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Topics: Labor Unions

Liberal magazine told interns they could apply for food stamps

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Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Economy,Analysis,Media,Liberalism

Online magazine Vice posted a muckraking piece Monday about how avowedly liberal media outlets such as the Nation, the American Prospect, and Mother Jones pay their editorial interns measly stipends that often don't even amount to the minimum wage.

The practice of paying interns a pittance — or nothing at all — is hardly confined to liberal opinion journals, of course. Lots of media organizations — probably a large majority, in fact — do it. But, as Vice notes, the liberal outlets also regularly run articles calling for a "living wage."

The article is particularly tough on Mother Jones, which was named after a labor rights organizer. The interns reportedly got paid the equivalent of $6 an hour, despite the fact that the magazine is based in California, which currently has an $8 minimum wage (Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September to make it $10 by 2016).

The situation there was reportedly so bad that one anonymous former intern told Vice: “During our first meeting with HR at Mother Jones, we were advised to sign up for food stamps.”

Mother Jones has indignantly denied the report. At least, the food stamps part. The magazine's public affairs director, Elizabeth Gettelman, told another online magazine, The Wire:

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.

So, no, the interns were never advised to sign up. Mother Jones's HR merely said food stamps were available to them and they could sign up if they wanted to.

Mother Jones has also announced that starting next year it will make intern pay in line with the state minimum wage.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner