Monday, August 06, 2012
NM01: Michelle Lujan Grisham Changes Two Young Women's Lives; Guest Blog
Following is a guest blog by Hannah Roberto and Addie Bordegaray two young women entering their senior year of high school. They are Michelle Lujan Grisham's summer intern extraordinaires! Thank you Michelle for helping these two young women along a path that has influenced their lives.
On the very first Friday of our pivotal summer between junior and senior year in high school, we helped Mary Ellen organize her campaign party, not knowing that it would open a new window of opportunity for us. While greeting partygoers and collecting donations, we met Michelle Lujan Grisham and immediately hit it off during a casual conversation about summer and adolescent fun. We joked around about helping Michelle’s campaign in any way she needed and then gave our contact information to her campaign manager, Dominic Gabello, not expecting a call back. Within 48 hours, we were contacted by a staff member at the campaign who invited us to come in to help with calls, canvassing, and other campaign activities.
The following Monday, we went to her office down Mountain Road and 6th Street, not knowing what to expect. As we walked in, we were greeted by unfamiliar, yet friendly faces and were immediately put to work on contacting voters. Within the first two hours in the office, we were whisked away to a couple of news interviews and other events in which Michelle was being showcased. All of this seemed as though it was a dream. Within a couple days we were already experiencing a side of politics we had never seen before.
We began working for Michelle 11 days before the crucial primary election, and to say things were hectic would be a HUGE understatement. For 12 hours a day during the next two weeks, we made phone calls, knocked on doors, and did whatever was necessary to convince people to vote for Michelle. Everyone thought it was crazy that two 17-year-old girls would be so dedicated to this campaign so early, but we felt a connection to Michelle from the first day we met her, and knew we would do whatever it took to help her succeed. Little did we know that every phone call and knock on a door would help lead to a five point margin victory in the primary election.
Immediately following the election, Dominic asked us to take on the role of formal campaign interns and help Michelle through the General Election on November 6. Obviously, this sounded too good to be true! Who would’ve thought that two weeks of grueling hard work could lead to an opportunity that not only benefits us now, but will do so greatly in the future? Being an intern on Michelle’s campaign has taught us life skills, as well as the ins-and-outs of a political campaign. The skills we gain from working for Michelle are not just limited to politics, but will help us to succeed in any career endeavors we have in the future. Aside from just the professional standpoint, we also have formed bonds with many of our co-workers and have had the privilege to meet and get to know so many people just through this opportunity.
To us, this isn’t just a summer job that we were lucky to grab; it is much more than that. This opportunity has shown us what it’s like to have a serious and time consuming job, how to connect to people from all walks of life, and how to take chances and use them to benefit not only us, but our future. We could not be more grateful to Michelle and Dominic for giving us this chance, but we will stop at nothing to make them proud and to see Michelle not only win this election, but be the fantastic Congresswoman we know she can be!
I wonder about the legality of using unpaid interns on political campaigns. When I was a volunteer with the Griego campaign there were two young folks who were described as interns. They didn't get much training - no more than any volunteer got, which wasn't much - and they usually worked along side staff doing what staff did. One staff member said she preferred interns to volunteers because you could get interns to do crappy jobs and they couldn't walk out the way volunteers could.
The federal labor law page is here:
and it sure looks to me like there's a problem with numers 3 and 4.
For all I know there's an exemption for political campaigns, but I think there's still an issue of oppressive labor practices. Volunteers are volunteers, and presumably know what they are volunteering for, but calling someone an intern and then using them to displace (or supplement) paid staff, and pretending they're getting some sort of education, is questionable. Certainly the interns I observed got almost nothing in the way of education.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Aug 8, 2012 3:39:44 PM
These girls obviously enjoy the work they are doing. Why do EG people still look for any reason to mess with MLG?
Posted by: Dem Supporter | Aug 8, 2012 6:01:17 PM
DemSup, it seems to me that MS is calling out the EG campaign as much as any for this practice. Are you intentionally missing the point?
Posted by: bg | Aug 9, 2012 6:33:16 AM
This is a great story about how two young people who want to get engaged in their community and stepped up for a candidate which they believe in. No where in their story is the indication that they did this for some opportunity for a job, or for some political insider glory, but because they believed in a candidate. That is what this should be about when young people get involved for the right reasons candidates win. Makes me think of another candidate in 2008 who inspired young people to step up and changed the political landscape of the world. Its also obvious to me from this story that these young ladies were respected by the staff at the Grisham Campaign and not thought of as individuals to do "crappy jobs", but given a real opportunity to prove themselves as activists. That attitude just might prove to why so many other campaigns fail and some rise to the top. Way to go ladies very proud of you both for getting involved and hope that you continue to work for the candidates and campaigns who believe in you too!
Posted by: Sisto | Aug 9, 2012 9:34:13 AM
You're missing the point too, Sisto.
The point, part 1: If they were volunteers, call them volunteers. Nothing wrong with volunteers. Been one myself.
The point, part 2: Calling someone an intern means that they were promised an education and that the arrangement was primarily for their benefit, and not the benefit of the 'employer'. If the point was to get them to do a job that would otherwise have been done by a volunteer or a paid staff, there was lying involved.
" No where in their story is the indication that they did this for some opportunity for a job,"
If they were doing it as a step towards getting a job, that would be a violation of federal labor law (assuming it applies). Go read the linked site.
" given a real opportunity to prove themselves as activists"
If they were there to prove that they already had the necessary qualifications and education to be hired as staff, that'd be a violation of federal labor law (assuming, etc.).
If you are calling someone as intern not to give them education but to avoid using either a paid staff or a volunteer to do the job, that's an unfair labor practice (by my definition).
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Aug 10, 2012 6:20:39 PM
Michael, they are 17 years old. rather than speculate on lies and suspicions why not take them for their word. They obviously seem to enjoy what they are doing and seem to be learning a great deal. I think it is wonderful what they have been able to accomplish and i think it is amazing that they have been given the opportunity to share this with us all. Let's stop griping and hope that these young ladies are inspiring others to become active in the political process.
Posted by: Nick B. | Aug 13, 2012 8:34:22 PM
I'm a Democrat, Nick B, and that means that I don't merely talk like a Democrat, I try hard to act on Democratic values in my life.
One Democratic value is respect and fairness for labor. The Fiar Labor Standards Act wasn't a perfect law and didn't do everything that could or should have been done, but it's a law that embodies Democratic values and a law I respect.
Part of the FLSA says that people who do work should get a minimum wage. That's a matter of respect and fairness for those who do work, that they should get a minimum amount as a fair wage.
I don't believe that saying "well, they're only 17 and besides we will call them interns" is a good excuse for avoiding the FLSA. Nor do I believe that saying "we're depriving them of their fundamental freedom to contract for extra hours or lower pay!!11!" is an excuse, either.
If they are being treated as employees, they should be paid.
If they are being treated as volunteers, they should be called volunteers.
But treating them as employees (if that's what's being done) and calling them interns if a betrayal of Democratic values.
Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Aug 14, 2012 10:58:56 AM