No matter how exciting internship opportunities are for many students, internships, if unpaid, are sneaky.
Carlos Marc Vera, a student at American University and unpaid intern at the White House, European Parliament and House of Representatives, also had to work as a waiter to support himself, CNBC reports.
“Coming from a working-class background, I couldn’t ask my parents for money. So what I did was I was interned about 30 hours a week. I would take a side job, work 20 hours, then take six classes when I was 17, ”Vera said.
As more and more students participate in internships, from 17% in 1992 to 75% this year, more and more students are opposed to unpaid internships, which are now inevitable to obtain a job. use.
In many cases, employers call this exploitation a good opportunity for young, inexperienced students. As unfair as it sounds, unpaid internships are completely legal.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 “establishes minimum wages, overtime, record keeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments,” according to the US Department of Justice. Job.
Although the law requires employers to pay their employees, the 1947 Supreme Court case, Walling v Portland Terminal Company, ruled in a way that allows interns not to be paid.
In Walling v. Portland Terminal Company, the Portland Terminal Company gave future brakemen training courses that lasted seven or eight days. Unpaid interns sued the company, but the courts decision justified that they were not paid.
To date, many employers are not found guilty of not paying interns.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also made matters worse.
“During recessions or this pandemic, the trend that we find, which started in 2008, was that you started to see less paid internships, more unpaid internships, and then employers replacing basic jobs with non-paid internships. paid, ”according to Vera, who is also a co-founder of a nonprofit called Pay Our Interns.
More deeply, unpaid internships are a sign of inequality. As children of the poor, especially those in underserved communities, cannot afford to take unpaid positions that offer experience and bond, they are deprived of many opportunities.
“Young workers with no money in the bank had to make a difficult choice: an unpaid internship and the relationships it established, or paid hourly work to help pay for rent, school fees or textbooks,” said the Daily News. .
Recently, congressional leaders, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, signed a letter demanding that the Department of Labor enact more reporting requirements for unpaid internships.
Lawmakers also want “an awareness campaign on the rights of interns,” as Insider reports.
Although more and more people now realize the importance of paying interns, more action is needed.
Contributions from interns should not be sold short because of their inexperience.