‘Fair Wage’ Proponent Ted Strickland Promotes Unpaid Positions

Ohio Democrat advertises unpaid fellowships while pushing minimum wage increase

Ted Strickland / AP
June 2, 2016

Ted Strickland, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, on Wednesday encouraged Ohioans to apply for the state Democratic Party’s unpaid, often full-time summer fellowships, despite having made "fair wages" and a federal minimum wage increase a cornerstone of his campaign.

The Ohio Democratic Party, which is supporting Strickland in his campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R.), is currently soliciting applications for summer fellowships to help Democrats "up and down the ticket" win in the November election.

Individuals awarded the fellowships will be expected to commit to no less than six non-consecutive weeks of work over the course of the summer months. Candidates can apply for either a part-time fellowship, which would involve 12-15 hours per week, or a full-time fellowship, which would require a commitment of 40 hours per week.

"Fellows will be responsible for organizing in communities across the state of Ohio—recruiting volunteers, registering and speaking with voters, attending political events, and helping maintain our database," the Ohio Democratic Party website explains.

"The ideal Fellow must be energetic, efficient, well-organized and able to think on his/her feet. Fellows should be comfortable working with deadlines, multi-tasking, being part of a team, and handling high pressure situations. No experience is required, but Fellows should be strongly committed to Democratic ideals. All positions are unpaid."

There doesn’t appear to be an age limit for applicants, though the posting seems to target college-aged individuals. The fellowship application asks interested parties whether they are students and, if so, to specify their major or field of study. The application also asks individuals whether they have access to a car.

The first wave of summer fellows began training in May and the next group will start June 11. Strickland, a Democrat running in one of the most contentious senate races this cycle, encouraged Ohioans to apply for the fellowships on social media Wednesday.

"Make 2016 the year we defeat Portman & stop Trump—apply for the @OHDems summer fellowship!" Strickland wrote on Twitter.

Strickland’s endorsement of the unpaid positions appears to run counter to his commitment to a "fair wage" for Ohioans and Americans across the country. Strickland says he supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and will fight to protect and strengthen overtime wage laws if he wins election to the Senate.

"Too many Ohioans are still feeling like they can’t catch a break. Some are still looking for jobs, and many are working in jobs that pay less than before. In this recovery, wealth is growing at the top, but not for the rest of us," Strickland’s website states. "That’s no accident—it’s the result of politicians like Senator Portman who are prioritizing the interests of the Washington establishment they are a part of and the wealthy special interests they serve. The game in Washington is rigged, and people like Senator Rob Portman are the reason why hardworking Ohioans can’t get ahead."

Strickland has claimed to advocate for policies aimed at reducing student debt and helping young Ohioans succeed during and after college.

However, Strickland’s support for the unpaid positions, likely to attract college-aged individuals, could hurt his support among Millennials. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, 58 percent of Ohioans ages 18 to 34 back Strickland in the race, while 27 percent favor his opponent. At the same time, nearly half of young Ohioans said they don’t know enough about Strickland to form an opinion of him.

A representative for the Strickland campaign did not respond to an inquiry about why the former governor would encourage Ohioans to apply for the unpaid positions given his commitment to ensuring fair wages for Americans.