Joe Biden And Elizabeth Warren Reportedly Use Loopholes Around Paid Campaign Internships

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Daily Beast reports that the campaigns of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are offering unpaid “fellowship” options. Most of the Democratic 2020 candidates don’t offer the option alongside paid options, and the term itself has no singular definition, which raises questions as to why Biden and Warren are offering participants a chance to help their campaigns without compensation or academic credit.

Biden’s campaign brought in $21.5 million during the second quarter of fundraising, while Warren raked in $19.1 million, which is an even better reason for people to raise eyebrows at providing unpaid options just for titles.

“Bosses have been coming up with reasons and excuses and caveats for not paying people since the dawn of time,” said Renée Hagerty, an executive council member for the Campaign Workers Guild.

“This is another version that fits into a middle-class narrative of prestige.”

While Biden’s campaign offers the “Team Joe Organizing Fellowship” for eight weeks, Warren’s offers a volunteer fellowship and volunteer fellowship for academic credit alongside the paid internship option. According to Warren’s deputy communications director Chris Hayden, the volunteer programs offer some fellows “stipends from educational institutions or other third-parties,” and he claims that “everyone in our intern and fellowship programs has access to cost-free supporter housing while they’re working in-state.”

But Guillermo Creamer, co-founder of the non-profit group Pay Our Interns, claims that having paid and unpaid options creates a “gray area.”

“It is interesting that some campaigns can still think about having both. The question now is: is fellowship the scapegoat for not paying individuals?”

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Most other candidates — such as Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke — offer some variation of a fellowship, but they are paid. Cory Booker offers unpaid fellowships, but they receive academic credit to participate, and most of the remaining candidates offer paid internships.

Some people, like Janice Fine, an assistant professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University, don’t view the practice of offering fellowships a problem.

“There’s utilitarian reasons for campaigns and there’s utilitarian reasons for the workforce,” she said, adding that fellowships are a great way to gain experience with a specific candidate or area of expertise without the commitment of a certain amount of hours.

In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Biden is still the frontrunner with 26 percent support, while Warren trails behind at 19 percent. In terms of demographics, Biden performs best among African Americans and older Democrats that have more moderate or conservative political views, while Warren draws the most support with self-described liberals and voters in the age group of 18 to 49.