By Caitlin Kelly
So, imagine you finally get a shot at the industry/job/company you’ve been dying to work for forever.
Imagine you have even spent the time, energy and hard work to acquire an MBA.
But, hey, sorry, we would love to have you come work for us, but we just don’t have a budget for interns.
A court decision made this week, I hope, will strike fear into the greedheads who keep offering work without payment:
A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that Fox
Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws
by not paying production interns, a case that could upend the long-held
practice of the film industry and other businesses that rely heavily on
Should the government get tough to protect unpaid interns, or are internships a win-win?
In the decision, Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that Fox Searchlight
should have paid two interns on the movie “Black Swan,” because they
were essentially regular employees.
The judge noted that these internships did not foster an educational
environment and that the studio received the benefits of the work. The
case could have broad implications. Young people have flocked to
internships, especially against the backdrop of a weak job market.
Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one
million internships a year, an estimated half of which are unpaid,
according to Intern Bridge, a research firm.
Few things piss me off quite as much as people with money who keep insisting to those without it that they’re broke. Sooooooooory!
In my entire career as a photographer and journalist — including high school when I was paid $100 apiece for three magazine cover photos — I’ve very rarely given my skills unpaid to people who still themselves are collecting paychecks and paying to rent office space and keep their lights on — yet somehow can’t scrape together enough shekels to pay for the hard work of people too young/poor/vulnerable/desperate who are willing or able to work without payment.
The larger issue, equally unfair, is that asking people to work for no money means that only those with money already (parental subsidies, usually) can even afford to take an unpaid internship.
You value their labor or you do not. Every penny you save on their free work is a penny added to your profits.
No one else in this economy gives it away! Not my plumber or electrician or physicians or dentist or massage therapist.
My husband was born into a family with very little money; his father was a Baptist preacher in a small city in New Mexico. He attended university on full scholarship and started working — for pay — right out of college as a news photographer. He would not have had the means to afford to work in his desired field without payment.
He has risen to a terrific job, with a pension, and helped The New York Times win a Pulitzer Prize for their 9/11 photos. What if he’d been shut out from the very start?
I have an assistant, part-time, who helps me with my writing — doing research, setting up interviews and meetings, whatever I need. I pay her. I pay the woman who cleans our apartment. I wouldn’t dare insult either of them by suggesting they work for free, because, “Hey, it’s great experience!”
I don’t make a ton of money, either. But if I want someone to work for/with me, I will pay them. The opportunity cost is another burden every intern faces if they give their time away to a cheapskate when they could be making money in those same uncompensated hours.
In a shitty economy where millions are desperate for work, for a job, referral or credential, I think requiring someone to work without payment is obscene.
Have you done an unpaid internship?
Was it worth it?