By Tyler Bauer
I was looking through Twitter yesterday and someone I follow – I won’t name names, because my issue isn’t with that person – retweeted the following tweet.
Naturally, I can’t help but correct the faulty logic in this tweet, breaking it down bit by bit. But first, let’s take a look at the person who tweeted this. The owner of this account is a director/writer. I don’t mean to look down upon the arts, but most artists aren’t exactly rich. Don’t blame business owners for the fact that you didn’t choose an extremely profitable field of work.
“Unpaid internships should be illegal.”
Do you honestly want to throw people in jail for offering first-hand work experience? What you’re proposing is sending the police to the business owner’s house or place of business to escort the business owner – at gunpoint – to a cage. Does this solve any problems? No.
“If you can’t pay an intern a salary, you shouldn’t have an intern.”
Ok, a few things here. First, businesses that cannot afford to pay an intern a salary are the ones that most need an intern’s help. If you were to intern at a business that is barely making ends meet, you can play an important role in that business’s success, which will likely be rewarded with a salary when the business can afford it. Second, what is an intern worth? Interns are often high school and college-aged kids with little to no relevant experience in a field. Is that really worth minimum wage, especially when the minimum wage keeps rising? (As an aside, if you want to get rid of unpaid internships, get rid of the minimum wage. Sure, you won’t make $7.25/hour or whatever minimum wage is, but making $3/hour is better than making $0/hour. If you have no relevant work experience, you probably aren’t worth minimum wage.) Third, internships are the best way to gain valuable skills and knowledge. A medical student can learn much more from observing a surgery than from reading a textbook. Doing away with unpaid internships would harm all parties involved, as businesses would be left hiring employees who have never spent any time in the business’s field.
“Plus, they’re overwhelmingly biased towards those who are white and wealthy.”
Yes, it is true that it’s much easier to take an unpaid internship when you are financially secure. That’s a no-brainer. This sentence touches on the subject of “white/wealthy privilege,” which is a joke. The “privilege” that so many people detest is largely just luck. You cannot choose whether you’re born into a rich or poor family, so you shouldn’t dislike others or feel bad for yourself because of a situation that you couldn’t control. You have to play the cards you’re dealt. If you absolutely cannot afford to take an unpaid internship, then get a job and make enough money to where you can support yourself through your unpaid internship. I know this is much easier said than done, but nobody owes you anything. If you want something, go earn it.
“It’s an exploitation of free labor. Full stop.”
No, it isn’t exploitation. Exploitation is defined as “the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” While the business would certainly benefit from your work, you aren’t being treated unfairly. You’re being treated exactly how you agreed to be treated. You can’t be exploited if you voluntarily take an unpaid internship. If the business owner kidnapped you and held you captive and forced you to work for free, then yes, that’s exploitation. However, if you sign up for this role, you consent to working for free. If you don’t want to work for free, don’t volunteer to work for free. It’s that simple. Full stop.