By Doug Porter
Earlier this week Voice of San Diego Editor/CEO Scott Lewis took the Center on Policy Initiatives, a local think tank, to task for a Facebook posting soliciting for unpaid internships to assist in a campaign aimed at increasing minimum wages.
In the essay and subsequent social media postings, Lewis said he found the idea of volunteer interns working on this particular issue to be ironic. And he seemingly disparaged the notion that the trade-off of job experience and/or college credit as a smokescreen for exploitation.
The old saying about people who live in glass houses comes to mind when viewing the web journal of a high school student who interned with Voice of San Diego.
If I read read this High Tech High eleventh grader’s postings correctly (and Lewis says I’m not) VOSD utilized at least one intern to take up some of the workload of laid-off staff. If true, this would certainly be more than ironic; it would be unethical at best.
Here’s the student’s posting from Day 12:
When I help them turn the letters-to-the-editor’s into posts, I alleviate them from that next task on their list. Moreover, when I complete hours of research for them it helps them get other things done in the meantime. Also, the month before I started my internship at Voice of San Diego, there were 3 people that were laid off or their positions were temporarily put on hold. Especially with the work on the letters that I did, I helped filled that void in the organization.
Here’s an example of a tweet where CPI (or organizations using interns in general) are taken to task for misusing their interns.
— Scott Lewis (@vosdscott) January 28, 2015
I wrote about this issue yesterday if you want more context.
The problem with the VOSD story is that it didn’t even attempt to determine if CPI’s programs was illegal or exploitative. Editor/Reporter Lewis found it ironic that a group would use utilize volunteers for a campaign to raise the minimum wage and assumed everybody else would share his reasoning. He didn’t even directly ask (there was an exchange of tweets) anybody at CPI about the program.
I asked to Lewis to comment on the student journal. I got three emails in response.
I don’t see where she says she did work formerly done by employees. She said her work helped.
Nobody who was laid off worked with letters.
The layoffs were a very painful experience for me and the organization. I learned a lot from it and have worked hard to create a more sustainable organization.
Also: We have never sought HTH interns. We have agreed in the past to help some of them complete their internship requirements, which are just a few weeks long.
Finally, as I wrote, I think there is a place for unpaid internships like that. I think it’s odd in the minimum wage setting and I want people to debate and discuss opportunities for people just beginning their careers in paid and unpaid roles.
Just thinking about this while I walked the dog.
It’s pretty ludicrous to suggest a visiting student from a high school did any of the tasks of the great journalists we lost in 2011 all within the three or whatever weeks she was with us for a few hours a week. It seems like just a way for you to rub your thumb in an old wound of mine you know still hurts. Which is fine, you probably think it’s appropriate payback for my vicious attack on CPI.
But how terrible was what I wrote, Doug? Maybe I didn’t need to include the snark about the “glitter unicorn” Facebook post but otherwise, all I said was it doesn’t seem right — in the heat of a nationwide debate about unpaid internships — to seek unpaid interns out for, of all things, a campaign to raise minimum compensation standards.
I know, what an asshole I am.
That nationwide debate about interns was begun by the Economic Policy Institute. EPI runs the Economic Analysis and Research Network, of which CPI is a proud member. I have found EPI’s message persuasive but I am also growing concerned about the availability of entry-level opportunities into sectors like mine.
What galls me is you apparently agree with EPI about unpaid interns and yet, you want to make this about me.
I kinda wish this was just about Scott Lewis’ personal opinions. Then I wouldn’t feel compelled to write about it.
I wish I could take this out the context of the roles VOSD and CPI played in the fight to save the local minimum wage increase from being torpedoed by the Chamber of Commerce. But I can’t.
It’s also about more than CPI. Talk to just about any progressive leaning group in this town and you’ll hear stories about how VOSD has “burned” them. So in that context this week’s irony is just the latest insult.
The issue of minimum wage is important to me. I’ve written more than 100 pieces over the past three years referencing the subject. What happened in San Diego this past fall was a tragedy; the blunt force use of big money to make life harder for people who are getting screwed.
In my opinion VOSD’s muddied the waters and failed to use its resources to at least get at the human aspect (other than giving year-end kudos to Chamber CEO Jerry Sanders) of this bit of history. I came away from last fall’s struggle over minimum wage with little doubt in my mind about where they stood.
And this latest bit of gratuitous assholery was never about debating opportunities for “people just beginning their careers in paid and unpaid roles.” A snarky article about an organization–which wasn’t even given a chance to comment– doing something “ironic” isn’t the foundation for any kind of discussion.
It was an attack on CPI, an organization I admittedly respect, by an organization whose efforts I often respect.
It was totally unnecessary. Unless you were looking to score brownie points.
A broader “discussion might have included something about the Chamber of Commerce’s unpaid internship program, for instance:
“The San Diego Chamber of Commerce does offer several unpaid internships within our Public Policy department each semester. Candidates must be eligible to earn school credit through their respective universities. Students typically work 10-15 hours per week for a period of 2-4 months.
Chamber Public Policy internships provide insight and experience on public policy issues that effect the local business community. Interns are responsible for tracking committee discussions and actions as well as researching and preparing committee staff and members with the information they need to lead commerce-related public policy in San Diego. “
At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll repeat myself from yesterday’s column (There’s a quote about a quote for ya!):
To me VOSD is about what Jeff Cohen calls centrist propaganda. They emphasize system-supporting news. The concept of a viewpoint looking up from the bottom or outside the system is alien to them. Thus this “irony” is good for maintaining access to power, which is what makes this kind of journalism work.
The minimum wage issue is representative of a broad social movement seeking more opportunities and equity for working people. They are opposed by business groups with seemingly unlimited funding with vested interest in protecting what I call a corporate welfare system enabling companies to pay sub-par wages completely unconnected to either productivity or profitability. Of course there will need to be unpaid volunteers, petitions and protesters in this struggle.
There is no irony about students volunteering with CPI for that cause (and others, especially when they get college credit). Even then it’s hardly a fair fight. It’s David vs. Goliath. And it appears to me that Lewis is betting on Goliath.
And in other news…
UT’s Flash Report Op Ed
The right’s whinefest about “dark money” continues today in UT-San Diego. GOP biggie Ron Nehring’s op-ed is critical of the San Diego Supervisors’ decision to place limits on the contributions political party can make to county candidates.
Go figure. A representative of the party of ‘Things Go Better with Koch” was complaining about a lack of transparency.
The problem was, I thought I’d read it somewhere before…
Sure enough, I’d quoted the same story as it appeared in Flash Report earlier this week. So either the Daily Fishwrap is printing mass produced op-eds or they forgot to give Orange County’s Jon Fleischman blog credit.
Can We Sue These Anti-Vaxxers?
There are now 79 confirmed cases of measles in California, and it’s likely there will be more, according to what I’m reading.
Michael Hiltzik’s column in the Los Angeles Times today explores the various avenues towards holding parent who fail to vaccinate their children responsible. Putting them in jail doesn’t seem like an option. Making them pay a fee or tax to opt out would only legitimize the practice, he concludes.
But suing them does offer up some possibilities:
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are almost always negligent under the law, says Dorit Rubinstein Reiss of UC’s Hastings law school in a 2014 paper. One doesn’t have to know that one’s choice is wrong or risky to be negligent, she and her co-authors observe. In non-vaccination cases, the parents plainly should know they’re making an unreasonable or reckless choice with consequences for people in the community, considering “the abundant information from reputable sources supporting immunization, and the problematic sources relied upon by those who choose not to vaccinate.”
“Sincere belief that your choice is the correct one doesn’t make it any less negligent when it imposes risks on others,” they write.
Ultimately Hiltzik leans towards closing down the legal loopholes in California.
The scale of the unfolding outbreak makes California seem not a beacon of modern science but a repository of medieval ignorance. It’s entirely rational to require those whose actions have contributed to this outbreak to pay the cost; but it’s even more important to make them get the shots.
Joe Yerardi at inewsource has crunched the State Department of Health’s numbers on kindergarten vaccinations:
More than 3,300 kindergarteners — in both public and private schools — began the 2014-2015 school year lacking one or more recommended vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio and whooping cough, according to an inewsource analysis of data from the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education.
That’s nearly 8 percent of the county’s kindergarten population.
There’s handy-dandy charts and interactive lists for your viewing pleasure with the story. For instance, OB Elementary’s kindergarten program has an 86% vaccination rate. That’s 6% below the threshold for what’s called herd immunity, meaning that even vaccinated children can be at risk.
There’s an Associated Press story that, surprisingly enough, appears in today’s UT-San Diego about the financial woes of Glendale, Arizona, host city for Sunday’s Superbowl game.
To fiscal conservatives, Glendale serves as a cautionary tale for suburban cities across the United States that want to throw public money at professional sports projects.
“Overall, it’s a bad move for cities,” said Kurt Altman, general counsel for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which fought Glendale over its enticements to the hockey team. “As much as they say it’s going to make the city a destination, it just doesn’t.”
Here in San Diego it’s become obvious to me that our local moneyed types are split between increasing the size of the convention center or building the Chargers a new stadium.
The convention center types want nothing to do with a joint use facility, in part because it would not be contiguous with the existing structure. The football types want nothing to do with the convention center either, having blasted Mayor Faulconer’s idea for what’s now being called an action group to study the stadium issue.
Meanwhile, the city is grappling with reality of paying for fixing up its infrastructure. The dollar amount needed is increasing, according to a story by Liam Dillon at Voice of San Diego. And a campaign for a tax increase may be forthcoming.
On This Day: 1843 – Responding to unrest among Irish laborers building the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, President Andrew Jackson orders first use of American troops to suppress a labor dispute. 1850 – Henry Clay introduced in the Senate a compromise bill on slavery that included the admission of California into the Union as a free state. 1981– Dolly Parton hit number one on the record charts with “9 to 5,” her anthem to the daily grind.
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