Attention graphic designers: New York City mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio is seeking interns to "assist in the development and design of campaign graphics, invitations, flyers, and other print materials." Just don't expect any pay for your minimum 15 hours of work a week.
The listing popped up earlier today on the jobs page of the New York Foundation for the Arts, which has previously come under fire from activist groups for advertising unpaid positions. Political campaigns, to be clear, rarely pay their interns, taking advantage of the not-for-profit exclusion in the Department of Labor's internship guidelines.
But given the progressive tenor of de Blasio's campaign — a narrative of "a tale of two cities," one obscenely wealthy and the other barely earning enough to get by — the public advocate's disinterest in paying for what is obviously skilled labor has ruffled feathers on Twitter. Among those sounding the alarm is Eric Glatt, the former Black Swan intern who sued Fox Searchlight for backpay and won:
"I wish we were paid, but we're not," admitted a current de Blasio intern when reached at campaign headquarters. "I think the money is being spent elsewhere for the most part, and we have primarily a volunteer operation."
But in the graphic design community, the nature of the internship — which is explicitly aimed at art students looking to beef up their portfolios — has uglier implications.
"I think it's stupid to use free labor to undermine working professionals," said Nate Tanemori, a 15-year veteran of the design world. "If you're a person that wants to make a career out of it, you should insist on getting paid. Or not accepting it and telling them why. It's going to ultimately hurt the industry to devalue it."
Of course, that's already happened, in creative fields certainly not limited to design. And in politics, the lack of intern pay is no less notorious; just last month, the White House drew criticism for its uncompensated labor. Obama shows no signs of budging. De Blasio, the "bourgie Park Slope candidate" who boasts a "campaign of bringing bold progressive change to City Hall," might consider going one further. After building a campaign around the sort of New Yorkers who can't afford to work for free, it'd be a fine gesture.
Here's the listing:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.