


As the largest employer in the US, how much lobbying influence do they have on the setting of the minimum wage? My guess is a lot, so in some way it really is their fault.

"Don't blame me; blame minimum wage law. I don't decide what the lowest legal amount I can pay you is."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:54 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with unpaid or underpaid interns at non-profit organizations. Because they're non-profit. They are basically volunteers.

Non-profit != no money. There are many well-paid employees at many, if not most, nonprofits. Just because a company is in a different tax classification does not mean they should be able to treat their employees and interns differently than other employers.
posted by msbrauer at 3:02 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


WalMart employees do their job in return for wages and benefits (for some), only. Since few of them are on anything resembling a "career path", they will remain in low-paying positions regardless of long they work for the company.

The Nation isn't saying that the situation is different simply because interns are at the beginning of what is expected to be a relatively lucrative career (i.e., that the economic hardships are mitigated by the knowledge that it's a short-term situation). Rather, internships provide professional development/connections, education (often with credit hours), in addition to wages.

Based on my experience (primarily with grad students in urban planning-related situations) interns were hardly "free" labor. Their schools, understandably, required that internships provide meaningful work experience. Therefore, before their first day on the job, the sponsoring agency/organization had already invested staff time creating an acceptable position. Interns were not go-fors, data-entry drones, or simply used to pick up the slack in understaffed offices. They had real jobs, needed supervision/training, and their schools required written reports/evaluations.

If this is the case with The Nation's internships, it not unreasonable to expect WalMart to pay its employees more than The Nation pays its interns. It is unreasonable, however, to fail to provide interns with the means to cover basic living expenses.
posted by she's not there at 4:16 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll grant that the way modernnomad posted could be read to take that side of the issue.

I made a pretty strong effort to post this in a neutral fashion in an effort to avoid poisoning the discussion/thread from the outset.
posted by modernnomad at 5:45 AM on August 9, 2013


Once again, this whole thing is bullshit Walmart bashing. If you have an argument, argue with the minimum wage, which is hardly limited to Walmart, and begins to encompass mom and pop shops across the country. Life is tough for a person with no other prospects than a Walmart-level job. That isn't the fault of Walmart.

I do argue with the minimum wage, FWIW. In 1963, the minimum wage was $1.25/hr. In today's dollars, that's $9.54/hr. So, minimum wage workers make approx. 20% LESS NOW THAN 50 YEARS AGO.

That said, it's always people, who for whatever reason, don't have this particular issue to personally deal with who make this argument. It's, at it's very rotten core, yet another rendition of FUCK YOU, I GOT MINE.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:48 AM on August 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Non-profit != no money

Non-profit means that they have to spend everything they bring in each year. That could mean most of the money goes to the cause related to the non-profit, or it could mean it's a large national non-profit with a web site management team of 10, of which not one could write a line of HTML. (This was back before CMS' were a thing.)

This was a disease related non-profit that I had donated too, and my business dealings with them so disgusted me when I saw the amount of waste and overhead that I have not given them a dime since.
posted by COD at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2013


Far be it for me to agree with The Nation, but people who are working full time at Walmart are often people with families, maybe don't have access to other jobs because of education, geography, etc.

I agree with all of your other points, but why is the fact that the workers have families relevant? If people don't have spouses and children, should they be paid less?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2013


Since nobody else has even breached the subject yet... STOP FUCKING PATRONIZING CORPORATIONS WHO DON'T PAY THEIR WORKERS WELL.

Because seriously, if it's about the minimum wage, let's talk about the minimum wage. But any sort of guidelines on what to pay people is just asking for more corporate loopholes to be added.

Everybody else, please feel free to move about your lives as normal.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2013


How Unpaid Interns Aren’t Protected Against Sexual Harassment
Unpaid interns miss out on wages and employment benefits, but they can also find themselves in “legal limbo” when it comes to civil rights, according to law professor and intern labor rights advocate David Yamada. The O’Connor decision (the leading ruling on the matter, according to Yamada) held that because they don’t get a paycheck, unpaid interns are not “employees” under the Civil Rights Act -- and thus, they’re not protected.

Federal policies echo court rulings. The laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including the Civil Rights Act, don’t cover interns unless they receive “significant remuneration,” according to commission spokesperson Joseph Olivares.
ProPublica's been conducting a pretty extensive investigation on internships that can be found here. Their coverage on The Nation is here and from the sounds of things the interns are getting paid more but they're also being assigned more work than usual:
In response to our question on whether higher pay means there will be fewer interns in Fall 2013, she says:
We are using the renaming of the internship program as an opportunity to restructure. Rather than having web interns and print interns, as we do now, we're merging those positions. Nation interns will research and fact-check for the magazine, in addition to assisting with daily web projects on TheNation.com. Not only will this provide interns with a more diverse range of skills, we believe this reflects the increasingly integrated nature of print and web journalism, in general and in The Nation's newsroom. We are not yet certain how this will work out longterm but for the fall we are anticipating hiring ten interns rather than twelve. If we need more interns, we will revisit for the spring and hire accordingly.
Kitman also clarified that the financial aid to interns has been coming in the form of six to eight grants per year. Each grant averages five hundred dollars, and is need-based.
posted by dubusadus at 4:10 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking around the NGO world in DC, it is teeming with unpaid interns, and they're not anywhere near all college students just getting started. Loads of us (I say us but I was recently promoted from unpaid intern to paid intern, so...whee) have master's degrees and some work experience and are just that desperate and have been told to swallow our pride and keeping interning and there'll be a real job for...eventually. It bothers me on a lot of levels, but really the worst part is that a young person who wants to break into this sort of work but can't afford to work unpaid indefinitely is really, really screwed.
posted by naoko at 6:56 AM on August 10, 2013


But for The Nation? They're most likely doing internships right, and they should make that clear.

I have worked in the nonprofit industry for several years now. The one thing I can say is that most people have no idea of the seedy underbelly of the nonprofit industry - that it is often built on the backs of its workers and interns, even as it agitates for higher wages and more protections for others.

This probably includes many of your favorite organizations. You should never, ever, assume someone is doing internships or employment right because of their ostensibly progressive politics.

Nonprofits that advocate for health insurance for all often do not offer their own employees health insurance. They usually do not pay overtime, and sometimes the salary/hours considerations breaks down to lower than minimum wage. They often force people to spend their own money, and then short them on reimursements. They get interns, and then do not give them meaningful work and work the for longer hours than they are supposed to. They sometimes have the same interns for years. It rarely ever translates to an actual job. Sexual harassment is often dismissed or minimized as damaging to the organization, and abuse is frequent. Nonprofits raise money for salaries for staff and then do not pay that money to staff. They are sick systems that get by because everyone thinks that charitable or progressive organizations woud not do that.

Nonprofits frequently, like for-profits, have executive staff that are paid very highly - in the nonprofit I work at now, the head is paid in the mid-six-figures range. Five years ago he was making 500K a year. Meanwhile, raises for the meat-and-potatoes employees have been frozen - and services to clients have lowered.

(As a sidenote, I'm curious what the Nation says is living wage in NYC..)
posted by corb at 7:17 AM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The one thing I can say is that most people have no idea of the seedy underbelly of the nonprofit industry - that it is often built on the backs of its workers and interns, even as it agitates for higher wages and more protections for others. This probably includes many of your favorite organizations. You should never, ever, assume someone is doing internships or employment right because of their ostensibly progressive politics.

See also: political campaigns.
posted by naoko at 8:36 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, Walmart doesn’t create jobs
[F]irst, at the local level, all Walmart does is put mom-and-pop stores out of business. The overwhelming body of evidence, including the most rigorous peer-reviewed studies, suggests that when Walmart enters a community, the most likely result is a net loss of jobs; at best, it’s a wash. In fact, the biggest, best scholarly study about the impact of Walmart on local employment was done by an economist at University of California at Irvine named David Neumark, who is not exactly a wild-eyed liberal. He’s the kind of economist, actually, who writes anti-minimum wage op-eds for the Wall Street Journal.

The devastating impact Walmart has had on jobs becomes most clear when you go macro, and look at its impact not just locally, but on the national economy. In its relentless quest for low prices, Walmart strong-arms its suppliers to cut labor costs to the bone. What this has meant in practice is that many suppliers have been forced to lay off workers and ship jobs to low-wage countries overseas. Because of Walmart, countless jobs in the U.S. have been lost, mostly in manufacturing.
[...]
Some of the pro-free market ideologues do grasp this. Here’s Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, for example, with a blog post helpfully entitled: “Of Course Walmart Destroys Retail Jobs: That’s the Darn Point of it All.”

I appreciate the honesty of Worstall and others of his ilk; they celebrate Walmart for its innovation and productivity-enhancing “creative destruction.” Fine. What I don’t appreciate is those pundits who then turn around and claim that Walmart is also going to magically create jobs out of thin air, as so many are doing in the current DC debate (see, for example such gold star hacks as Mona Charen, Star Parker and, inevitably, Fox News).

Let’s be clear: the brave new economic world so many conservatives and neoliberals celebrate necessitates massive job loss. In theory, the gains from productivity brought about by Walmart’s ability to produce more output with fewer labor inputs are supposed to benefit everyone. But in practice, they’re going almost entirely to the the top, and the economic hit is being taken by those at the middle and the bottom. To paraphrase the old country song, they got the goldmine, we got the shaft.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have worked in the nonprofit industry for several years now. The one thing I can say is that most people have no idea of the seedy underbelly of the nonprofit industry - that it is often built on the backs of its workers and interns, even as it agitates for higher wages and more protections for others.

I'm not saying that The Nation must be a great place to work because it is a nonprofit.

What I'm saying is my understanding is that publications like The Nation operate their internship programs along fair and realistic lines for interns, and are actually able to offer something in return for participation.

Once upon a time I was a politically active college student who wanted to be a writer. I looked into internships at The Nation, Utne Reader, Mother Jones, Ms., Adbusters, etc. Most of the ones I researched were short term summer internships involving less than full time hours, open only to current students for course credit. The textbook definition of what internships are supposed to be.

Would it be nice if such internships were paid, or even better, paid a market-appropriate living wage of $15-20/hour so that interns could live a nice middle class lifestyle during their tenure? Sure. And so would my own private unicorn.

IMO it's much more important to look seriously at companies that are clearly abusing the notion of an internship than it is to say "HEY POLITICAL RAG, WHY AREN'T YOU PAYING YOUR ENTRY LEVEL EMPLOYEES $50K A YEAR????"
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on August 11, 2013


Lol, The Onion.

But Wait.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:03 AM on August 14, 2013


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