Walmart Needles The Nation About Low-Wage Intern Jobs, Hilarity Ensues


Credit: Brave New Films / photo on flickr

Jobs at Walmart don't pay a lot. Someone at The Nation recently noticed this, and decided to make up a new hourly wage for workers at the mega-uber-superstore chain—$12/hour—and declare their desire to see this wage implemented in an open letter to the CEO. 

The retail company has issued reams of press releases, funded and touted economic studies, taken to the airwaves, and made other serious efforts to address the criticisms about their compensation practices over the years.

But it looks like someone in Bentonville finally snapped: Steven Restivo, a Walmart senior director of communications, sent out a email yesterday with the subject line: "people who live in glass houses…"

The Nation—"America's leading progressive print and online magazine"—recently encouraged its readers to sign an open letter demanding that Walmart increase wages to $12/hour and this article called our company one of the "biggest abusers of low-wage labor."

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.

the nation
Credit: The Nation

The folks at The Nation (and their progressive pals) are not amused. They replied that their situation is totally different than Walmart (true) and that they have totally good reasons to pay their interns very little (true) and that anyway, they already said they were totally going to start paying the interns more from now on (true). 

Starting this fall, The Nation has upgraded its interns to New York City minimum wage, $7.25/hour, which is still less than the average wage of a Walmart worker as cited by The Nation, $8.18. Nation interns get other perks, like housing support and subway cards, but they don't have access to health insurance, which full-time Walmart employees do. 

To review: The two firms offer different compensation packages for very different jobs. A comparison of those packages has limited value. Walmart is definitely being silly here. But, to make a timeless point from playgroup squabbles, The Nation totally started it.

I'll leave you with this last tidbit of economic insight, from the director of project that oversees The Nation's internship program: 

"We are not yet certain how this will work out long term, but for the fall we are anticipating hiring ten interns rather than twelve." 

One could forgive Walmart for being tempted to reply with something along the lines of: "No shit."

You could always just intern at Reason!