One of the nation’s top advocates for paid sick leave utilizes unpaid interns who lack the pay and benefits for which the group lobbies.
The National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), a lucrative nonprofit that lobbies for mandatory paid sick leave laws in cities and states across the country, advertised part and full-time internships on its website that come without compensation or benefits.
“We believe actions speak louder than words. … Interns are integrally involved in our day-to-day work,” the website states. “The summer internship is unpaid.”
The group has maintained steady cash reserves to fund its policy goals despite the skimpy compensation package. The company had $22 million in reserves at the end of 2011, up from about $17 million in 2009, according to its tax filings.
Michael Saltsman, research director of the Employment Policies Institute, blasted the group’s internship program as “the height of hypocrisy.”
“They’ll have young adults working 40 hours a week for them without pay or benefits and at the same time they’re demanding that employers offer sick time to part-time employees,” he said. “If they’re offering this false narrative—that you can create these mandates without hurting the unemployment rate—they should at least be true to their values.”
NPWF has been a leading advocate for paid sick leave bills that would require employers to offer sick time to all employees, including part-time workers. They’ve helped pass such mandates in several major cities, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Portland, as well as the state of Connecticut.
Its policy agenda has also arrived on Capitol Hill where Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) sponsored sick leave legislation.
“No matter where you live or work, no one should have to choose between job and family because he or she cannot earn paid sick days,” NPWF director of work and family programs Vicki Shabo told Roll Call earlier this month. “And lawmakers increasingly know it.”
The interns could work directly on spreading the group’s policy agenda to lawmakers in New York City, Washington state, Massachusetts, and Vermont, all of which are considering similar legislation. Their work can earn college credit but no paycheck.
“The 2013 Summer Work/Family Advocacy Intern will work on challenging projects across the National Partnership’s Work/Family Agenda, including paid sick days, paid family leave, workplace flexibility, and more,” it said.
Saltsman said the job offering shows the group understands compensation for entry-level jobs should not be subject to high-cost salary and benefit packages the group supports.
“These groups inherently understand that they’re paying young workers in job training,” he said. “It boggles my mind that when they advocate these mandates in the private sector they lose sight of this.”
Such mandates have spurred opposition from liberal Democrats, as well as employment experts like Saltsman. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed a sick leave mandate for the second time in April.
"The burden businesses would face in meeting the requirements of this bill would deter job creation and decrease the competitiveness of our city at a time when we can ill afford it," he said in his veto letter.
The City Council failed to override the veto, leading to a withering statement from the NPWF.
“Mayor Nutter let the city down when he chose to side with the special-interest business lobby for a second time,” the group said in a statement following the veto. “The city and the families who live there will suffer as a result.”
The Partnership did not return requests for comment.