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Mother Jones Reportedly Told Its Interns to Go on Food Stamps Because It Pays So Litt

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  • Mother Jones Reportedly Told Its Interns to Go on Food Stamps Because It Pays So Litt

    Mother Jones Reportedly Told Its Interns to Go on Food Stamps Because It Pays So Little




    There's one thing that underpaid McDonald's workers and underpaid editorial interns at Mother Jones have in common: their employers told them to apply for food stamps. "During our first meeting with HR at Mother Jones, we were advised to sign up for food stamps," an anonymous former MoJo intern told Vice. That intern horror story appears in a bigger story titled, "The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media" by Charles Davis. Interns are paid a $1,000 a month stipend, which works out to about $6 an hour in a 40-hour week.


    Update 1:54 p.m.:
    Mother Jones' public affairs director, Elizabeth Gettelman, writes in an email that the company never explicitly encouraged interns or fellows to sign up for food stamps, but that the HR department does explain to its fellows that they qualify for food stamps because they are paid so little. Gettelman emailed The Wire in regards to Vice's reporting:

    That's actually not true, we've never advised interns or fellows to sign up for food stamps. It is true that the stipend level qualifies them for food stamps, as do most internships, and our HR director has, in the context of explaining their stipend, said as much, but we've never encouraged anyone to sign up.

    Davis's piece raises a mirror onto left-leaning publications like Mother Jones, The Nation (interns make minimum wage), Salon (unpaid), and The New Republic (unpaid) ,and their practices of not-paying or underpaying their interns — the gist here being that these publications promote things like a living wage and drop hammers on corporations like Walmart and McDonald's for not paying their employees enough don't practice what they preach.

    The inevitable question is if these publications should be held to a different standard. In the last few months, a spool of stories on unpaid internships has been unraveling thanks to the announcement that Conde Nast, one of the biggest media companies in the world, was going to do away with the practice (a practice is still widespread throughout the media world). Is it somehow more reprehensible that barely-paid internships and food stamp tips (which actually might be practical, but still insulting) at a liberal-leaning publication that rails against companies that don't pay a living wage?

    Back in June, MoJo ran an article pointing out that many Walmart employees have to turn to government aid because they aren't paid enough. "Walmart's wages and benefits are so low that many of its employees are forced to turn to the government for aid, costing taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store," Thomas Stackpole reported. Is a money-making machine with execs raking in dough while its employees can't buy dinner so different from a MoJo HR person telling interns to go on food stamps while its editors reportedly make more than $167,000 per year? The only difference is the scale. And there's something deeply symbolic about it, because Mother Jones is the publication that won awards for uncovering Mitt Romney's stipulation that 47 percent of the country was just waiting for government handouts.
    "There are four lights!"

  • #2
    Gotcha?
    "There are four lights!"

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    • #3
      The inevitable question is if these publications should be held to a different standard. In the last few months, a spool of stories on unpaid internships has been unraveling thanks to the announcement that Conde Nast, one of the biggest media companies in the world, was going to do away with the practice (a practice is still widespread throughout the media world).
      Back when I was in school, internships were there for students, usually college students, who were looking for: a.) real-world experience and exposure in their chosen field of study; b.) a "résumé pad" for when the student graduated and started looking for a real job, or; c.) both. Many internships were not paid, and those that were paid were paid very little. IIRC, there were a number of internships offered when I was in college that were nominally "paid," but the pay itself was considerably less than minimum wage if one sat down and calculated out the hours involved. That may or may not be legal today, I'm not really sure.

      Regardless, I think that anyone who thinks that an internship is supposed to pay a "living wage" probably is unclear on the concept. I know that my niece did some rather extensive interning at several different firms (and indeed several different types of firms) throughout her high school and college summers. While she got little or no pay doing these things, she also had a second job on the side to bring in a little income (and she didn't have to work, admittedly; my brother is certainly well-off enough to make sure that she would survive just fine), and the experience and being able to put that on her résumé meant that she was able to leave college and step into one of the top real estate jobs in the entire state, making a very nice salary indeed pretty much immediately after graduating from college.

      We always called that sort of thing "paying one's dues," meaning, in effect, "suffering" now with shit pay with the promise that later, the pay would be much greater.



      By the same token, I view entry-level positions in much the same way: you get in the door, learn the ropes, and if you are producing well, you get to move up the ladder, both in terms of title and responsibility as well as economically. It's been that way for a long, long time, so I see no particular reason why anyone should bitch about it now.
      Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
      No one will be denied:
      Big law suits and bathroom toots;
      We're all getting Dixie-fried.
      But somewhere Hank and Lefty
      Are rollin' in their graves
      While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
        Gotcha?
        Nah. Internships are always risky. Not only do you get paid little more than coffee money but you run the risk of learning nothing. In any event, they aren't jobs in the normal sense and most people don't stay in them for more than a few months or a year.

        If you can afford to take an internship AND if your employer is serious about skill-building, it's usually a lot of fun but that's it.
        "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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        • #5
          Even when I had a paying internship (most of mine were unpaid), I always had a second paying job.

          One of the reasons I didn't actively pursue a clerkship was because of the low pay. But it's well known that the clerkship isn't about the money, it's about the experience.

          I do think Walmart and those companies "should" pay their employees enough to eat. I do not, however, think they should be legally forced to do so.
          Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
          Robert Southwell, S.J.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
            Even when I had a paying internship (most of mine were unpaid), I always had a second paying job.

            One of the reasons I didn't actively pursue a clerkship was because of the low pay. But it's well known that the clerkship isn't about the money, it's about the experience.


            I do think Walmart and those companies "should" pay their employees enough to eat. I do not, however, think they should be legally forced to do so.
            Isn't clerking really more for those who hope to some day move into the judiciary? That was the impression I got from my brother some years ago when he was offered (and later turned down) a clerk position soon out of law school: nice to have on a résumé if you're really after a fast-track to partnership at one of the really big firms or you want to wear a robe, but not really necessary otherwise.
            Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
            No one will be denied:
            Big law suits and bathroom toots;
            We're all getting Dixie-fried.
            But somewhere Hank and Lefty
            Are rollin' in their graves
            While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Adam View Post
              Isn't clerking really more for those who hope to some day move into the judiciary? That was the impression I got from my brother some years ago when he was offered (and later turned down) a clerk position soon out of law school: nice to have on a résumé if you're really after a fast-track to partnership at one of the really big firms or you want to wear a robe, but not really necessary otherwise.
              Not really. Clerking is always good experience for a lot of reasons. You get to work closely with a judge and hear his/her perspective on the law, the lawyers, etc. You get to observe a lot of lawyers and see what works, what doesn't work. You get a great advantage in terms of finding a job afterwards.

              I turned down a clerkship as well. It wasn't geographically desirable. Since I didn't want to stay in that area after it was over, the opportunities it would have offered for future employment were somewhat limited.

              It's not so much that it's necessary, it's just that it's an option. With that option is the knowledge that the pay isn't great. Oddly enough, the job I eventually took paid less than the clerkship. But that was a very short term issue.
              Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
              Robert Southwell, S.J.

              Comment


              • #8
                I can attest that the vast, vast majority of internships available in the print and broadcast media world are unpaid. That's just how they operate. It's usually grunt work, ranging from getting the employees coffee, to schlepping boxes of documents around or even taking the boss' car home from a drunken night at a bar.

                That MJ actually pays their interns nearly $6 and hour equivalent is more shocking than anything to me.

                I'm sure if confronted they would hide behind the "it's the way the industry has always worked," but it makes them no less hypocritical when attacking McDonald's and the like. Low wages for low skilled jobs is just the way the economy has always worked, too.
                “Any sufficiently advanced capitalism is indistinguishable from rent seeking.” ~ =j

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tom Servo View Post
                  I can attest that the vast, vast majority of internships available in the print and broadcast media world are unpaid. That's just how they operate. It's usually grunt work, ranging from getting the employees coffee, to schlepping boxes of documents around or even taking the boss' car home from a drunken night at a bar.

                  That MJ actually pays their interns nearly $6 and hour equivalent is more shocking than anything to me.

                  I'm sure if confronted they would hide behind the "it's the way the industry has always worked," but it makes them no less hypocritical when attacking McDonald's and the like. Low wages for low skilled jobs is just the way the economy has always worked, too.
                  The corporate bullying stuff they print is nothing but projection. Take a leftist, put a deadline and revenue goals in front of him (and usually it is a guy in charge), and watch what happens. Then when something about these terrible rightwing corporations makes the press these guys will write about how things really work in the business world. What you're reading is how these assholes actually run their own businesses, not how the rest of us do things.
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                  -John Locke

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I find it funny that all of the male-controlled media outlets talk about the "glass ceiling." Go to a media convention and sit at the bar. You'll find out just how misogynist all these "enlightened" people are - especially when they get a free pass to attack a conservative woman.
                    "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                    -John Locke

                    Comment

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