Suppose the next time a company wanted to hire you, you came back with a standard deal in business these days. You tell them to go ahead and pay you full-time with benefits for three to six months, while you play around on the beach or golf course, and maybe, somewhere along the way — you’re not saying when or how — if you feel like it’s still a good fit, you’ll go ahead and start showing up for work. What might that company’s managers say? Now reverse the roles and you have the great intern scam. It’s all the rage, even in the White House:
Link — Hundreds of interns have filed lawsuits or raised complaints over working long hours for free. But one group of former interns is sidestepping the courtroom and going straight to the White House to fight for fair compensation. The Fair Pay Campaign, a grassroots lobby set to launch around Labor Day, is calling on President Obama to pay White House interns in order to set an example for other government agencies and private employers.
“We have a minimum wage law in this country, and just because you call someone an intern doesn’t mean you get out of it,” said Mikey Franklin, the leader of Fair Pay’s charge.
Gosh, why pay a wage when you can get the labor for free? The problem of course is most people can’t afford to work for free, unless they have a wealthy spouse or parents who can support them in the meantime. Which means these political internships and the substantial benefits that flow from them are mostly, only available to those who are already fortunate and heavily biased toward young prospects. A similar point could be made for any internship.
The unpaid internship is by no means the only form of this scam. In thousands of companies across the nation, an arguably more insidious version offers a paid internship, paid at your current low salary, while you learn and work the same as an employee who would make substantially more if they had been directly hired for the new job. Companies typically have many desperate overqualified, struggling employees to choose from these days. Often times only one or two lucky interns are chosen for full time work after many put in the time. Often times even those lucky few receive at best a modest raise that falls short of what the same position would demand if a skilled, qualified person had been hired through the usual channels in the first place.
Whether it’s unpaid or low paid, most internships these days have nothing to do with education or community service. In an era of record corporate profits and high unemployment, unpaid labor of any kind is an exploitative, unethical practice, one that is proliferating to help multi-billion dollar companies insure that Bill Lumberg’s stock goes up a quarter point.