I never questioned the concept of unpaid internships. As a teenager, I thought it was a fair assumption that I didn’t have that much to bring to the table at a company, and the experience I gained was a fair exchange for my labor. I changed my mind when I got to college. I just paid over fifty thousand dollars for a year of education that has zero marketable value? I started to rethink the validity of working for now pay. This blog post, http://qz.com/123717/why-i-sued-hollywood-on-behalf-of-unpaid-interns-everywhere/, confirmed my feelings.
At an unpaid internship, in exchange for my work the company would essentially do nothing more than put up with my presence. In the eyes of Milton Friedman, this is a great thing. Not paying interns will cut labor costs that decrease profit for shareholders. But the consequence of serving shareholders is an entire other group of people (the lowly college interns) that have been coerced into a system that treats them as disposable resource with zero exchange value. We have labor laws in this country so HOW IS THAT LEGAL?
It is legal because, according to the US Department of Labor, an unpaid internship is a legal business transaction if it meets the following criteria:
1.The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2.The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4.The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5.The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6.The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship. (http://www.unpaidinternslawsuit.com/documents/whdfs71.pdf
This vague criteria leaves much room for interpretation and exploitation of laborers, but does provide benefits to employers. Additionally, one can argue as Milton Friedman would, that no person in forced to work an unpaid internship. I disagree. A college student that has a degree but no paid job options can either take an unpaid job in hopes of being salaried in the future or not have a career at all. What kind of choice is that?
The blog author, Eric Glatt, outlined his own unpaid internship saga that led to a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. He had skills that he told were unmarketable (which made him question why he had paid for his education if it had no value in the capitalist market), so he found an unpaid internship because the company had a steady demand for his skills.
Although the court sided with Mr. Glatt (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/business/judge-rules-for-interns-who-sued-fox-searchlight.html) and more intern lawsuits have occurred, there seems to be no comprehensive change in the quality and availability of unpaid internships so far.