Come earn the Lacy Clay Minimum Wage! $0.00 per hour!

I’m not a big fan of my former Congressman, Lacy Clay.

As a former constituent of his in St. Louis, I was about 100% dissatisfied with his performance, which is something I could not say about the late Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.  As my Congresswoman in Cleveland, I virtually always disagreed with her, but generally respected her. Jim Moran, my current Representative in Virginia, is a whole other story. I’ll spare you.

Politics is a vicious business, and if you look hard enough, you can find concrete examples (or draw and connect your own) of hypocrisy to varying degrees by legislators. It’s not hard to do. I usually avoid mentioning specific legislators on the blog as a matter of policy, but this has to be an exception. You might have seen this earlier post I shared about Nancy Pelosi’s apparent double standard on the minimum wage. Of course, she’s not alone in this, as my home-state Senator is equally guilty.

So, in looking at job postings, I see this:

Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay is seeking full time unpaid interns for Winter/Spring 2011. Interns should be responsible, focused, organized and have a general love for politics. Duties will include, but are not limited to: answering phones, processing mail, researching issues, drafting correspondence, attending hearings and briefings, and conducting tours. Ties to Missouri are preferred but not required. If you are interested, e-mail a cover letter, resume, and short writing sample to <redacted> with Winter/Spring 2011 in the subject line. Deadline to apply is December 14, 2010.

But, on Lacy Clay’s campaign site, you see this:

Am I against unpaid internships? Not at all. Should Clay be able to offer them? Of course he should. Virtually all Capitol Hill offices offer unpaid internships or ones with stipends below the minimum wage. Campaigns are the same way.

Betsy (my sister) had a plethora of paid and unpaid internships. I volunteered politically a lot in my youth, but was never officially an intern anywhere. Unpaid internships are fine. Jobs/apprenticeships below the minimum wage are fine, too. What’s not fine, in my view, is government mandating pay or making standards for what qualifies for paid or unpaid work. Especially when government is held to a different standard than the “for-profit” private sector employers.

The Pelosi video examines what is the difference between “volunteering” to work in an internship below minimum wage, versus choosing to take a position with pay below minimum wage at a McDonald’s.  Pelosi says there isn’t one while the videographer says they’re not different at all. Opinions obviously vary, but why are people prevented from choosing to work below minimum wage in the private sector but not the public sector?

Gee, I wonder, on a related note, why teenagers have such a hard time finding work?

If what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Clay should pay all of his interns the minimum wage or change his position on it. That’s just hypocritical in my view. The minimum wage he championed isn’t helping women and minorities, whom his vote was purported to help, who are seeking internships in his office.

Work for free to get the experience to get a job in D.C. or you’d be hard pressed to find a job in government. How is that different than if McDonald’s wanted to require a probationary period for potential new employees? Not very different at all.

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