That's OK, I Am Sure They Are Gaining All the Business Skills They Need in Their Ecuadoran Gender Studies Class

Our government's plan to make sure that all young people are unemployed and have no ability to develop vital job skills continues to proceed:

Unpaid internships have long been a path of opportunity for students and recent grads looking to get a foot in the door in the entertainment, publishing and other prominent industries, even if it takes a generous subsidy from Mom and Dad. But those days of working for free could be numbered after a federal judge in New York ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie "Black Swan."

A few thoughts:

  • It has always amazed me that Progressives, who are the most likely to argue that money isn't everything, simply insist on ignoring non-monetary benefits of jobs.  Jobs offer money, yes, but can also teach vital skills and benefits which can dwarf the monetary component for some.   The skills taught in an internship can be sophisticated -- e.g. how to produce a radio broadcast -- or prosaic -- e.g. how to show up on time and work with others, but they have real value to young people.  I know there are jobs my 19-year-old would take for free to gain experience and/or break into a particular industry.   Jobs can also offer people of all ages intellectual or physical challenges.  I have many people in the 70's who work for me merely to stay active, meet new people, and enjoy the outdoors.
  • There will still be one place to still get unpaid internships -- Congress, since they exempt themselves from these laws.
  • I am always simply amazed at people who accept an employment deal -- in this case exchanging their labor for experience but no money -- and then go to court because the deal was, err, exactly what they were led to expect.  This reminds me of people who buy a home next to the airport because it is cheap and then sue over the noise.


  1. jon:

    Student school teachers will continue to work for free too. At all levels it seems government exempts itself from its own laws.

  2. Morven:

    The good intention, I think, is the objection to barriers to entry for certain careers being erected that seem to be specifically designed to favor the children of the rich.

    I'm not sure that any change to make these require pay is going to make much of a difference there. In many cases, the income vs. the cost of the education required for an entry-level post will already limit them to the children of the rich and those prepared to exist on ramen and sleep on friends' couches.

    And that is because most of these careers are high-status but not very profitable, except in the cases of certain established members at the top of their field.

  3. anonnerz:

    They should've charged the interns $25k for tuition. Called it "filmaking lab" and included the magic phrase "12 credit hours" on the invoice.

  4. Mole1:

    I think you missed the big one:

    The higher the minimum wage, the more you'll see this "problem" with internships.

  5. Andrew_M_Garland:

    You can only charge tuition if the student produces nothing of value during the course, otherwise, someone might make a profit on the work-product, and that would be wrong. (smile)

  6. john mcginnis:

    The problem with internships is the perceived value the intern believes they are getting. Example: An Art History major gets an internship with the SF Gallery. They struggle for 2 years in a high cost area. Said intern now has the expectation that they have a worth to society. Problem is when they go gently into the hiring pool they find that there is no value to their vocation.

  7. jt:

    I have never understood why organizations offering unpaid internships don't just charge a nominal fee, call it service they are selling the non-intern customer, and avoid the whole wage liability issue. If tourists can pay ranchers money to do cattle drives for them with no issue, why can't a movie studio charge $25 a week to provide the "intern experience"? It is not like such a cost would make a huge difference to the person not getting paid in the first place.

  8. lizzle:

    This legislation might be misguided, but it is trying to tackle some important problems.

    The biggest problem with internships is this: there are many internships that only take already qualified applicants and get them to do the work of people who would be employees.

    It is win-win for companies: free labour, no strings attached.

    The interns are getting some experience and contacts, but no real possibility of an entry level job and no real training.

  9. MNHawk:

    "The decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III may lead some
    companies to rethink whether it’s worth the legal risk to hire interns
    to work without pay."

    Or maybe it will teach companies not to hire law student trash, like Eric Glatt.

    Or maybe it will teach companies that doing business in a banana republic, like the United States of America is risky business, just as it is in any other third world country. Ecuador being a good example with it's lawsuit against Chevron.

  10. coregis:

    Too many internships focus on clerical work, getting coffee and other tasks. I have been an intern at a television station, and was deeply involved in the news production process, and actually got a job there after graduation. Conversely, as a graduate student (having worked several years professionally between undergad and grad school), I needed an internship. A statewide trade association for engineers had a position as a legislative intern. After three days of filing legislative bills, I again asked when I would be able to work with the legislative aides; the reply was when there was no more filing needed. I quit immediately (because it was costing me money for the credits), and found another internship. Many other friends have had similar experiences, interns were generally viewed as free clerical assistance.
    When I became a municipal manager, I organized an internship program that focused on specific projects that could create a portfolio for the student to use when applying for jobs. They ranged from photographing and cataloging all of the historic structures within our historic districts, to evaluating participation in the recycling program and making recommendations for improving collection rates to looking at workflow improvements for land development approvals.
    I swore after my bad experience, and my good experience, that an internship would be something that would be worth paying for (thru tuition). While I can understand some people looking at it as a way to develop work habits, an unpaid internship is not necessarily the place for that type of learning, especially with the tremendous cost of tuition.

  11. WesternRover:

    There's nothing new under the sun. O. Henry (died 1910) explored the comic possibilities of a similar scheme in his short story "Binkley's Practical School of Journalism", about a man who has the brilliant idea to charge journalism students tuition to work for his newspaper instead of paying them wages. The result is as painful for Binkley as it is amusing for the reader (the pain is not administered by his interns or by the Dept of Labor, but by the townspeople his students write about).

  12. Scott:

    What? The biggest problem with paid internships is that there are too many people accepting them. How can you just disregard that the intern is making a voluntary choice to take the position? The some experience and contacts are apparently enough to incentivize individuals to accept the responsibilities of an internship without monetary compensation.
    Wealth arrives in many forms. When legislation such as this is enacted, it encroaches upon the freedom of individuals who really like something to have an easier time obtaining the job than people who will only do it for money.
    Let's say I want to own a grocery store when I grow up, but I'm not exactly bright. Matter of fact, I'm dumb as a bag of bricks, and the only way that I ever learn anything is through hands-on experience. I'm so dumb, I can't get a job anywhere. But I go to the next town over and I approach the owner of the grocery store and say "Hi, I want to won a grocery store so bad that I will do whatever you ask me to do for an entire year without getting any money for it." The grocery store owner may not even like me, but he'll let me stack boxes 12 hours a day for the next 12 months. I'm thrilled because I enjoy contributing to the grocery store and I get a good feeling serving customers when they need help. I also learn how the store operates and how to keep customers satisfied. After 12 months of being exploited, I use the knowledge I have gained in my hands-on experience to convince my uncle to give me a loan so I can start my own grocery store. And I build up the business, make loads of money, and find a beautiful spouse and we have children and go on vacation frequently and drink red wine every night.
    Now, in an alternate scenario, where regulations prevent interns from being exploited, I never will get an internship. I will never have a job, and I'll be poor and alone. I'll be homeless and I will lose my mind and end up wandering into the woods and never coming back.
    So, is that what you want? People like me to lose their minds? Because I find that to be truly heartless. I have the right to work for nothing but my happiness.

  13. MingoV:

    Prolonged joblessness starting after high school or college will result in millions of people dependent on the welfare state. This situation is loved by politicians who favor a government-controlled socialist economy. Even better: many of those college grads will have massive student loan debt. Unless they get high paying jobs, they will go bankrupt and also end up dependent on the welfare state. This can go on until the working minority cannot be milked enough to support the non-working majority (eg: Greece).

  14. obloodyhell:

    }}}} This reminds me of people who buy a home next to the airport because it is cheap and then sue over the noise.


    This is the Post Estate, aka "Mar-A-Lago":
    That's "Post" as in "Post cereals". As in Marjorie Merriweather Post. When she passed away in 1973, she left the estate, designed by Joseph Urban, to the U.S. Government as a retreat for Presidents and visiting foreign dignitaries. The Secret Service took one look at it, and decided it was impossible to protect any visitors, much less the PotUS, and declined to use it. The mansion was therefore never used for this purpose, and reverted to the City of Palm Beach. it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. It fell to the City of Palm Beach, who sold it for a song -- it's a big sprawling place and is not cheap to maintain, so you have to be pretty wealthy to maintain it. It was purchased by Donald Trump in 1985.

    This is a map, showing the post estate's location (red dot at red arrow) in Palm Beach.
    Note the airport, and the obvious glide path of planes taking off, which show a preference for east just because it gets them out over the ocean quickly thus bothering the fewest people.

    Now, consider the following --
    This is the Palm Beach County Correctional Facility:

    Note its height, at several stories high, gives it a fairly good view of the surrounding area.

    Now note this map, showing the location of the PBCCF (top red arrow).

    Now, note the location of the Trump Country Club (bottom red arrow).
    Notice how it wraps around the PBCCF.

    What does all this have to do with the above quote? Well, when Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, in 1985, there could be no question where the planes flew. Nor could he himself have missed it if he'd been there for any time even looking over the place, they do make a fair amount of noise. You pretty much get in the habit, if you live to the east of the airport, to cutting off any phone conversations for about 30 seconds while a plane goes over. I know this because I grew up closer to the airport glide path than Mar-A-Lago is. Despite this, Trump sued the county. The county eventually offered him a large plot of county land near the airport at a ridiculous lease price (something like $1 a year for 99 years, IIRC). Trump built a world-class golf course there with dues of "only" $250,000 a year. And, of course, the people in that jail get to look out over that golf course. Methinks someday that's going to backfire on the rich bastards. That it hasn't already is kind of surprising.

  15. slocum:

    This is done commonly -- in collusion with universities. The student pays the school for credits and the business or organization gets free labor without any worry about violating labor laws.

  16. morganovich:

    and the NCAA has a monopoly on that!

  17. Nehemiah:

    Are these interns compelled to work for free and can they just go on to something else that pays? Are they chained to the oars? Shame on anyone who toils without some type of value exchange.

  18. Kenezen:

    I talked with folks who work in International companies that diversified locations in the 70's to other parts of the world. I was curious why many of them had cycled back to the America's recently to areas like Mexico (GM, GE, Goodrich, Honeywell and others). The answers were not surprising but sadly revealing. The two primary answers as to why they hadn't come to the USA were: 1. Taxes 2. Federal Government Agencies EPA, NLRB and others (over 50 that conflict with good business practice). They say manufacturing of goods will not flow here for those reasons. Interestingly wages were fifth on their list and said not to be a major impediment.