Mizeur’s (Unpaid) Campaign Fellows must provide own phone & laptop

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The campaign of Heather Mizeur is looking for Mizeur Campaign Fellows. Some of the positions are Finance Fellows. While the job description says they have both full-time and part-time positions available, there also is this note: “All positions are unpaid and you must provide your own phone and laptop. The fellowship requires a minimum of 15 hours per week as best fits your schedule.”

An online application on the Mizeur campaign’s website makes no mention of the phone or laptop requirements but does indicate there is a 16 hour requirement per week. Campaigns rely on volunteers and unpaid interns, especially Republican candidates in Maryland who, even at the statewide level, often give unpaid staffers jobs with a lot of responsibility and importance. However, the Mizeur Campaign Fellows program is a little bit different since it doesn’t bill itself as a traditional internship or volunteers. What volunteer role have you ever seen anywhere that required a minimum amount of time per week? That’s on top of the requirement you provide your own laptop. A posting on the website of the College Democrats at George Washington University links to the application on the campaign website. This job description doesn’t mention the laptop and phone requirements either.

The text below is from a job posting that was listed on a job site Tuesday April 22, 2014:

Candidates selected as Mizeur Campaign Fellows will have the opportunity to work closely with staff to achieve critical campaign goals. Both part-time and full-time positions are available. Successful candidates will receive hands-on experience and valuable training in political fundraising in a competitive Democratic primary and the NGP database. Ideal candidates will be hard working, team-oriented, and posess an interest in Democratic politics. All positions are unpaid and you must provide your own phone and laptop. The fellowship requires a minimum of 15 hours per week as best fits your schedule.

Finance Fellows will assist in the following aspects of the fundraising team:

  • Assist staff in planning and running fundraisers
  • Contact supporters for contribution commitments over the phone
  • Assist staff with candidate call-time
  • Execute donor research and call list preparation using NGP

Of course many liberals and progressives (and Mizeur embraces the latter label) have been campaigning to end unpaid internships. NBC News reported on that effort:

Frustrated, [Mikey] Franklin decided to co-found the Fair Pay Campaign, a grassroots effort that officially launches on Labor Day to “end unpaid internships in America.” The message is simple, he said: “No one should have to work for free to get ahead.”

Franklin is one of a growing number of disgruntled workers who have begun to challenge the fairness — and legality — of the unpaid internship, a fact of life for young Americans hoping to pad their resumes and gain experience. In June, a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by failing to pay two interns working on the film “Black Swan.”

When the suit was filed two years ago, it was the first of its kind. Now interns have waged more than 20 lawsuits against companies such as the Hearst Corporation, Conde Nast, Atlantic Records, and Gawker Media. [Former interns filed suit in July against NBCUniversal, earlier this year; the company began paying interns.]

These lawsuits cite the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that an employer using unpaid interns provide training and gain “no immediate advantage” from the trainee. This criteria would appear to make most internships illegal; interns often perform menial, not meaningful, tasks. (Perhaps employers realize this when they look at resumes for employee hires; unpaid interns experienced no advantage in the job market, and no higher starting salary, compared to students who had not completed internships, according to a survey of 20,000 students conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.)

Ross Perlin, author of “Intern Nation,” thinks this wave of suing and organizing signals the “beginning of the end” of unpaid gigs, at least in the private sector. “Unpaid internships may soon reach a tipping point where they’ll lose their luster,” he said. “Awareness is just spreading and spreading.”

It will be interesting to look into the campaign finance rules and then at Mizeur’s next campaign finance filing as it relates to campaign usage of laptops and phones that belong to the Fellows.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is an award-winning blogger who has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. He has worked as a reporter, in government, and as a communications professional in SC and DC.

Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore for 8 years. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus.

Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.

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