THE INTERN ISSUE
“The Revolt of the Unpaid Intern” (January 12) discusses the troubling issues raised when legions of interns work for no wages. But it is not just about the paycheck. Unpaid interns are vulnerable to other workplace abuses, without the benefit of legal protections.
Internships have become an important gateway to some industries, making interns highly dependent on the firms that “hire” them. A boss with that much control can wield an enormous amount of power over someone looking for an occupational foothold. Yet these unpaid workers are left largely unprotected by workplace laws, such as antidiscrimination statutes.
A paid employee who is threatened with job loss for not sleeping with the boss has a sexual harassment case; the unpaid intern in the same situation can be left with little recourse. There has been recent movement to address these disparities. Oregon, for example, has extended discrimination protection to interns. It is long past time for Congress and state legislatures to step up and close these gaps in coverage.
Lisa J. Bernt
Director, Fair Employment Project, Jamaica Plain
While I applaud Melissa Schorr for calling attention to the unpaid intern conundrum, I would encourage her to ratchet back on the hyperbole a bit. Yes, unpaid internships “seem” unfair to the glass-half-empty cynic. But the issue that was pretty much glossed over throughout this article is the fact that most of these students have just the rudimentary knowledge of their hoped-for profession and are looking, first, to test-drive the field to see if it’s really for them and, second, to gain some hands-on experience.
Associate Professor Communication/Public Relations, Curry College
One alternative that this article mentioned as justifying unpaid internships was the fact that in some cases college students can receive school credits for their work. However, college credits cost money, too. Last summer I had the opportunity to work an unpaid internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and receive credit for it at my school, George Washington University. However, I would have had to pay for the summer credits, and my scholarships didn’t cover the expense. I ended up working the internship for neither pay nor credit, and I don’t regret it, because I learned a huge amount (I am lucky enough to have parents who could support me). But paying GWU thousands to let me work somewhere else and then slap it on my resume? Not worth it.
Riiiight. You have the “freedom” of working for no pay. How is it different from indentured servitude if you’re saddled with huge debt and the only way you can break into your field is to work for free?
Posted at bostonglobe.com
Where is freedom in a society that legally prevents you from working for free? The thicket of laws in this country is strangling our common sense. Instead of a judge on a bench, the individual himself or herself is the best judge about whether an internship makes sense.
Posted at bostonglobe.com
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