Last week, I posted about John Stossel urging younger Americans to aim lower in their job searches and, while he was at it, argued for abolishing the minimum wage. A day later, Stossel suggested students do away with pay altogether as he talked up the benefits of unpaid internships which, he told us, teach young people more than colleges do – and are free!
The segment, which apparently aired on Fox Business Network on July 13, 2012, was aired as part of a special on Fox News last weekend. FBN called the segment, The War On Interns which pretty much summed up the slant. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with Fox can guess that the evildoer is the Obama administration which is cracking down on unpaid internships.
While Fox can’t cry enough for doctors’ incomes, apparently many of the rest of us should be glad with whatever we can get, even if that’s nothing. Stossel – who uses interns, himself – said that about half of college students “do some kind of internship” as a way to “build a resume.” He also acknowledged that companies “get some work done cheap.”
But now he sneered that the “Obama Labor Department says (interns) are exploited.” Although Stossel admitted, “I think internships are great,” he conceded that “Lots of people say it’s about time the Labor Departmentt started punishing company that employ unpaid interns.”
Guest Steven Greenhouse, of the New York Times, recently wrote an article exploring how unpaid internships have proliferated in a tough job market for college graduates. Many grads feel they have no better options as they face what Greenhouse called, "the worst job market in decades."
Rather than explore the pluses and minuses from the interns’ point of view – which Greenhouse laid out nicely in his article - Stossel seemed determined to promote interships as great opportunities, regardless of the law. When Greenhouse said he thought it was “a good conservative notion” that “companies should not break the law,” Stossel exclaimed, “They’re dumb rules!” As if that excused everything.
The other guest, Hannah Jackman, places interns in media organizations. So, unlike Greenhouse, she had a vested interest in the subject. “I can’t say enough (about) the advantages and importance of doing these kind of internships, paid or unpaid,” she said. She called internships “incredible opportunities” for networking, learning professionalism and figuring out career paths.
Stossel then turned to a videotaped interview with Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who was shocked to find out it’s against the law to use any of the hordes begging him to be unpaid interns for some “projects” he had in mind. “It’s just absolutely ridiculous,” he told Stossel.
Stossel, of course, agreed. “These are kids who might have invented something cool. They don’t get the opportunity!”
Greenhouse noted that a billionaire like Cuban “might have a few extra cents to pay his interns.” He added, “They could still be as creative and inventive and go on to exercise great things.”
Stossel had no answer other than to say, “These kids want to work for nothing, for the experience!”
Stossel had a studio audience of unpaid interns - some of whom worked at Fox News - who all seemed to think they had a great deal. Or at least that’s what they indicated on camera. There were no individual interviews to determine what they actually did or whether they were exploited or abused in any way.
Instead, Stossel went on to suggest that an unpaid internship was more valuable than going to college. He said a lot of interns tell him, “’I’m learning much more working for you than I learned in college,’ and they don’t have to pay you anything.”
He said it sounds like “a great deal.”
btw a minimum wage employee qualifies for food stamps, hud housing, and medicare. Keeping the minimum wage so low as to allow workers to live in relative poverty, while allowing employers cheap labor. If the working poor didn’t have these taxpayer supported benefits, they would have no reason to work a job that did not pay enough to live (even badly) on. Through the minimum wage, taxpayers are subsidizing employers both big and small. The minimum wage should be doubled.
Unfortunately, an unpaid internship is NOT indentured servitude. While an indentured servant lived with the person who held his contract, an intern typically doesn’t. The intern is still responsible for his own way—things like food, clothing, shelter, health care* that still require money to cover. If you’re not already financially set when you take on an unpaid internship, there’s no reason for you to take one (granted, without knowing specific details about any unpaid internship, a business that has an on-site cafeteria or food service might include one or two meals as part of the internship and a really savvy intern might be able to wrangle some extra food to take home from work—wherever “home” might be).
Of course, there is always one by-product of an unpaid internship: The potential for extortion and blackmail. (I didn’t say it was legal….) Just imagine an unpaid intern who decides to record one of his bosses’ saying something that wouldn’t play well if it got out to the public. And the potential for a juicy book deal? I can’t imagine how an unpaid intern is going to concern himself with upholding a non-disclosure agreement after his time’s up (especially if he’s got a whole lot of really juicy tidbits).
*With regards to health care, in the olden days of indentured servitude, a servant who was physically unable to do his job because of illness or other physical ailment could simply have those “days off” tacked on to the end of the contract. It was common for female indentureds who found themselves “in the family way” during their time of service to have any time lost due to the pregnancy and resulting childbirth added to the end of their contracts