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Union for Interns!

June 23, 2013

Something I’ve been saying for the past five years is that we need a union for interns. For most college students, recent graduates, and early career individuals (early/mid 20’s) one of the things we tend to strive on is to obtain an internship.  These opportunities while usually gives you some of the experience that helps towards an individual’s career goals, however often times you do tend to have do things such as make copies, make coffee runs, or stock supplies more than anything else. It’s incredibly rare for interns to ever get paid, and when they do get s stipend of some sort they are often treated more like slaves than anything else. What’s worse is that sometimes interns do the same exact work as employee’s yet are not only treated as lesser individuals but aren’t paid for equal work which I’ve seen happen on a number of occasions. This is the reason I’m glad  that the Black Swan Interns has had the ruling in their favor for equal pay for equal work.

For those who don’t do, the interns that worked on the film “The Black Swan”, not only didn’t get paid for their work but did the same exact work as their employee’s. So two interns who worked for an Oscar-winning film and filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight (the production company of the film) in September 2011, claiming it violated labor laws by not paying them. Finally this month, a judge ruled in favor of the interns, saying that the internship on the set of Black Swan was not educational and merely served the benefit of Fox to have more production crew members providing free labor, therefore they deserved to be paid as regular employee’s.

This ruling could have a major effect on the future of internships. Companies in and outside of the entertainment industry are rethinking their internship programs, along with more interns filing lawsuits to get what they deserve. What I would love to see happen is for an actual internship union to take place, however I know that we are quiet a bit away from that being an actual reality. What I do think is in the nearer future is for all opportunities to be more fair. If they aren’t paid, it’ll be based on where the intern is aiming to get experience as oppose to free labor. While if it is paid, it’ll be for a reasonable amount so their labor isn’t just for the benefit of the company.

When I look back at my intern days (which only ended in January), I think that there was only one internship that I found really helpful in my growth as an artist. All the other internships I found to be closer to be free labor more than anything else. For me it’s even to a point where I don’t even list them as internships on my resume, since more than 3 internships looks really bad according to employers I’ve spoken to, and somewhere inside me, I cringe whenever I hear someone saying that I was an intern somewhere, just because of the way interns are treated. However, now there’s some hope that the future of internships will be much more nurturing both in the growth of the intern along with respect for the intern. Here’s to hoping for a brighter future for college students and early career individuals, and that we work towards that internship union slowly but surely.

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