Sunday, August 25, 2013

Will Work For Free

Check the New York Times' editorial on unpaid internships.  Legal?  Ethical?  And why are not-for-profits off the hook when it comes to exploiting eager college kids who are convinced their only route to a job after graduation is to spend a summer working for free?

Here's a taste of what the NYT editorial board had to say:
Unpaid internships are, at best, ethically iffy. A necessary precursor to jobs in certain fields, they act as both a gateway and a barrier to entry. Young people believe they have no choice. Anyone unable to forgo pay risks being shut out.
Legally, they’re murky. The Labor Department holds that unpaid internships in the nonprofit sector are “generally permissible,” meaning my stint at The Paris Review, a nonprofit, was probably legitimate. A similar arrangement at a moneymaking outfit wouldn’t pass the department’s six-point test, which says that interns cannot displace regular employees; that the experience must be “for the benefit of the intern”; and that the employer cannot derive an “immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities.
I see this more as more than a labor issue.  The editorial hits (too briefly) on the fact that only a certain class of students can afford to spend the summer (or even the school year) without a paycheck.  If internships truly are the route to a job for college graduates, is this another way we are perpetuating a two-tier system? 

And then there's this: shouldn't those organizations with the noblest of missions -- i.e., non-profits -- do their best to attract a diverse workforce rather than, of necessity, limiting themselves to students of privilege?  Just asking.  bk

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