At Least Walmart Pays Minimum Wage

Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.

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51 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    That sounds nasty, but I’m not sure doing the same job for Krugman wouldn’t be as sucky.Report

  2. j r says:

    Topping off the crap sundae, this offer for a job that requires you to save up so that you can have afford to have your soul destroyed is headlined by the motto of the AEI:

    I have decided that if I am ever in a position to be creating internship positions, I will pay something, even a nominal sum. I don’t like the idea of asking people to work for no pay. It goes against my capitalist sensibilities.

    However, let’s be honest and say that almost no one working an unpaid internship at a prestigious Washington institution is saving up to do it. They are being funded by their parents, or by a stipend from some other institution. The real problem with unpaid internships is that they are part of the never-ending crendentialist arms race to which we’ve conscripted a whole generation of young people.

    The overuse and abuse of internships is a sympton and not so much a problem itself.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to j r says:

      This friend speaks my mind.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

      And because they require paying for one’s needs through other means, they create a two-tier system, where those who have other sources of funds can afford to take an internship and those who do not cannot. In a way, they reward and encourage dependency and punish independence.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        In a way, they reward and encourage dependency and punish independence.

        I was more thinking that they maintain the caste system.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Probably both.

        This is the caste system and it is self-perpetuating.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Another way to look at it:

        Right-wing think tanks are a parody of the university system. (Their funders consider universities to be factories for left-wing propaganda, like evolution, so they’ve created factories for right-wing propaganda.) So this is the think-tank version of doing a research project with a professor, except for who the ☠professor☠ is. (I found better scare quotes.)Report

      • Fnord in reply to Kazzy says:

        Rewarding dependency and punishing independence is a mechanism caste systems use to perpetuate themselves.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to j r says:

      I don’t know if this is true. I’ve read in that the majority of people in unpaid Internships are come from poor to moderate backgrounds or at least unconnected backgrounds. The rich use their connections to get paid internships and entry-level positions:

      • j r in reply to NewDealer says:

        The methodology in that study is a bit goofy and I’m not sure that it shows anything particularly meaningful. For instance, they arbitrarily split the sample into 4 family wealth categories at cutoffs of $40k, $80k and $120k. And we have no reference as to what the split between those categories is in the overall population.

        Also, there’s no way to tell whether the differences between unpaid and paid interns at any income level are statistically significant.

        Finally, none of this speaks against my original point that almost no one is saving up to work at AEI or Brookings or any other think tank. They’re either being supported by parents or receiving loans or aid. The internship problem is a subset of the problems with the current model of higher education. And that problem is that we have convinced lots of young people to spend lots and lots of money amassing credentials even as the value of those credentials is being consistently eroded.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to NewDealer says:

        And that problem is that we have convinced lots of young people to spend lots and lots of money amassing credentials even as the value of those credentials is being consistently eroded.

        A term I use, but I’ve never seen anyone else use, is ‘credential inflation’.

        It’s a little confusing (People think I’m talking about making up credentials), but I like it because it is caused by exactly the same thing as real inflation…too much supply chasing too little demand for too long.

        The problem is, of course, unlike monetary inflation, which levels out with no real problems…here, the lack of demand is seriously hurting people.

        Or, to put it another way, this isn’t like the normal ‘money supply is too big’ inflation. This is essentially the ‘We do not have enough food to feed people’ inflation…the problem isn’t really the inflation, but the inflation is a sign there is something seriously wrong. Trying to solve the _inflation_ is completely pointless. The problem is that people do not have enough food, or, rather, jobs.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

      It’s a logical conundrum for those who insist that people are always paid the marginal value of their labor. If that’s zero, why does the position exist? (Those of us who live in the real world and can take into account supply curves, disparate bargaining position, consumer vs. producer surplus, etc. have no such difficulty.)Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The alternative seems to be what Conde Nast has done which is to get rid of the position.

    Seems like having the opportunity is better than not having the opportunity but I’m sure that I don’t understand what it’s like to live in NYC and work my butt off and make hardly any money even though I’m working for really rich people.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

        ND, that research only focuses on whether an internship leads to a job offer from the firm offering the internship. It doesn’t look at whether doing internships makes it easier to get employment in general. Surveys of business managers show that they do like to see internships on resumes, and while that doesn’t directly measure whether having had an internship actually makes an applicant more likely to get hired, it does suggest that.

        Of course this could all be, as J.R. argues above, “part of the never-ending crendentialist arms race to which we’ve conscripted a whole generation of young people.” I’m sympathetic to that view. But I also can understand why a manager might be more attracted to someone who’s fresh out of college with good grades and an internship than someone who’s fresh out of college with good grades. As well as potentially showing some familiarity with a particular field, it can signal someone who’s more of a go-getter. Of course that signal can be gamed–a few years back I changed my program’s degree requirements to require that students complete an internship; they’re not all go-getters, but at least their resume signals that they are. 😉Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


        I don’t doubt that the signaling issue is real, but how lazy does that make hiring managers? I understand if hiring is not someone’s primary role, but often times it is. If it is your job to find the best candidates, looking for loosely-correlated proxies seems like a piss poor way to do it.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to NewDealer says:

        “but how lazy does that make hiring managers?”

        Take the largest number of just-fed house cats all lying about in the sun that you can imagine, then add 1.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:


        Hiring is a guessing game with a time clock. There’s a reason most jobs aren’t actually advertised, but are through word of mouth and connections–that helps the folks hiring get better quality information about a prospective hire.

        When you look at resumes, you may be looking at hundreds of them. And the first pass through–both in my own experience and in that of just about every person I’ve talked to who’s been on that side of the process–is to winnow the pile down. So out go all the resumes on pink stationary, out go all those with typos and grammatical errors, and the out-of-alignment smudged photocopies, because all those signal “inattention to detail.” Then you start looking more closely, and damned if most of them don’t look pretty much the same. So how do you figure out which 3-5 of those folks to interview?

        You don’t actually know anything about these people yet, and the resumes don’t fully reveal who they are. The resumes are nothing but signals that the hiring person has to operate by, and at that point in the process they’re all the hiring manager has to operate by.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

        If it is your job to find the best candidates, looking for loosely-correlated proxies seems like a piss poor way to do it.

        I believe that the argument is that everybody is lying. The job requirements are lying. The people applying for jobs are lying on their resume. The best you can hope for, for entry level jobs, is someone with compatible chemistry who will take the OJT you’re offering and become a good second-tier worker.

        Most of the places I’ve worked (even as a Sys Admin), the biggest challenges did not have to deal with tech refreshes or forcing applications to talk to each other or that sort of thing. The biggest challenges all involved BS Corporate BS. Sure, the application thing was a major pain in the butt… but that was doable.Report

      • Shazbot9 in reply to NewDealer says:

        I get confused about how the law works here. Would a five year, 40 hour per week, unpaid internship be legal?

        If you offer housing and some meals as part of the internship, could you use unpaid internships to create sweatshop/slave/whatever-you-want-to-call-it jobs that were legal?

        It seems to me if these internships were busing tables at restaurants and working on retail store floors, they’d be called illegal labor practices, but when they’re getting coffee and filing stuff, they’re legal. Isn’t that a pretty shaky legal distinction?Report

      • DavidTC in reply to NewDealer says:

        It seems to me if these internships were busing tables at restaurants and working on retail store floors, they’d be called illegal labor practices, but when they’re getting coffee and filing stuff, they’re legal. Isn’t that a pretty shaky legal distinction?

        They’re NOT legal. Almost all unpaid internships in this country are illegal, period.

        Internships are only allowed for unique educational experiences. Some sort of job training that people couldn’t get in school.Report

      • morat20 in reply to NewDealer says:

        To be bipartisan about it: Hollywood is supposedly a really massive abuser of ‘unpaid’ internships. Journalism is another.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        James, I think you’re wrong. The data they’re looking at is apparently “if they’ve received a job offer and if they’ve ever had either a paid or unpaid internship.” Not necessarily at the company that they interned for. Actually, yours would probably be a more useful measure.

        What I wonder about the data provided is if it isn’t an industry thing. Morat20 points to a couple of industries that really abuse internships: Hollywood and journalism. Those two industries have something in common: They’re really hard to get into. Other prestige industries like fashion and the like… same deal. If enough of these paid internships are towards industries that are hard to get into, then that would skew the numbers significantly.

        Or maybe not and the unpaid internships really don’t do any good. That honestly wouldn’t surprise me.Report

  4. I know I will hate myself for being so obtuse when it is explained to me, but I cannot for the life of me figure out the “Karl/blond wig” reference.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    On a British blog that I read, Harry’s Place, there are apparently internships in the UK that require you to pay to work them. These aren’t even at prestigious places, they are not local businesses and your doing chores like making coffee, copying, and carrying your bosses golf clubs.Report

  6. Pinky says:

    I have to agree with Norm MacDonald on this. On Weekend Update, he reported a study that the worst job in the world is Crack Whore. A year later, he reported that there was a new worst job in the world: Assistant Crack Whore.Report

  7. Squeelookle says:

    If you are in one of these you are a trust fund baby. You are being paid for by your parents and living in relative luxury through it being able to meet and glad-hand the people you have to know in order to be in no-fail corporate world. For you there was already no chance of failure and you can afford to “work” in this position for zero pay knowing that it will return itself a million fold later when you’re sucking down a CEO pay scale and golden parachute retirement while people like me and my husband suffer for your inept shortsighted and malicious decisions.

    Sixteenth try to post now.Report

    • Just Me in reply to Squeelookle says:

      Just a thought. Have you tried clearing your history on your browser? Lots of times when I post they don’t show (though they will show on the side bar). Clearing the history makes the posts show up where they should.Report

  8. DavidTC says:

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that failing to pay most ‘interns’ is, in fact, illegal. The minimum wage laws do not stop applying just because you call the position as ‘internship’.

    Internships are not apprenticeships, as the entire population of the US seems to assume they are. They are not unpaid employees. Interns are supposed to be _learning_, not working.

    The sort of internship described here, where you actually have what appears to be a job, is more than likely illegal. Especially as they have listed this under ‘Employment’ and don’t mention a single skill you will be learning. In fact, they specifically say you will be ‘assisting’ someone, aka, help them, not learning something…they expect you to _already_ have the skills of ‘research and writing’.

    This is clearly ‘hired research assistant’ position, not any sort of internship. It’s just they’ve decided to pay you no money for it.

    Of course, in _this_ country we don’t bother to actually enforce labor laws.Report

  9. Roger says:

    As usual, I disagree with everyone.

    This job is the equivalent of being a student or pursuing a post graduate degree, or working as an assistant to a professor, something many of us have done. It is in other words, a useful training ground for a productive career. It is effectively an apprenticeship.

    ([MikeS: Violation of the commenting policy removed.])Report

  10. Kim says:

    Oh, come now. Rod says he’s not sure if he’ll have his eyesight in ten years.
    I’ve employed people with worse jobs than “unpaid air conditioned gopher”.Report