This blog is in response to the article "Interns: Don't bother uniting, you have no chains to lose" that appeared in Vice magazine.
Writing in Vice this week you say that young people sometimes talk ‘steaming crap’ when it comes to the issue of unpaid internships. I’ll take that bet, and double it (on you).
What about the Sun intern who was asked to pose naked in a recreation of the Prince Harry pics. In the words of the Northern Echo:
“But spare a thought for 21-year-old Sophie Henderson who also poses naked in the Sun story, playing the role of Prince Harry's female friend in the strip billiards match.
The Sun describes her as an "intern" - in other words, she's on work experience - and is reported to have been happy to strip.
Fair enough but imagine her dilemma. She's desperate for a job, they're as rare as hen's teeth, and this is her big chance to make an impression. If she's asked if she's prepared to do it, what's she going to say?”
Brendan, you say that the term ‘intern’ is not understood by these ‘naïve whelps’. I beg to differ you ahem, whelp, the term intern does not have a legal definition (which in my view is the root of the problem). Also stop calling it a ‘workingman’s wage’, you sexist.*
You also refer to internships on the set of Black Swan at 20th Century Fox. I only wish the average internship was so glamorous! Over here, they consist mainly of HR, admin and copywriting. You’d be extremely lucky to get a qualification out of it.
You misconstrue the issue. I’m not actually of the view that apprentices should get the same wage as workers, they’re in training after all. But unpaid internships are so rarely anything close to training. In days of yore they offered something new and exciting, the chance to write for a newspaper, or the one I did which was transcripting some stuff for newsnight. To be frank I didn’t mind not getting paid. But I had that luxury at the end of my first year of uni, with parents who lived just outside London (Surrey darling, to be precise).
Sadly internships these days are not so cosy. As a fashion student told me just last week, you cannot make it in the fashion industry without spending months packing clothes for a big fashion house. Hardly the uplifting experience you would imagine.
You make another mistake, in I have to say a rather crass tone; interns you say, can ‘STOP WORKING AT ANY F**KING TIME THEY CHOOSE.’ Not true, because what we are campaigning for with the TUC, graduate fog, internaware and others, are for those that do indeed have a contract of work, set hours, set tasks. Why else would jobs that were paid, now being advertised as unpaid internships? It’s happening all the time. A loophole in employment law that gets free labour for jobs that are fundamental to an organisation, and thus should be paid.
You really need to bore off Brendan. Our campaign isn’t targeting the charitable sector or your beloved thrifty ‘Spiked’ magazine, it’s targeting some of the most profitable companies in the world, and at this point in time the fashion industry. In your defense your interns at Spiked probably do get a good experience, and can probably come and go as they please.
But most interns cannot. And don’t for one minute suggest that Calvin Klein, Selfridges, FCUK can’t afford to pay their interns; who are neither helping designers err.. design, or even taking Starbucks orders for staff. See here for coverage of our last stunt targeting CK, and contact me for info on our next one targeting the fashion industry on 5th September in a secret London location, you'd be more than welcome!
Simply put, they’re doing the work that someone should be being paid to do, and it’s only because of their brand and because of the nature of their industry that they can exploit young people and labour for free.
And inevitably we just get those with a degree, those who can lean on ‘the bank of Mum and Dad’ and those who have a place to live for free near London, who get to do these interns that you say are already tough to break into. If you think these industries, and more to the point, our society, benefits from white middle-class male (often Oxbridge) graduates taking up every first rung of that career ladder, then again, you need to bore off.
*Intended irony, I don't feel that strongly about it, though I would rather be called a working woman.