Doree Shafrir is an executive editor at Buzzfeed who’s hired and managed her fair share of millennials. Her piece, “Can the Intern Hamster Wheel Be Stopped?” takes a hard look at the troubling trend of ‘do a dozen unpaid internships everywhere but then never find a job in the creative industry to which you just devoted your early 20s.’ It is nice to hear discussion about what can be done from people who have the power to do something about it.
This weekend, Melissa Schorr looked at some of the litigation that has been occurring against companies by unpaid interns, how some unpaid internships are disappearing (Conde Nast shuttered its internship program for 2014), and how colleges have remained conspicuously silent about the matter (companies feel better about offering no compensation if they think interns will get college credit they can actually use towards graduating).
Happy Holidays to family, friends, Missed Connections and temp agency administrators.
I thought I was morally opposed to the practice of having rich young post-teens move to New York for the summer and work for magazines for free, but after hearing these former unpaid interns complain about their experiences in this New York Post article? Well I still agree that unpaid internships are exploitative, but also I kind of want one of these brats to go pick up my dry-cleaning.
According to this revelatory (to me) opinion piece by Peter Sterne in the Columbia Spectator, that college credit ain’t worth much. Just a way to let employers hire you for free, really:
“If you’re a Columbia student and you do an internship, Columbia will give you “college credit” for it. This credit, known as “R-credit,” has little in common with the credits you’ll get for passing classes. It appears on your transcript, but it doesn’t actually count toward your degree. It’s basically meaningless.
To receive this credit, all you need to is fill out a simple form, get your internship supervisor to sign it, and submit it to the Center for Student Advising. It would be easy to get this credit fraudulently, but who would want to?”
I mean I did of course duh but really, what a guy: “A former hotshot naval aviator and Pentagon hand turned Chinese-speaking foreign-service officer, Ryssdal hit a record-scratch moment when his fellow F.S.O. wife got into business school, taking them from Beijing to Menlo Park. Shelving paperbacks for $7.25 an hour at a local Borders, Ryssdal happened to crack a volume containing listings for radio-journalism internships.” The host of Marketplace was a 34-year-old intern!!!!!! And look at him now!!!!!
Here’s another terrible thing about being an unpaid intern (besides, you know, the whole unpaid part): Since unpaid interns aren’t considered employees, Lihuan Wang cannot bring a sexual harassment claim against her former supervisor under the New York City Human Rights Law. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the New York City Council “has had several opportunities to amend the law to protect unpaid interns but has declined to do so.” Phoenix, the media company Wang worked for as an unpaid intern, says that their New York bureau chief Liu Zhengzhu no longer works for them, but says they never talked to him about any of the allegations.
The U.S. isn’t the only country examining labor issues and dealing with legal problems when it comes to unpaid interns. Interns across the world are fighting for their fair shake when it’s clear that an employer should be paying them for the work that they’re doing, according to the Times.
Last week, a reader asked me if it was okay to bail on Americorps to take “an internship at a publishing firm that I would love to work for full-time.” As it turns out, the reader had already made a decision before reading my response.
CBC News reports that a hotel in Vancouver offered unpaid internships to young people interested in a culinary career. “As a Busperson, you will take pride in the integral role you play in supporting your Food and Beverage Colleagues and ‘setting the stage’ for a truly memorable meal,” the ad read. Um, yeah, sorry but bussing tables and washing dishes is not an internship—it’s unpaid labor.
A 22-year-old unpaid intern in Canada died in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel while driving home after working for 16 hours in a 24-hour time period. His family is now trying to pass new laws that would protect unpaid interns from exploitation. [Thanks to Alison for the story pointer.]