Darren McCollester

Hillary Clinton will start paying eight of her interns just weeks after her campaign was criticized for running on a message of fair wages for all workers while relying on unpaid labor from "organizing fellows."

Writing last month for USA Today, Carolyn Osorio said she "couldn't have been more excited" when she landed a fellowship with Clinton's campaign, but was shocked to learn that the position would be full-time—and unpaid. "Forget arguments about raising the minimum wage," she wrote. "I can't even get a wage. What exactly are Hillary Clinton's priorities and how do I change them?"

Pointing out the disconnect between Clinton's stated policies and her campaign's hiring practices was a fine place to start, it seems. As the Des Moines Register reported Tuesday, eight of Clinton's campaign hires in Iowa who were previously unpaid fellows will now be paid, though she still has around 100 unpaid interns working on the campaign.

With the eight new hires, Clinton seems to be taking some of her own advice about fair compensation and youth unemployment: if it walks like a job and, uh, quacks like a job, then it's a job. And jobs should be paid.

“Businesses have taken advantage of unpaid internships to an extent that it is blocking the opportunities for young people to move on into paid employment,” Clinton said back in 2013. “More businesses need to move their so-called interns to employees.”

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As the Guardian pointed out when it broke the story back in June, some of the unpaid Clinton fellows were experienced staffers, not just students spending the summer earning college credit.

But it's worth noting here that college students also deserve to be compensated for their work. And internships can act as gatekeeping positions: if they're unpaid, the kinds of access they provide comes easier to people who can afford to work for free and shut out low-income students.

A recent analysis from the Brookings Institute called the outcome of such a system "opportunity hoarding":

Employers understandably prefer someone who has some knowledge and understanding of their field. But the results are deeply unfair if this work experience is only available in the shape of an unpaid internship in an expensive city. Even for those who can survive for a while without an income, the costs of living in the intern capitals—New York, Los Angeles, DC—are beyond the reach of most low-income and even middle-income students.

One of the obstacles to greater intergenerational mobility (of the relative kind) is the ‘glass floor’ that keeps less talented children born to affluent parents at the top of the income ladder. One way in which affluent parents protect their children from falling is by using personal or professional connections to arrange job or internship opportunities—but there are less visible forms of protection, such as paying the summer living costs that make an unpaid internship feasible. This is not meritocracy: it is opportunity hoarding.

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Now that Clinton has expanded her staff in Iowa, maybe one of them can help her arrive on time to campaign events. [Cue rimshot]

Clinton's campaign did not respond to Fusion's request for comment.