Democratic campaigns are debating whether to continue to offer unpaid internships. It’s a healthy debate, and it raises good discussion about how we pay people, what kinds of opportunities we create, and how we recruit better – and more diverse – political operatives.

Here’s our take and what we’ll do as a company.

  • There’s a lot of privilege that goes into unpaid internships.  This creates a situation where the only people who can get political experience are people with the economic means to work for free. That pushes good people out of politics. A one-size fits all campaign experience, especially when it means significant amount of hours without pay, won’t attract the best people.
  • But if you cut all unpaid internships, you’re left with limited ways for people to get involved.  Cutting unpaid internships doesn’t mean that all unpaid internships will become paid internships. It means that many people just won’t offer internships anymore, limiting opportunities for people to gain political experience. That doesn’t help anyone involved long term, and could keep people from getting their start in politics.   “I started as an unpaid intern on my first campaign and it’s that experience has me on the career path that I am on now. I think in unpaid internships are good for experience purposes but there needs to be boundaries on workloads and expectations,” said Kirk Wesley, the North’s Senior Vice President.
  • When you do the hard work of running an office or a campaign, we think you should pay people.  If you’re building an office or campaign with the idea of free intern labor, you’re not being fair.

  • Some students rely on these internships as part of academic credit, and only offering paid internships could mean less options for these students.

What does that mean for our company?

  • As a firm, we won’t move ahead with unpaid internships that we’re using to profit from free intern labor when we should be paying people. That means we’re not going to be running canvasses and having interns focus only on tough campaign labor.

  • When it comes time to knock on doors or do work for clients, we’re building that into our budgets and paying part-time staff a fair wage.

  • We think that hiring more part-time staff (vs relying exclusively on full-time staff) creates more opportunity and is a part of the solution.

  • But we want to give people their first opportunities in politics – and to still give people a change to grow and gain experience.  We’re going to offer two types of unpaid internships
    • Unpaid internships with academic credit.
    • Micro-internships -short experiences that help give someone a glimpse into politics and gain the experience for their first job applications.  These 3-5 hour internships will require some tough work, but they’ll be focused on specific projects and have some flexibility to allow students to work remotely and work around their school and work schedules.

Thanks for reading and hope that this adds something to the debate. Contact us anytime with thoughts, questions, or feedback.

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