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article imageOp-Ed: Unpaid internships are a labor rip-off, costing jobs in U.S.

By Paul Wallis     Feb 6, 2012 in Business
Sydney - Hundreds of thousands of Americans sign up regularly for unpaid internships which many experts say really should be salaried jobs. Some of these internships are based on “experience” for entry-level people. Like hell.
The New York Times Media Decoder, giving background to a class action on behalf of interns:
Employment experts say a growing number of young people, hundreds of thousands of them, do unpaid internships each year as they seek to get a foot in the door and gain work experience. But some interns and labor advocates assert that many employers are taking advantage of these interns — and violating Labor Department rules in the process — by using the interns essentially to do the jobs of other workers and not providing a bona fide educational experience.
That barely scratches the surface. “Educational” can include:
1. Being taken on as an intern and not being given any worthwhile work to do
2. That healthy, sane, disease-free office environment with time serving gargoyles and related rituals, great for any kid
3. Providing work value for no returns, while giving the “employer” valuable products
4. Loading more work on the intern than on the “staff”
5. A reference from what might as well be a corn flakes packet, as far as real employers know, and in some cases is equally valuable
6. Education considerably less useful than LEGO, Monopoly or Tiddly Winks
7. The usual risks of being in the same building with stir crazy lunatics
Then, of course, there’s the other big plus- Keeping people out of work, which in turn reduces the demand for workers across the entire economy. Every ten paying jobs create a job. Unpaid jobs can't create jobs. If you were looking for a way to stagnate the entire nation from top to bottom, this would be it. Even American slave labor wages, ridiculous as they are even by last century’s standards, drive Main Street.
I was working on sites advising people enjoying the wonders of the US intern market for years, pre and post-crash. Interns would complain about their employers, about the lack of cooperation they got, about lack of help from co-workers, and about the usual abuses of the workplace- without even getting paid. Worries about the value of their internships were also naturally very obvious. The only advice possible was "Get the hell out, ASAP, and find a real internship".
Descriptions of employers ranged from the usual rabid, screeching and drooling maniacs to those enchanting, silent non-entities who make life a misery for everyone they meet with a combination of sheer incompetence and malice.
The abuse of internships is obviously quite deliberate and systematic. Guess where the money goes? No, you don’t need to. It’s a very basic, all-purpose way of putting money into pockets. Hey, we saved on the payroll! Let’s give ourselves a raise for doing it!
You don’t even need a brain to rip off interns. These chimps get the idea of unpaid interns from their little friends who are so clever they can even explain to employers how to eat a hamburger while sitting in a chair. Like every other abuse, misery and injustice in the workplace, it’s spread through the grapevine of sleazebags.
If you’re a subhuman, underachieving third rate pile of inferior crap, you can hire an unpaid intern and you’d be unlucky to be caught by any laws. If the Dept. of Labor does do anything about it, it’ll take years, and of course the employers will get years of free work in the meanwhile, then move on to some other scam.
If Congress wasn’t a total failure as an organization, a Federal law requiring all interns to be paid and certification of internship credentials by academic institutions to be mandatory could be drafted and passed in a month. The GOP is so scared of offending its corporate employer donors that it’s out of the question that this Congress could do anything. Whether the Democrats are willing and able to actually do anything before hell freezes over a few more times is also debatable.
The next generation of workers needs to be multi-skilled, experienced and able to handle a workplace which is changing by the second. Wasting their time is not a good idea- the sooner they start replacing the senile, delusional old fools in US boardrooms and political office, the better. Sabotaging their job opportunities with useless internships is unforgivable. It’s also likely to be one of the most damaging things ever to happen to any American generation, wars included.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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