Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
Good. As I’ve kvetched before, the fact that “internship” in the business world appears to have gone from meaning “a paid apprenticeship to learn professional skills” to “Unpaid schmuck kid doing scut work we’d otherwise have to pay someone to do” appalls me. That’s not what internships are for, on either side of the equation.
This would be the point where someone wrings their hands and says that in this economy if there weren’t internships like this, there wouldn’t be internships at all. And this would be the point where I say this is a feature, not a bug, since an internship designed to exploit some kid is worse than no internship, since it doesn’t benefit the kid a damn and companies lose focus of the mission of internships, and instead see them merely as spigots of free labor. Yeah, kill that asap.
This isn’t say every unpaid internship is exploitation; it is to say you’re going to get most of this sort of exploitation in unpaid internships. If we’re about to see this sort of nonsense hacked back, I’m all for that.