The debate over how much companies pay their interns has reached a new level.
Unpaid interns suing employers for compensation
was one thing, but now the world’s biggest retail chain, Walmart, is using political magazine The Nation
’s below-minimum-wage intern pay as ammo in the latest war of words.
In June, the magazine started a petition
to lobby Walmart to increase its workers’ pay. The discount store chain is the United States’ largest employer by a wide margin, and it pays employees an average of $8.81 an hour.
This week, Walmart’s senior director of communications, Steven Restivo, hit back with an email
with the subject line “people who live in glass houses…” Here’s some of what he had to say:
In an ironic twist, ProPublica recently reported that starting this fall, “interns at the Nation Institute will be paid minimum wage for the first time in the history of the 30-year-old program.” As ProPublica noted, The Nation has been paying its full-time interns a weekly stipend of $150 per week—less than the current federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.
announced its new policy to pay interns minimum wage a little over a week ago via Twitte
The Nation Institute, the nonprofit organization that pays The Nation
’s interns, countered that Walmart’s employees, who are working permanent jobs and in some cases trying to support families, simply aren’t the same as the magazine’s interns.
“Our internship is an educational, time-limited engagement that provides a unique training experience for participants,” the institute asserted. “They are wholly different issues.”
In an email to The Atlantic Wire
, Restivo said The Nation
has been “ignoring some basic truths about Walmart,” arguing that entry-level employees are just starting their way up the ladder and are probably supplementing other income.
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It’s hard to declare a clear winner in this public spat, but one thing seems sure: With a company as large as Walmart lending credence to the internship-pay debate, it will become even more of an issue in the foreseeable future.