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Regulators Investigating Unpaid Internships

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the slave-by-any-other-name dept.

Government 182

theodp writes "With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor. Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California, and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. 'If you're a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,' said the acting director of the US Deptartment of Labor's wage and hour division."

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Internships should always be paid (4, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717640)

I believe that internships are important. I was an intern at SGI back in the late '90s, and I still frequently think back to the things I learned working there and applying those lessons to my current career.

That established, I can also say without hesitation that tech internships aren't like apprenticeships -- you're generally not learning the skills you need to do a given job, but rather applying the skills you've already amassed.

Really, the benefit of internships is twofold: You learn how to operate in an environment where you're not simply taking instructions (like you would working a job at Subway or mowing lawns or answering support calls, the typical menial jobs you can get before college) but rather participating in the job and dealing with peers, managers, HR twits, etc. Second, and related to this, you're doing it to get it on your resume, proving that you've already been through the learning curve.

So getting back to my initial point, while an intern obviously may not be as effective as a 'regular' employee, interns are still generally 'earning their keep' from Day 1 by producing value for the company.

A critical part of any internship, then, ought to be learning to value your skills, to get an idea of what your services are worth. And unpaid internship, while still better than nothing, skips this lesson, and it really is a key one -- I know people who are 15 years into their career and still unable to realize they're wasting their time in a given position or with a particular employer.

Re:Internships should always be paid (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717704)

Yeah.... a minimum wage of $7.50/hr or whatever California charges these days should not be a big deal for a software-related company, especially next to what they have to pay full-time employees. Heck, IBM was paying me $18.75/hr for an internship right after my sophomore year of college.

Re:Internships should always be paid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718322)

I'm a current Canadian student, in a co-op program. (4 month workterms, and you do 6 of them). I'm a huge believer in internship programs, and believe I have learned a lot from them. I also firmly believe they should be paid, and I think many of the better companies know this. I'll be getting ~$40/hr (USD, I'm working in the states) at my internship over the summer.

I do know people in my program who have taken meaningless low-pay jobs doing helpdesk or equivalent, and I think it's a waste on their part.

Good internships are out there, and the companies offering good experience will offer enough compensation that you will want to go back.

Re:Internships should always be paid (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717716)

This was your post:

Subject: Opinion in support of something

Body: Blah blah blah

Re:Internships should always be paid (1)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717852)

I went to a local vocational school and did some unpaid internships. These where part of the class time and only lasted one or two days at a time. If your working for more then a few weeks or not through a school of some sort, then yea, that should be paid.

Re:Internships should always be paid (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717962)

If your working, then yea, that should be paid.

Fixed that for you.

Re:If your working, then yea, that should be paid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718080)

If you're working, then yes, that work should be paid.

Fixed that for you.

Re:If your working, then yea, that should be paid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718356)

If you're working, then yes, that work should be paid for.

Fixed that for you.

And for you, as well ;)

Re:Internships should always be paid (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718176)

From these three sentences, I can see why you were unpaid.

Interns, by definition, don't produce value (5, Informative)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717900)

Read the article. I understand -- and my experience was -- that interns as currently used are basically workers in all but name.

However, the federal definition of an intern is that they DON'T produce value for a company. "Internships" are basically supposed to be charitable positions. Companies are supposed to be able to provide in detail the learning program of the interns they are supposed to be TEACHING, not exploiting. The company is expected to LOSE money on an internship, hence the tax breaks they're given.

The facy that most companies work interns like employees is basically half a step up from child labor, akin to a high school teacher who sleeps with one of their students the day she turns 18. Even if you manage to skirt the rules -- which really you don't -- it's still pretty repugnant.

Re:Internships should always be paid (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717958)

I'm pretty sure the problem companies are largely outside of the technology sector.

Re:Internships should always be paid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718454)

Uh no. Interns are NET LOSERS for the company. Always have been, always will. They barely become useful, in a net sense, by the time they leave.

It is in AN INVESTMENT we make, to create more useful folks for us (and others) later.

Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717652)

I don't see this too much in the tech industry, but I saw a lot of it going on in the entertainment industry. Los Angeles is a really creepy city that exploits innocent and not-so-wise young people who want to make it big. This is going to hit that city like a brick in the face.

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717672)

they'll probably make a movie about it.

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718890)

and hire a bunch of interns to play the part.

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (5, Interesting)

QRDeNameland (873957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717948)

I don't see this too much in the tech industry, but I saw a lot of it going on in the entertainment industry. Los Angeles is a really creepy city that exploits innocent and not-so-wise young people who want to make it big. This is going to hit that city like a brick in the face.

Most "normal" industries/professions like tech have paid internships to perform good functions (at least on paper) for that business, to develop a future labor pool while giving an employer cheap yet motivated temporary help.

It is generally "elitist professions" like government/politics and media where the *unpaid* internships are prevalent, and they are definitely a "paying your dues" process. And as is touched on briefly in the article, this system gives the wealthier kids a distinct edge in these fields, as they are far more likely to be in a position to be able to afford working for no pay.

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718920)

It is generally "elitist professions" like government/politics and media where the *unpaid* internships are prevalent, and they are definitely a "paying your dues" process. And as is touched on briefly in the article, this system gives the wealthier kids a distinct edge in these fields, as they are far more likely to be in a position to be able to afford working for no pay.

How much of it is due to the fact that tech builds an innate hierarchy ordered by skill level, while some other professions only have social means to establish order?

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (4, Insightful)

musicalmicah (1532521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718212)

This is going to hit that city like a brick in the face.

I don't think it will. These interns are hard to find by regulators, and when you do find them, they generally don't want to step on any toes. In my experience, interns that are willing to stick up for themselves leave within the first few days. The ones that get suckered into doing menial labor for a year tend to avoid badmouthing their first "employer."

Re:Los Angeles and its entertainment industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718530)

I don't see this too much in the tech industry, but I saw a lot of it going on in the entertainment industry. Los Angeles is a really creepy city that exploits innocent and not-so-wise young people who want to make it big. This is going to hit that city like a brick in the face.

No big surprise. Look at who's running the entertainment industry. [latimes.com]

*never* understood this practice (4, Insightful)

mgkimsal2 (200677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717664)

Really... never understood it. I get the idea of working 'cheap' to gain experience, and I understand volunteering. I also have offered to work at some places for a short time (week or so) to get a feel for the place. But I've never understood applying to ask to be considered to be approved to then go spend months of my life working for a company which is in the business of making a profit. I guess I never travelled in those sorts of circles where unpaid internships led to high-paying positions of immense money and power, which is why so many people would be lining up to do them.

If anyone would care to engage in some unpaid internships for me, let me know.

Re:*never* understood this practice (5, Insightful)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717724)

Some people even go as far to pay for education. And the best education is on the job training. Not to mention rubbing elbows with other people in the field.

I think it is a horrible practice and that any work needs to be compensated but I at least see the reasoning behind it.

Re:*never* understood this practice (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718940)

The reasoning is simple. If you are working for a for-profit company and you are unpaid, you are meant to receive the following as compensation:

1) experience
2) something of educational value in your field (you usually get college credit based on this assumption)

The company is legally bound to not use you as a replacement for paid labor (goes back to a Supreme Court decision from 1947).

However, all too often all three fail to materialize. You don't get any worthwhile experience since you spend your time doing menial jobs, don't learn anything (unless applying lard to some rails is 'educational'--saw a 'mythern' doing that once on MythBusters), and the company would have had to pay someone else to do what you're doing. (for all I know the mythern was paid, but I bet she wasn't)

Obviously, this doesn't always happen and I know several people from college who got great internships that immediately led to good jobs after college. The problem is all the lousy internships which put interns in very bad spots. If they complain about it, they're afraid they will have trouble getting jobs in the future. If they don't complain, they have very few protections since they aren't considered employees (so they don't get any normal protections other employees get, such as sexual discrimination protections, etc). They also don't gain the experience or education that would truly help them get jobs.

Re:*never* understood this practice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717828)

more than that, you usually have to keep paying your tuition-- so you're basically paying to work for them.

It depends on the field. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718084)

If its a field where you need access to equipment that you would never get to use on your own, internships are great. One example is recording studio internships in the 80s. While computers have made home recording a trivial thing, in the 80s the only way you'd have access to full 24 track studio to learn the equipment was to pay $250+ an hour. Schools that had a similar teaching studio were rare, and even then they doled out their time. Oddly enough while the traditional recording studio is now a rare thing, such internships are just as valuable.

However an internship should always benefit the student more, its purpose is to offer the student opportunities to learn cutting edge skills that cannot be taught in academia. That itself is worth more than any salary. Where else could you get taught for FREE? Hell the University CHARGES you to teach last decades knowledge!

However, any intern that is relegated to doing trivial things like fetching coffee, or simply doing rote work should find another place. If your intern company refuses to teach you, get out and find another. Always go into the internship as if it were a repository of knowledge to be obtained. If you get paid, that's a bonus.

Re:It depends on the field. (1)

Chris Johnson (580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718560)

I would point out that at least in recording studios, you'd better be ready to fetch coffee and get it right- because it's a winnowing-out process that is teaching the studio about you as much as you're learning about the studio.

The studio needs you not to come in there thinking your book learning prepares you for the real job. Hypothetical example- let's say you're tracking heavy guitars. You've experimented, and you discovered that if you swap out the SM57 often used for this for an Audix D6 (a kick drum mic!) you get a way bigger, more metal heavy guitar sound, so you're ready to make your contribution and you put up the D6 instead- and get spanked for it and banished, even though in solo it obviously sounds much bigger. You are sad.

And well you should be- because your 'better sound' isn't going to sit in the mix. It's stomping all over the bass, the top end fights with the vocals, it's throwing the whole balance of attention off and worse, the guitar players for this band aren't so hot and it's the bass and drums that are really going to salvage things, especially the bass which is nailing a deceptively simple part that you wrote off as unimaginative- but which the more experienced guys recognize as the song's basic hook, simple as it is. Your guitar sound's screwing that up completely.

Back to the coffee. If you can't come up with the humility to try and do your best on an apparently menial task such as getting the coffee right- even though it offers no opening for you to show off your skills- what chance do you have of getting a mix right, when most of the 'impressive smart-guy engineer' tricks anybody could offer will not actually serve the song other than as distractions- when you're working with bands which very likely have only one chance in their lives to grab at the chimera of recording industry success? Very often showing YOUR quality will detract from the quality of the final result, if nothing else by distracting.

I honestly think the rules are different for glamour professions (like studio internships!) where there's a long line of would-be superstars trying to get a chance to show their awesome to the world. Hell, the musicians have to pay to gig in some locales. I'm not sure it's the same for software employers- but I am sure the motivation's the same. It's either riches or status, and when it's status ('I work for Google, I'm elite' or whatever) there will be people ready to pay to work at the status job.

And when you have jobs like in the recording studio, where the depth of 'black arts' knowledge can be pretty deep and counterintuitive, especially in mix which is a whole can of worms all its own- there's a relevance to the unpaid coffee-fetcher internship, because it's like boot camp- as long as you haven't figured out how little you really know, you are dragging down the whole enterprise with careers at stake. _Everybody_ is running scared and groping in the dark above a certain success level, because there aren't consistent, predictable metrics for what's going to work... it gets pretty voodoo dance-y after a while.

Just some thoughts from an old slashdotter with studio-owning friends...

Re:It depends on the field. (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718730)

Being good at making and delivering coffee says a lot about how you well you'll do in the future - as an errand boy.

Yes, it's nice to stroke your ego by having a young person act like your slave, but if you think it has some professional purpose you're just lying to yourself.

Truely, the govt. doesn't give a flying fsck (0, Troll)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718128)

The government is pissed only because unpaid internship is a unrealised source of revenue. (No Pay = No Income Tax)

Re:Truely, the govt. doesn't give a flying fsck (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718260)

So what? Often times doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still better than not doing it at all.

Re:Truely, the govt. doesn't give a flying fsck (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718318)

And really if they wanted to nail unpaid internships the first sector they should look at is public schools.

Class discrimination too (4, Insightful)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717682)

Unpaid internships are also an easy wayo make sure that only "the right people" (i.e., people from wealthy families) have a chance to get into certain fields. In some fields, it's hard to get hired without experience, and the only way to get the initial experience is through an internship. But there are a lot of people who can't afford to work without any income, so if only unpaid internships are available, only those lucky enough to have been born into wealth can break into those fields.

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

mjdescy (1765284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717762)

I totally agree. I tried to get internships in film while I was in college, and none of them paid. It would have been impossible for me to live in NYC or LA without income. No wonder so many young directors and producers are the sons or daughters of hugely successful and wealthy ones.

Re:Class discrimination too (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718178)

Maybe it would've helped if you were Jewish.

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718746)

Why, do successful people in the film industry adopt young Jewish students interested in film even if they are christian themselves?

Re:Class discrimination too (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717966)

To a point I agree with you. A wealthy person can easily take an unpaid internship. A wealthy person can also sit around and work at Starbuck's living off their trust fund. Or can just live a modest life off their trust fund without working. Such things do happen.

Sometimes the only way in for a person that was not born into a situation is through an unpaid internship or a low paid contract position, both of which are being limited to corporate abuse. This does not mean that they are useless, or that such deal is bad for a person who is not upper class.

For instance I volunteered my software development services in high school. It gave me experience writing production code, and every week there was a list of bugs and new features. This lead to some low paid positions, which lead to higher paid positions. I would have more money working at fast food, but that would not have taught me the skills I now use. Did I have to give up a lot to make this happen? Sure. Did my family have to sacrifice? Absolutely. I look at kids with thier $400 tennis shoes and their $300 media players and their cars,and know that thye deserve it because they work 30 hours a week after school for it. But what are they learning? To maximize short term profit? That sacrifice is worthless? What ever happened to dream that if we work had and sacrifice now, and get our degrees in math or science or engineering, the world will open up to us in the future. Now it is like if I can't buy my pair of Nikes,or my iPod, or upgrade my hard drive, life just is not worth living.

High School must be longer than I remember (2, Interesting)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718784)

If a high school student can afford all that stuff working 30 hrs/week at minimum wage, they must be spending a lot more years there than I did.

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

maxxxx (1782342) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717998)

It's the same in Congress. Most interns there come from "good" families. Regular people can't afford an internship there (other than the lucky few who get a stipend).

Re:Class discrimination too (2, Informative)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718196)

Some kids take loans out to not work during university. If they *really* wanted to break into the fields you are referring to, couldn't they they just live on loans for another year or two while they acquire the initial experience?

Re:Class discrimination too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718488)

Some kids take loans out to not work during university. If they *really* wanted to break into the fields you are referring to, couldn't they they just live on loans for another year or two while they acquire the initial experience?

Considering the current recession we are going through (which was caused, in part, by society's increasing reliance on credit and the inability to pay it back), would you really encourage living on a loan. Also consider the fact that even if they successfully completed their internship, it is still quite possible that an intern will not be able to find a job in that field that pays well enough to pay back their loans.

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718838)

I get your points - I was just noting that if these kids wanted to make that decision and take the financial plunge that accompanies it, that they could, in theory, do it.

Re:Class discrimination too (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718674)

I've got an even crazier idea - they could work during the day, and take classes at night! If they *really* want to look good to future employers, that's the way to go.

Re:Class discrimination too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718702)

If they *really* want to look good to future employers, that's the way to go.

Who knows, maybe future employers will treat a degree from a *snicker* night school the same way as they would a respectable four year institution.

Myself, I went to a public university and worked two part time jobs to pay for it. I have no life and no social skills, but at least I'm debt free with a degree and a job!

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718824)

It's sometimes possible to get a lot of your course work done at nights at a "respectable" four year school. I found that as I got into the higher level courses though, they were only offered at one time (usually in the early morning or middle afternoon). Thankfully at the time I had a job that allowed me to leave in the middle of the day if I had to make it to class. I think the online schools are more stigmatized. I know that an MBA from U of Phoenix is generally snickered at. ;)

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718216)

During the dot-com bust I actually offered to do x-hours of programming free in a language I wanted to branch into in order to get experience and resume cred in that language. It was unfortunate, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Recessions are just plain ugly. (I wasn't a recent graduate, by the way. And it didn't work out because the project was only a small part in the target language upon further inspection.)

Re:Class discrimination too (-1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718494)

Uh...guy? Yeah, you. If you have trouble "breaking in" to our industry, then you probably shouldn't be there in the first place. These barriers to entry exist for a good reason - to keep out the rednecks and other racists. If you're objecting to this proven system, I can only assume you're one of those Palinite nutbags. So sorry you didn't get that internship you were applying for - but it's all for the best if it keeps out people like you.

Re:Class discrimination too (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718572)

I'm sorry what? The "barrier" is wealth. If you think that's a worthy barrier to keep the plebes down, maybe you should rethink your party affiliation.

Can you read? (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718660)

I can't believe you said that stuff to that guy. All he said was it is easier for the already wealthy to take unpaid internships (which would be true), and those positions make it easier to break into the industry (which is also true). How is that redneck or racist to point out two bits of data?

Don't bother replying, I am guessing such vileness comes from being a chronic drunk, or a dry drunk who is trying to pass for sober.

Your industry (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718802)

You misunderstood. He wasn't trying to break into the assholes industry.

Re:Class discrimination too (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718944)

This was always my problem with the medical field (at least here in Canada). One of the major ways to get into med school is go volunteer for some medical clinic in Kenya. At best you're not working for a summer. At worst you're paying your air fare, and a fee to give you the privilege of "volunteering". I, as someone with no money, could never ever afford to do this.

Dangerous move (-1, Flamebait)

Jeff-reyy (1768222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717688)

The free market's homeostatic mechanisms automatically set the level of these types of practices. I know everyone expects handouts these days, but when you let government start levying fines against competitive companies, you are actually punishing job creation. I can supersize with the liberal sentiment that wants to give everyone a raise but we should fear the day when there are government goons setting limits on my employer's rational self-interest.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717754)

People working for free do not have jobs, therefore they cannot be involved in 'job creation' one way or another.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

HanzoSpam (713251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718266)

They aren't working for "free", they're working for the experience. Very, very few people are actually dumb enough to work for no compensation at all. Not all compensation is necessarily monetary.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718792)

RTFA.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717758)

Nice argument! Unfortunately, it fails because an unpaid internship isn't a job.

Unpaid internships are, in a sense, anti-job creation. Nothing liberal about that - nothing hysterical like 'government goons' about that, either.

You want a healthy economy, you need jobs. Unpaid internships punish job creation. Why would company 'a' hire a person, give them a wage, when company 'b' can get a person to do the same work, for free?

Re:Dangerous move (5, Informative)

rhizome (115711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717964)

You want a healthy economy, you need jobs. Unpaid internships punish job creation. Why would company 'a' hire a person, give them a wage, when company 'b' can get a person to do the same work, for free?

Because in order to be a legally unpaid internship under US labor law there are six criteria that must be met, and the overall cant of the regulations is that legitimate internships actually constitute organizational deadweight.

Here, educate yourself: http://laborlaw.typepad.com/labor_and_employment_law_/2007/11/unpaid-internsh.html [typepad.com]

Re:Dangerous move (2, Insightful)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718090)

You would be right if all companies followed the rules but many do not hence the article.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

HanzoSpam (713251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718236)

So what makes you think if the government makes new rules, companies will follow them?

Re:Dangerous move (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718556)

What makes you think the government is making new rules? They are investigating whether they need to enforce current rules.

Re:Dangerous move (1)

jeckled (1716002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717822)

I'm sorry but that's not really the issue here. They aren't trying to give anyone a raise, they want employers to pay minimum wage to people who work for them. You see, free market systems don't really have a magical hand guiding them to the best possible outcome every time. In this case, companies need a nudge to pay their interns because job markets have made experience more valuable than the degree the students just earned. Otherwise students jump on the opportunity to become near indentured servants, if it means they might get hired on for pay later on.

Re: free market homeostatic mechanisms (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717840)

The free market homeostatic mechanisms exist within a larger system (the liberal democratic state), which elects governments of alternating greater regulatory predilection and lesser regulatory predilection. These back-and-forth moves by the electorate are a feedback control system whose long-term consequence is to find or wander near the average level of regulation of market activity / corporate power etc that the populace wants. Another homeostatic mechanism operating within the larger system and setting bounds on the subsystems, like the free market.

And in case you're going to say the free market should be the ultimate power in society, let me introduce you to my Russian mafia buddies who can talk it over with you. Just nice polite conversation yes?

So now they'll get minimum wage (2, Insightful)

amaiman (103647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717690)

So employers will now apply the obvious solution and pay them exactly the state's minimum wage if they're found to be violating the law with unpaid internships.

Re:So now they'll get minimum wage (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717890)

So employers will now apply the obvious solution and pay them exactly the state's minimum wage if they're found to be violating the law with unpaid internships.

Some will get minimum wage other internships will just be done away with. Minimum wage has helped kill off low paid internships so as they get more experience they get paid more. You have two choices as a business hire someone for free or 10 bucks an hour depending on where you live. If this person knows nothing and needs to gain experience 10 bucks an hour is a lot for someone not putting out anything real for the company. You can't even guarantee that in 6 months, year or two years they are good enough to employ at a proper wage. If there wasn't a min wage for these interns then they could just get stipends and some small wage until they finish gaining experience. When your profits are already down and you can't be sure that the person you hire for 30, 50, 60K can do the job properly, you just won't hire anyone or create that job. You don't have the money to test or train anyone. Granted you can't be guaranteed a job for it to count as an internship by the government's standards, I think this idea is mislead.

Re:So now they'll get minimum wage (2, Insightful)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718208)

Yeah, I'm sure $200 a week is a great hardship for a company. Your "stipend and small wage" would be, what, $100/week? $50? Are you actually serious?

Re:So now they'll get minimum wage (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717986)

Better than getting nothing, and while the perverse incentive is still there, it is reduced.

So this will kill internships at for profits (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717720)

I'm sure the "slavery" will be allowed for the non-profits.

Re:So this will kill internships at for profits (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718018)

You jest but real slavery is a real problem in the US territory of Micronesia.

Jews for Nerds! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717742)

Jews, also known as kikes, hebes, hymies, yids, gold niggers, oven magnets, hook noses, sheenies, swindlers, criminals, "firewood", and Arabs in denial are a subhuman species of reptilian extra-terrestrials and adherents to one of the world's oldest major religions, called "Judaism", otherwise known as "The Worship of Money" or "Eating Arab Babies".

Judaism was the world's first master race theory. The Jew religion teaches that Jews are the Chosen People of God and that there is a sacred mystical quality to Jew DNA. In olden times, Jew prophets would, under the command of YHWH, frequently lead the Jews on genocidal rampages against neighboring populations, and even today Jew leaders often cite Jewish religious ideals to justify their ongoing genocide of sandniggers. Judaism ironically found its mirror-image inversion in the anti-Jew Aryan racialism of the Nazis.
Despite only being 0.22% of the world's population, Jews control 99% of the world's money. Not only do the Jews control the world, but also the media, the banks, the space program, and LiveJournal's porn communities and Gay communities. All Jews possess the following features: an extremely large nose, fake boobs, curly hair that reeks of faggotry, one of those gay hats, a love of coke, a law practice, a roll of money, a small cock, or shitty taste in dental hygiene.

Jews invented both Communism and Capitalism. Karl Marx, of course, was a Jew, which was why he understood money so well, and in fact he was converted to Communism by another Jew, Moses Hess, the actual founder of Zionism, who ghost-wrote Marx's The German Ideology. Capitalism was created when Christian Europeans threw away their morals and decided to embrace Jewish practices like usury (see: John Calvin). Jews were the first group to create a sophisticated banking system, which they used to fund the Crusades in order to pit Christians and Muslims (both adhering to religions derived from and controlled by Jews) against each other to kill as many people as possible in a macabre human sacrifice to YHWH.

The Jew banking system was based on fraud and lies, so when it inevitably collapsed, the Jews just pwned as many people as possible by unleashing the Black Plague on them. Later, Jews economically controlled medieval Venice (the first modern maritime trade empire), and then crypto-Jewish merchants economically controlled the Spanish Empire, including the slave trade. Openly Jewish bankers orchestrated the Dutch Empire and founded Jew Amsterdam (later Jew York). Later the Dutch Jews moved to London because they thought it would be a better base for a global empire, and actually brought a Dutch nobleman, William III, with them, who they installed in a coup d'état (more like Jew d'état, amirite?) as new King of the British Empire. For hundreds of years, Jewish bankers controlled global trade through their bases in Jew York City and London. European colonialism was, through its history, essentially a plot whereby Jews could gain control of gold and diamond mines in poor countries and increase their stranglehold over the global economy.

Jews also enjoy slicing up baby penises for fun, some even enjoy sucking them. See below.
Jews also created Jew search engine Google, so now they can find all Jew information on Internets.
Some suggest that we should use Jews instead of dogs to sniff out large amounts of concealed cash or anything else worth smuggling at airports due to their sensitive Jew noses. Obviously, this is a horrible idea, because the pay is bad, and the dirty Kikes would probably form a union and demand moar money, thus increasing the burden on taxpayers everywhere.

Re:Jews for Nerds! (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717894)

The key words here being "anonymous coward".

Unpaid internships destroy class mobility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717772)

Again this is more of the lie of the American dream. Class mobility does not exist as long as economic injustice like this can be dealt with. Unpaid internships mean that rich children get yet another free ride while the poor whithers on the vine as their best chances of snuggling up to the nations powerful are dashed via nepotism.

free lunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31717788)

Do California and Oregon governments use unpaid interns for anything? Somewhere like the state house, maybe.

Re:free lunch (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718184)

Traditionally, the way to start a career with a political party was to volunteer to post flyers and do the canvassing, help arrange conferences and other such work. State unions would probably make sure anyone in the public sector was paid something.

Re:free lunch (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718706)

Pages for the legislators' pleasure.

Such "Enforcement" is a joke (5, Interesting)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717806)

Read the article. The companies were fined a small fraction of what the intern's wages would have been. It's as if the penalty for robbing a bank was that you'd have to give back twenty percent of the take, and then, only for the times that you were actually found guilty at trial.

Such "enforcement" is worse than none at all. At least if no company were caught and "punished," there might still be the risk of real penalty in the future. Now, the companies know for a fact that IF they're caught, the penalty will only be a fraction of what they owed anyway.

Imagine if the IRS came to you and said, "If we catch you cheating on your taxes, you can be assured we'll make you pay a fifth of what you owe."

Re:Such "Enforcement" is a joke (2, Insightful)

maxxxx (1782342) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717944)

That's pretty much how most settlements work. Look at the fines companies have to pay to the SEC. They don't admit any wrongdoing and often settle for less than they made through fraud.

Plus (2, Interesting)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717820)

This is a good issue for government to investigate, as obviously interns can't exactly speak out publicly about their lack of pay without suffering a loss of employment.

Also salaried interns means more taxes for government... so there's always that incentive.

Re:Plus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718458)

Why can't they speak out about their lack of pay? What are they going to lose? Their salary?

Do they even get workers comp if they get hurt? (2, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717834)

Do they even get workers comp if they get hurt? or are they not workers and just get pushed to the side?

Re:Do they even get workers comp if they get hurt? (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718012)

In Australia they wouldn't which is one reason unpaid interships for commercial enterprises are illegal.

Unpaid Interns are Worse than Scabs (0)

carlhirsch (87880) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717836)

Unpaid interns are worse than scabs.

They are, however, great examples of the invisible hand in action during a down market.

college sports players are same and need be pay (2, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717862)

college sports players are the same and need to be payed for playing and not taking way crap / no work fake job in the school book store / school library.

Re:college sports players are same and need be pay (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718134)

College sports players do NOT need to be paid. WTF are yo talking about? They PAY to go to college or some scholarship/grant does - you think the college is going to pay them? Hell no! They're playing football in the hopes of making it pro where they will get paid.

Until then, they're at school to learn, not get paid.

Re:college sports players are same and need be pay (3, Informative)

RabidRabb1t (1668946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718138)

College sports players are paid. Many receive free tuition, housing, and food. Some even get stipends for "academics." They get free tutoring that isn't available to the other students.

Re:college sports players are same and need be pay (1)

mano the shark (1641865) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718244)

One could argue that college sport players not getting paid is what makes it great. They are playing sports for an institution that exists for education/training. Fans follow a college team because they are an alumni, from the area, etc and generally don't switch teams every four years because the next Michael Jordan signed with a rival. College sports allow an individual to develop and if they are good enough move to the professional level where they get paid a lot. If there weren't any professional sports then you might have a case.

I'm sure there are examples of sports where college is the best it gets, but the above argument can only be applied to college football and basketball as those are typically the only programs that generate money and paying a salary is viable.

Re:college sports players are same and need be pay (1)

indytx (825419) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718246)

college sports players are the same and need to be paid for playing . . . .

Fixed that for you.

Seriously, how is this the same? College athletes are paid. They're paid with an education, and the cost of that education can be stratospheric. Take Duke, a big time basketball school in the Final Four. Tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses add up to over $53,000 PER YEAR. http://www.admissions.duke.edu/jump/applying/finaid.html [duke.edu] As another example, TCU, a big time football school, has annual costs of over $41,000. http://www.fam.tcu.edu/cost.asp [tcu.edu] How may 18 year old kids are worth $53,000 or $41,000 per year? That's $41,000 or $53,000 worth of education for every player on the team. How is that not enough? Most college athletic departments are in the red and don't pay for themselves. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2010-04-01-coaches-salaries-cover_N.htm [usatoday.com]

College players get to go to school and don't have to pay for it. Most families can't afford to send their children to a college like Duke or TCU. Maybe the college athlete wins the sports lottery and gets drafted, or maybe he just gets a great education that opens a lot of doors. Either way, college athletes have nothing in common with interns who get paid NOTHING and get NOTHING in return for their time. No salary, no TUITION, no ROOM AND BOARD. Nothing.

Glad to. (4, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717926)

Back when I was trying to get my first programming job, I'd have been glad to take an unpaid internship to get the experience needed for my resume to get looked at.

After a year and a half of having no job (okay, towards the end I was forced to take a job at a grocery store to pay the bills) I would have done just about anything to get a good job. I couldn't find any companies willing to take an intern or minimum wage employee to that experience. I finally landed an interview for a job that was way over my head and got the job. Luckily, I learn quickly.

As for companies abusing it... The topic of this article is why they wouldn't take interns. They said they were afraid of this very thing. Companies are in a bad position with interns. They can't use them to make money, yet they suck money from the company while the company trains them. Why the hell would a company do that?

I'd even take it a step further: If the intern isn't making the company any money, they aren't doing anything worthwhile... And if they aren't doing anything worthwhile, they aren't learning anything. Which defeats the entire point of being an intern in the first place.

Re:Glad to. (4, Interesting)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718174)

Why would a company hire a paid intern? Just look at the complaints from hiring managers about the lack of qualified/skilled applicants. Typically an internship pays much less than the kind of position the person's interning for. By taking on the intern the company gets some work for much less than they'd otherwise have to pay, they get to find out whether this person's a good fit, and they provide the training they feel applicants would need for that kind of position. At the end they potentially have a trained candidate ready for a job, without having to go through the expense they'd have to to hire a regular employee and possibly have them not work out. And even if the intern doesn't work out for them, someone who interned at another company may show up with the training and experience needed for a position the company's hiring for, see the aforementioned complaints about lack of qualified candidates.

Of course the companies would like to get all the benefits of having trained, qualified people on tap without having to do anything to get them. To me, though, that's like the times I hear executives going on about how they need to charge their customers as much as possible while keeping costs to a minimum, and then they turn around and complain about how their suppliers are trying to charge as much as possible while delivering goods that barely meet the minimum standards and having poor customer service. They simply don't get the connection.

Re:Glad to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718588)

I was glad to. I didnt have any work experience and wanted to work for a small company doing programming. They couldnt afford to hire me as they were just scraping by. I worked for them for about six months in exchange for some odds and ends like a small computer and some software. The owners were a guy with a doctorate in computer science and his brother, the princeton class valedictorian in finance. I did my programming work, went out for the lunch orders, vacuumed the floors, cleaned up the stock room, ran the cash register...whatever I could do to make myself useful.

After a bit they had more money to work with and started paying me and I worked there a couple more years. By the time I moved on, I'd learned an awful lot. Gave me a huge leg up in experience and knowledge that I just couldnt have gotten any other way.

While this approach is obviously quite subjective, I do recommend that young people with little work experience find ways to latch onto and learn from people with a lot of knowledge and experience and learn what they can from them while doing whatever it is they can to make themselves useful enough to keep around, even if there isnt a salary or a minimal salary involved.

This was one area I didnt need government protection to help me with...

Re:Glad to. (1)

Yold (473518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718596)

Initially an intern may cost the company money, but by the end of their internship they are probably making the company money. Interns do not get health insurance, 401K benefits, and are paid .3 to .5 of what a full-time employee is making. Some studies place estimates of bad-hires at 2x-3x their annual salary; so it also is a good way of recruiting new employees.

I may have been in a different position than you, but there is no way in hell I would take an unpaid software development internship. If a company doesn't think that your time is worth anything then what value could the experience possibly have? You would be better off working on your own programming projects; you'd probably learn a lot more because you wouldn't be confined to unpaid intern bitch-work.

Re:Glad to. (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718598)

Saying that an intern doesn't make the company money, so they shouldn't be paid, is like saying "I'm hiring a Maid, but since they're not going to make my house a profit, I won't pay them."

Interns often provide valuable services (running errands, doing menial tasks) which in the end DO lead to profit, even if they themselves don't directly rake in the big bucks for you. The interns also get training and experience with your company while working the internship, lessening future training costs and acclimation times when/if you hire them outside of the internship. This should be especially true for software companies, where it often takes people working with the code a good period of time to get up to speed with the layout and formatting of the existing code base.

I think it should be quite clear to all but the most corrupt people that working for no pay, while in the employ of a company that generates Millions if not Billions of dollars of profit, is not acceptable.

Harmful competition (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717980)

This is a great example of harmful competition in market systems. Apprenticeships of various kinds are traditional and important, but when they fail to pay at least a living wage (be it medical or tech internships), they're unhealthy for society and often unhealthy for those involved. People who would enter such fields are at a huge disadvantage should they refuse to shoulder more debt to reach a nicely employable state, while the status quo is quite nice for those who don't need to pay a living wage.

The role of the state is to serve the public good, and one way it should exercise that role is to act as a tool for collective bargaining with other entities (states, companies, etc). We should decide that as a society we won't do business (revoke charters, disallow employment, effectively negotiating an end to their ability to work in our country) with companies that have such practices, and force a shift in how business is done.

Re:Harmful competition (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718834)

Um, excuse me, but the role of the state is to fund a ridiculous overkill military, and to protect the wealthy from the poor (using that military if necessary). Also it is to get out of the way of businesses because they are inherently good and nothing they do could therefore be wrong.

I always got paid internships (1)

Luke has no name (1423139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31717984)

I go to Texas Tech; most of the employers at the job fair there do paid internships. Both the IT internships I've gotten were excellent pay, excellent experience.

Unpaid internships are for when you don't have time to look up a well-paying one, or it's a company that's so badass you're willing to do free work.

Re:I always got paid internships (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718448)

When I went to TTU internships were for doctors. The rest of the world hired you or they didn't. If a company couldn't afford to hire you why would you want to work for them?

Re:I always got paid internships (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718862)

http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/pm160/ [epi.org]
Internships—the vast majority of which are unpaid—have become a staple of the college experience. In 1992, only 9% of graduating college students had participated in internships; by 2006 that figure increased nine-fold to 83% (Ortner 1997/1998; NACE 2008), representing at least 2.5 million student workers each year

People are desperate, and companies know they can do this. Note that that 83% figure is for 2006. If it isn't close to 100 percent now I'd be shocked.

Another Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718098)

This is another example where free market capitalism is being regulated by the government. The very junior employees get worked and yelled at for zero wages and zero experience. They might be looking for specific experience, but why risk company profits on someone so junior, so you hand them a mop. They can get experience by watching other people work and learn from the experience. They also learn about mops and when/if an opportunity opens up, they might have a chance (although to be fair, anyone seeing them operate a mop won't likely every hire them to sell stocks or bonds). Its free, fair-market capitalism at its finest. Why shouldn't an employer expect work for free? Make employees earn their way to a wage. If the employer can get the employee to work for free for 5 or 10 years, so much the better for the employer. For the employee it kinda sucks (its kinda like being a slave) and there is no guarantee that you will even get a job even if you work for free for years, but thats capitalism for you. If the government gets really nasty about it, perhaps they can offer the interns a few dollars per hour on a contract (that way you get around the silly minimum wage laws). $30 per week should be enough for any intern. Show up on time at 6:00 Am sharp, work till 5:30 Pm with a full 30 minutes for lunch 6 days per week. If you didn't have a firm understanding about how capitalism and free market works before you started, you will after they let you go. Oh, and remember, no benefits or holidays --you're just an intern after all.

Never work for free (2, Insightful)

the Dragonweaver (460267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718204)

One of my respected professors told us flat-out that if you can get paid for work, you should— applying for internships is very counter-productive. I can see the value in certain limited fields (such as animation, mentioned in the article) if they follow the specific rules laid out for under-paid or unpaid interns, but there is absolutely no reason it should spread to the general business community. And if students become convinced that internships are necessary, well, there's a cost savings for the employer with very little benefit to the worker.

My first post-college job was a real job, and I'd had no internship experience prior to that, only good letters of reference from my professors and perhaps a dash of desperation on the part of my employer. But I'd rather work fast food than be an unpaid flunky for a job that didn't really need more than some basic training, which many of these things do. Internships should be left to those fields that demand a high level of immediate competence and inside knowledge, and the rest should be left to legitimate on-the-job training.

Re:Never work for free (1)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718896)

I can see the value in certain limited fields (such as animation, mentioned in the article) if they follow the specific rules laid out for under-paid or unpaid interns, but there is absolutely no reason it should spread to the general business community.

You're making a moral argument and attempting to apply it to amoral entities. The reason for it to spread to the general business community is that it saves them money. That is the only reason there needs to be for it to happen.

where there is Smoke There's Fire (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718312)

Boeing maybe an example of what good an Internship Programs should be like. I find their generosity to let those in college have a chance to participate in what Corporate Earth considers to be opportunities of specialized fields. These multinational corporations let students see first hand all they can be. Bravo Boeing, Bravo.

The highest form of Job Searching (1)

siphonophore (158996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31718508)

I was out of work for nearly all of 2009, so I spent my days at a floundering start-up with no expectations of a paycheck. They won because I was able to significantly advance their product development and I won because I got the experience and contacts needed for my current job. For my situation, I'm glad there weren't laws on the books preventing me from 'exploiting' myself.

This applies only to for profit companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718878)

If you are government or a non profit you can offer unpaid internships all you wish. It starts from the principal that no one should work for a for profit company for free.
Its also a bit of a fix to social securities problem and would get some small credit towards the persons social security.

My last company hired lots of unpaid interns (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31718904)

My last company got a new manager a while back. He had this "brilliant" idea to hire interns as low wage work. Our security infrastructure was woefully unprepared to handle all of these new people with lower security privileges than a full worker, so the full timers spent most of their time checking in/out the interns code, and walking then through everything by hand. By the time the interns were semi-autonomous, it was time for them to leave. Financial statements showed that we actually lost money on the venture.

So then the manager had the brilliant idea to hire a new wave of interns for free. He figured since we had lost money by paying the interns last time, if we didn't pay them we'd come out ahead. So he went ahead and hired 5 more interns than there were developers (I think it was 12 devs, and 17 interns). This was an unmitigated disaster, because with so many more interns the logistics of managing them all was ridiculously inefficient. And since they were unpaid, all the good interns who knew they were worth money wouldn't take an offer, so we got the bottom of the barrel desperate interns who were even worse than the first batch.

Then on top of that, he flat out said that he wouldn't give the interns any of the "bitchwork" that interns are supposed to do. He was afraid that if we gave them menial tasks, they would get bored and leave since they had no real attachment to the company; so he gave all the bitchwork to the full timers, and the really interesting architectural work to the free interns.

The architects left first. All 4 of them. Then the senior developers left, and finally most of the junior developers (including myself) left. When I left I was one of the only 3 fulltime devs left at the company, and our intern numbers had ballooned to 20. They still maintain a high number of unpaid interns to this day, and I'm frankly amazed how they manage to stay in business. I heard they lost most of their contracts due to the sudden inexplicable shoddiness that appeared in our product. I guess they stay afloat due to the fact that they don't pay salaries anymore.

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