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Sun Apr 29, 2012, 12:47 AM

 

These Are Not Your Father’s Internships

Youth unemployment hovers above 18 percent, near an all-time high. The entry-level job is fast becoming an endangered species. A whole generation of twentysomethings feels adrift — crushed by debt, living with their parents, delaying traditional milestones of adulthood, unable to become independent stakeholders in society. Meanwhile, the labor of unpaid interns has quietly replaced or displaced untold thousands of workers...

There are even broader effects of the internship boom: constricted social and professional mobility, growing inequality, and an economy whose top tier is becoming less and less diverse. Even more seriously, a fundamental ethic in American life is under threat: the idea that a hard day’s work demands a fair wage.

...the rash of illegal, exploitative situations has destroyed any notion that internships are inherently “win-win.” The well-intentioned, structured, paid training experience of yesteryear is increasingly giving way to an unpaid labor racket that harms all of us. The case of Xuedan Wang, the 28-year-old plaintiff in the latest lawsuit over an unpaid internship, appears to be sadly typical: four unpaid months, working full time and often overtime, doing essential work for a huge media conglomerate.

The law has said for decades that unpaid work, with few exceptions, is illegal. It’s time to enforce the law.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/02/04/do-unpaid-internships-exploit-college-students/todays-internships-are-a-racket-not-an-opportunity


Let’s Abolish This Modern-Day Coal Mine

This week, thousands of young people will work 40 hours (or more) answering phones, making coffee or doing data entry — without earning a cent. These unpaid interns receive no benefits, no legal protection against harassment or discrimination, and no job security. They generate an enormous amount of value for their employers, and yet they are paid nothing. That is the definition of exploitation.

Apologists for the unpaid internship argue that it offers valuable experience. But...the Economic Policy Institute reviewed a guidebook of “top” business internships and found many of them provided “no explicit academic or training component,” despite Labor Department requirements.

It’s true that an internship is an essential résumé line. But that’s the case only because the alternative is an empty résumé line. You know what else would look good on that résumé? A summer job in one’s field. But employers would have to be foolish to pay applicants whose services they could get free...

This is a chance for the labor movement to show young people like my friend that it hasn’t outlived its usefulness. Labor groups could end the exploitation by organizing interns, or at least fighting for them. Not even child coal miners worked for free.


http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/02/04/do-unpaid-internships-exploit-college-students/unpaid-internships-should-be-illegal



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Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply These Are Not Your Father’s Internships (Original post)
HiPointDem Apr 2012 OP
Liberty Belle Apr 2012 #1
HiPointDem Apr 2012 #2
Liberty Belle Apr 2012 #8
HiPointDem Apr 2012 #16
saras Apr 2012 #3
Liberty Belle Apr 2012 #7
Zalatix Apr 2012 #5
Liberty Belle Apr 2012 #6
LeftyMom Apr 2012 #12
Zalatix Apr 2012 #14
Liberty Belle May 2012 #17
Zalatix May 2012 #18
Liberty Belle May 2012 #19
Zalatix May 2012 #20
Cleita Apr 2012 #4
riderinthestorm Apr 2012 #9
HiPointDem Apr 2012 #15
SoCalDem Apr 2012 #10
Cleita Apr 2012 #11
varelse Apr 2012 #13

Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 01:09 AM

1. Our nonprofit provides great training for interns.

As a nonprofit, it's legal for us to offer unpaid internships as long as they are for unit credit. (We have no money to pay)

But we do offer exceptional training for these kids in our media outlet. Here are just a few of the great things our interns have accomplished:

* Won a local Press Club award - 1st place political reporting, for exposing ethics violations by a council candidate
* Provided coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan
* Interviewed Congressional candidates and covered a debate
* Became active in the"Innocence Project" seeking to free a wrongfully convicted man on death row
* Became a star witness in the landmark case that overturned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" after pulling public records to prove that a commanding officer who abused him had 93 other complaints on file

We also train community volunteers to become "citizen journalists" and they, too, have won top awards for their work, such as exposing dangerous and illegal practices by a utility company, covering wildfires, and reporting on community activism.

That's the difference between a corporate mentality and a nonprofit one. We WANT our interns to learn as much as possible, emerging with a thirst for truth and a nose for news.

If only more places had that attitude....I agree that if someone is just looking for free grunt work without real training, they should have to pay folks.

My office is a mess and I'm backlogged on busywork, but I would never dream of asking an intern to do that stuff!

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 01:28 AM

2. I'm sure that your organization is one of those adhering to the gov't guidelines for internships.

 

However, your post is all about what your organization is giving the interns. Cynical person that I am, with a lot of experience in non-profits and the public sector, I'm fairly sure that your organization, no matter how closely it adheres to the guidelines, wouldn't be taking interns if it didn't receive some benefit from doing so.

Because non-profits are generally underfunded and short-staffed in terms of what they'd *like to* be doing.

So can you tell me about the benefit your organization received from its interns? Or are you just spending your time and the agency money training interns to do these great things with no benefit to your organization and no return for your funding dollars?

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:18 PM

8. Of course we have benefits from interns.

They enable us to report important stories we would not otherwise be able to report on our shoestring budget. We don't have enough donations to fully cover the news reporting costs. Would you prefer we simply don't report what's happening? I work an 80 hour week most of the time, paid for only a fraction of that myself.

People who make these comments don't understand the realities of running nonprofit media.

Ours is online and in CA we are not even allowed to run paid public notices, which is a major source of income for print newspapers.

By law we can only have a portion of revenues be from advertising, or lose nonprofit status, therefore we are limited on how much we can generate there, too.

So what is your solution? The interns are getting good experience. This is NOT new. WHen I was in college in the late 70s I did an unpaid internship and thought it was wonderful - it helped me land a job immediately after that was a fantastic experience, and I never felt I should be paid for earning unit credit.

If you required nonprofit media to pay interns you would see a lot less news reported. Don't you think the news industry has been decimated enough?

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #8)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 03:27 AM

16. I don't think you read my post very well. I said I had a lot of experience in non-profits

 

& I understood the budget issues. I didn't ask you to pay interns; I didn't make any comments at all about the decimation of the news media, but since you brought it up, the news industry has been decimated by the same forces that are talking up unpaid internships as career builders.

Of course non-profits are forced to use volunteer labor, whether they want to or not. And there's nothing particularly wrong with volunteers -- to a point. And I don't view a for-credit internship in quite the same light as I do post-graduate "free" internships.

My issue with your post was only that it was all about the benefit you gave interns, with no acknowledgement that the benefit you received was at least equal.

And the fact that something is a "great experience" to an individual does not necessarily mean it's equally great for society at large, I think.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 02:34 AM

3. If your training is so great, sell it on the open market.

 

In particular, DO NOT oblige potential employees to buy services from a private, for-profit monopoly before hiring them, ESPECIALLY if this monopoly has a conflict-of-interest entanglement with your organization.

Simple enough.

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Response to saras (Reply #3)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:13 PM

7. I don't understand your post.

Our interns don't have to buy anything from anybody and we don't deal with for-profit monopolies -- we compete against those guys! I have no clue what you're referring to regarding conflicts of interest. We avoid those like the plague and have turned down paid sponsorships from corporations that offered strings attached to try and influence reporting.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 03:24 AM

5. Ah, your organization loves free labor. And that's why being a nonprofit exec earns you good money.

 

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #5)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:11 PM

6. Wrong. I"ve never earned more than $1,000 in a month, usually less.

We are a truly grassroots organization. But we've won 45 journalism awards and have a very large and loyal readership, because we report truth. If we had to hire out every story written we would have a lot of important news stories unreported. How does that help anyone?

Unpaid college internships are not new. When I was in college in the '70s I interned, free, with an environmental lobbying organization in Sacramento. I learned a lot and never felt used.

That's a legitimate way to earn college credit and always has been.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:25 PM

12. The internship system limits viewpoints and is particularly problematic in journalism.

You're located in a very expensive area. It's a safe bet most families in that area can't support a young person while they work for free, so you wind up with a very skewed picture of the community if your interns are a rotating cast of upper middle class and wealthy kids whose families could afford to educate them and then support them while they work for free.

FWIW, Sacramento was dirt cheap to live in in the seventies, and state colleges were laughably cheap. Comparing your internship experience to the modern day is unreasonable. Back then it was entirely possible to work a paid job over the summer and pocket enough money to live on for the school year, so an unpaid internship was easier to justify. In these days when students graduate with more debt than you would have incurred buying a house back then, expecting them to work for free is unjustifiably exploitative.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:34 PM

14. I'm talking about non-profit execs in general. And $1,000 a month is more than your workers earn.

 

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #14)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:59 AM

17. Well if I can't cover my mortgage there wouldn't be a nonprofit.

And given that I work 80 hour weeks, $500 to $1,000 a month by more than reasonable - and I work far more hours than anhyone else. And actually our webmaster earns more than I do most months, and sometimes freelance writers make more than me, too.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #17)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:20 AM

18. And how do interns hope to cover their rent while working for you for free?

 

Tough luck for them, I suppose?

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Response to Zalatix (Reply #18)

Mon May 7, 2012, 12:45 AM

19. These are STUDENTS, not graduates.

Some are living in dorms. Some have support form parents. Some have scholarships. Some work a part-time job for pay while also interning and taking classes. This is No different from any other for-credit class they take. They don't get paid for taking other classes. Why do you think they should be paid for a for-credit internship? That's an unreasonable demand.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #19)

Mon May 7, 2012, 12:52 AM

20. So if all your interns are students then why are you even complaining?

 

If the situation in the OP doesn't match what's going on in your workplace then what's the problem?

The problem pointed out in the OP is that regular folks in the workplace are being diverted into unpaid internships, and that unpaid internships are rapidly spreading to the point of replacing paid labor.

It's like talking about abolishing shoplifting and someone jumping up and crying offense because they never shoplift. WTF.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 02:55 AM

4. K&R

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 05:51 PM

9. In my biz, its now become more common for interns ("working students") to PAY to intern!

That's right, no more free exchange of labor for training - nope, more and more people are being required to PAY for the "privilege" of being a working student. (This is the horse business if anyone's wondering)

Beyond fucked up if you ask me.

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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 03:16 AM

15. I started noticing that a while back. Also for "volunteers" on overseas missions (religious, eco-

 

logical, charitable, whatever) to pay (through the nose) for the privilege.

It used to be if you volunteered for that type of thing you'd at least get free room and board. Not so much today. Must be a lot of people with time & cash to burn.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:01 PM

10. Why pay for something you can get for free?

As long as there are people willing to work for nothing or to pay for the privilege of working for free, of course some "employers" will step up and take advantage of them.

It has a cascading effect too, for the true "paid employees" of those venues, because if they truly do mentor and train their unpaid "helpers", sooner or later their own worth may become an issue. Why pay higher wages and give benefits to someone who has a younger/cheaper/more eager protégé just itching to step into that spot?


Mentoring/interning works when there is an expanding job market, and companies want to get the best & brightest, already trained & ready to go, as jobs open up. When they are just using these young people as free labor in a tight job market, it's a nasty thing to do. It "tells" paid-workers "You better not ask for vacation time, raises, benefits, or you might be out of a job", and it misleads young eager people into thinking that if they work hard enough/long enough, they will soon be a "real" employee.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:09 PM

11. "Girls" the new series on HBO and it's on tonight,

kicked off the series with a story about Hannah whose parents tell her they can't afford to support her anymore while she works at an unpaid internship that she has been at for two years. She decides that she has worked there long enough to get a real job with the company and a salary. When she brings it up to the boss, he fires her. So it creates a new problem for her of being fired from an unpaid job. How does that look on her resume?

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 06:29 PM

13. Sounds like a great deal for graduates trying to pay off those student loans

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