Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not

This is a pretty good article from the Times on the rise of unpaid internships in the workplace, usually by the young and desperate, and how there is a debate going on whether it is legal or not. I have done a lot of personal soul-searching on internships. I realize that for many college students, it can be a foot in the door. In a paralegal program that I took, I was going to take one. However, at the time, I couldn't afford it. At least in the program I took, an internship was treated like a regular course, in which you had to pay tuition (which is nearly $500). I couldn't see how paying to work for someone made much sense, so I took what little I had (this was during the summer) and put it towards a traditional classroom-taught course.

So, I decided to wait until after college to take one. Then, I did some more thinking and saw how ripe this particular field was for exploitation. I am seeking work in the legal industry, which, let's face it, is a largely profit-driven industry. I have serious conflicts with doing work on a case; let's say it's just menial stuff, like making copies, in which the firm I'm interning for is billing their clients around 200 dollars an hour (maybe even more). Anyway, I have significant issues with contributing to that case (or just the office in general) in which so much profit is being made, and not seeing any of it, because I'm an intern, building experience, and I'm just lucky to be there. That is bullshit.

In a way, and maybe I am stretching, this ties into my general contention and mindset that our economy is destroyed. People, who in better times could have written their own ticket, are mired in these situations because they're desperate. Forget about having any kind of social life, or putting food on the table for that matter, you have to spend every waking hour that you're not in class or at a paying job, as a glorified, 21st-century type of indentured servant. A college degree (along with a certification, which I spent another year in school for) is overinflated and is worth less than shit, if you are also expected to take at least one internship. I know that I'm putting my career at great risk by not taking one, but I honestly don't care. I'd just as soon eat the time and resources I spent in class, then take one. Just can't do it.

(You might notice I'm being a bit more candid and no-holds-barred than usual. Maybe that's because I'm reading Jesse Ventura's new book, and I listened to a few of his interviews last night. He's one of my favorite public figures, hands down. He just cuts through the BS in a way that most people just won't, or cannot, do.)

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