President Obama is trying to increase the minimum wage but that doesn’t mean that his own unpaid interns will be getting a raise anytime soon. According to the administration's website, the interns are expected to work “at least” Monday through Friday from 9 am to 6 pm for a total of about 45 hours a week. Interns aren’t paid and they don’t receive housing or commuting assistance.
The White House’s 147 interns will have saved the administration roughly half a million dollars this summer alone. The summer internship program runs for 11 weeks.
Unpaid internships are fairly common in Washington. It's estimated that the federal government uses up to 30,000 unpaid interns every summer.
Even though some might find it distasteful for the White House to be relying on free labor, not everyone finds the practice problematic.
“As an intern with the government, you’re going to be able to get your hands on a lot [of] higher-profile issues and a lot more substantive work than you’d be doing in the private sector,” an executive branch intern said. “And the networking opportunities, especially with the federal government and being in Washington, where there’s such a concentration of federal agencies, is invaluable from my perspective.”
The access might be worth more than money.
“In an ideal world, everyone would be paid. But if you’re in a position to do an unpaid internship, you do it,” he said. “If it came down through the courts or whatever that the government had to start paying interns, you’d see a severe reduction in the number of internships available. Maybe there would be no internships available in some agencies. And I think that would have a really negative impact on sort of generating the next cadre of government leaders. And so if it has to be that interns don’t get paid, then so be it.”