Walmart today went on the attack against The Nation for its alleged hypocrisy over the pay of interns, as some kind of excuse for their own failure to pay tens of thousands of Americans a decent wage.
Some background: In the fall of 2012, The Nation Institute—which runs and administers the program—began a campaign to better fund its internship program. In the spring of 2013, interns asked for an increase to their stipend to help attract a more diverse pool of applicants. As of next month, The Nation Institute will be able to pay interns New York City minimum wage. (For more on this read here.) Additionally, The Institute will continue to help interns in need with additional funding for housing and travel, and The Nation pays interns as contributors if they write for the magazine or website.
This afternoon, The Daily Beast repeated Walmart's PR spin that The Nation "live[s] in glass houses," and that somehow the interns’ compensation disqualified The Nation from its vigorous reporting about Walmart's near-poverty wages, including an open letter that asked Wamart—the single largest employer in America—to increase wages to $12 per hour. The Huffington Post reported last year that “a cart pusher who started out at $8 per hour, for instance, can expect to be earning about $10.60 per hour after six years and a promotion.” The company also told Huffington Post last year that half of its hourly associates in the US make less than $10 per hour. Glassdoor.com puts the average wage much lower at $8.84 per hour.
As their recent setback in Washington, D.C. shows, Walmart is losing—and the effort to press for better pay for low-wage workers is succeeding. They are on the attack, and unfortunately The Daily Beast bought their spin. So let’s set the record straight:
The Nation has challenged Walmart to raise wages for employees who work for Walmart for their long-term livelihood and who nonetheless struggle to support their families day to day. The internship program is an educational, time-limited engagement that provides a unique training ground for participants at the very start of their careers.
Additionally, The Nation Institute is a small non-profit trying to raise money to support serious public interest journalism in a challenging fundraising landscape. Walmart earned $17 billion in profits last year. To compare a multi-billion dollar, for-profit company and their wages for employees to a small non-profit that has raised funds to make its internship more accessible is simply absurd. For a more apples-to-apples comparison: unlike at Walmart, the staff of The Nation is unionized, and our newest employees make almost double the New York City living wage calculation.
The Nation Institute continues to fundraise to make its internships available and accessible. In the meantime, don't be distracted: Walmart is eager to turn the focus away from their $17 billion in profits and unwillingness to use that largesse to help their employees thrive and raise their families. This is a cheap shot, but one that will not be able to stop the growing movement to push America's largest employer to pay enough for their employees to live on.