Last week Sheryl Sandberg's female-empowerment foundation found itself under fire for trying to hire an unpaid intern. The latest employer to be criticized for using unpaid interns? The White House.
A new group called the Fair Pay Campaign has been launched to target unpaid internships, and its first target is the White House and its unpaid internship program. "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," Mikey Franklin, the leader of the Fair Pay Campaign, told CNNMoney.
The White House internship program is highly competitive, placing students in executive branch offices, according to its website. The interns work "at least Monday-Friday, 9 am-6 pm," the White House site says.
Noting that President Obama has been a vocal proponent of raising the minimum wage, Franklin told CNNMoney that it only seems reasonable that the White House would start paying interns. "We don't believe the White House can, in good faith, go after minimum wage and at the same time have unpaid staff," he said.
After first trying to defend its unpaid internship as a "volunteer" position, Sandberg's Lean In Foundation backtracked and announced that it would set up a paid internship program. Unpaid interns have filed --and won-- lawsuits, and several employers already have moved to paid internships.
However, with sequestration, the federal government has been cash-strapped, and CNNMoney notes that paying the some 300 White House interns $9 an hour would cost $7.3 million a year. An email was sent to the White House press office for comment. We will update as we hear back.