During the first post-announcement speech of her second presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton took a page out of the book of the godfather of the welfare state himself, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Acknowledging what she believes it takes to build a strong and prosperous America, Clinton listed:
Equality of opportunity… Jobs for those who can work… Security for those who need it… The ending of special privilege for the few… The preservation of civil liberties for all… a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
While this sentiment really tugs at the heart strings, it’s also one that reveals what the “H” in Clinton’s campaign logo truly stands for. It doesn’t stand for Hillary and it certainly doesn’t stand for honesty; it stands for hypocrisy.
During her speech, Clinton reaffirmed her stance as an advocate for reducing the perceived income-inequality gap and raising the minimum wage. Indeed, raising the minimum wage has been a consistent theme for Hillary, as she tweeted in April:
Every American deserves a fair shot at success. Fast food & child care workers shouldn’t have to march in streets for living wages. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 16, 2015
But given these policy stances, why doesn’t the Clinton campaign provide those same conditions to most of its staff? With no guarantee of long-term jobs, experienced political professionals who want to do any sort of grassroots organizing for the Clinton campaign are being asked to work for free as essentially full-time, unpaid interns.
It’s true that many Republican campaigns also have unpaid interns. The difference is that no Republican candidate is also on record as advocating the abolition of unpaid internships. Consider the stance Clinton took during a March 2014 speech at the University of California at Los Angeles:
Businesses have taken advantage of unpaid internships to an extent that it is blocking the opportunities for young people to move on into paid employment. More businesses need to move their so-called interns to employees.
Beyond not paying her staff of grown-up interns, reports have surfaced that the campaign also places most personal business expenses on the backs of that same unpaid staff. Staffers in Clinton’s New York headquarters use their own personal cell phones and/or free voice-over Internet services for campaign calls. They’re not provided business cards and are encouraged find their own personal accommodations on the road, rather than staying in hotels. They’re advised to take the discount “Bolt Bus,” rather than the much costlier Amtrak, for business trips from New York to D.C.
If the Clinton campaign were a company or even nonprofit, one imagines many on the left would be up in arms over this treatment of its employees. Given that it’s the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, few object that she is abusing her market power and demanding concessions of staff who are utterly reliant on her for their own future careers.
It isn’t that the Clinton campaign’s labor practices are actually problematic. Certainly, her staffers must calculate they are getting something of value out of the experience, or they simply wouldn’t do it. But perhaps she should give more thought to the ways this kind of flexibility in the rules would benefit both workers and small businesses in the private sector.
When states or the federal government raise the minimum wage, companies struggle to maintain the same sized labor force at higher pay grades. Whether through consolidation or automation, many will find ways to get by while offering fewer jobs. If the “living wage” that Hillary wants to impose on employers is a simple matter of fairness, why would she not extend that fairness to her own campaign?
According to a recent Pew poll, a majority of the electorate feels the Republican Party lacks empathy for the middle class. When it comes to Clinton, the public’s main concern is her honesty, with the Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll finding that voters in states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania reporting by wide margins that they distrust her. Perhaps practicing what she preaches – or else, preaching what she actually practices – would help address that problem.