Ray Lytle

Rays Blog… This is why we cant have nice things- internship edition
Rays Blog… This is why we cant have nice things- internship edition

rayblogI do a lot of humor based on things that are ruined by Trashers. Trashers by the way are what I affectionately call trashy people. You know people who are filled with hypocrisy yet lack things like decency, empathy, class, and unfortunately hygiene. It is always fun to make fun of trashers because they do so many things that are just wrong and stupid. Having said this I want to point out that ruining things is not something that is exclusive to the trashers. There are many things in this country that are ruined by the uber wealthy corporation as well.

One such thing looks like it could be the Unpaid Internship.

Now the unpaid internship is a staple of American Capitalism. I remember fondly my unpaid internship. It was many years ago and It was for the company I now work for.

I was in college at the time and was looking for an internship to get my foot in the door at a radio station to see how a professional station operated. I had some success in college radio and had a few radio stations approach me about interning. One was a rock station in St Louis where I was under the impression I would end up just putting albums away, another was a news station in a small central Illinois town that wanted me to keep stats and do spotting for sports broadcasts and then there was WYMG where the Program Director told me I could do actual commercial production, actual writing of comedy for the morning show, learn how to schedule music and put together promotions and was promised if I showed enough initiative I would get a slot on air. My internship was supposed to be a couple days a week for an entire semester.

A few days into the internship I was told I was being put on payroll and being given my own weekend shift. My internship led to a job and a career. I am thankful for my internship. It helped mold who I have been as an adult. But then again Saga Communications is an awesome company. Unfortunately not all companies are as cool.

Those “not as cool” companies to the best of my research have two types of internships. One is the “favor” internship that is a favor to someone to give their child or someone connected some resume fodder while looking for a full time job. These internships involve a lot of sitting or going to get coffee or just following and learning from management. Then there is the second type of internship which is where they use interns to do jobs  that even the lowest paid people in your company find insulting.

I would like to point out that the companies who are accused of the second type of internships are multi-billion dollar companies that could easily pay the intern at least minimum wage. That is where the problem lie in unpaid internships.  At least that’s the problem according to the US District Court who ruled that companies who use interns to do jobs that are equal to or harder than jobs being done by paid employees are in violations of US labor laws.

The ruling which came down this summer has put unpaid internships in a sticky place and could end up hurting a lot of people just like Me and maybe you. People who might not have gotten a foot in their chosen industry without an internship.

I will agree that just like everything else, not all internships are fair. Let’s face it. There are great internships in big cities that lead to great paying jobs with fortune 500 companies. How cool would it be for one of those internships to go to one of these poor people who we are told need to pull up the boot straps and work their way into a decent living. Unfortunately for those types of folks many of those companies are in places like Manhattan and the internships are 5 or 6 days a week. If you don’t live close by its gonna be pretty hard to go to your job that is unpaid. It leads to this question… Who can afford to live in Manhattan and work for free? If you answered “someone who’s family is already loaded” then you win. So there is an unfairness aspect to the unpaid internship and its also one of the many reasons why the rich and connected get more rich and connected. That is however another subject for another blog.

The intern themselves are not the only people hurt by major companies abusing labor laws through internships. The other people hurt is the same group of people that always get hurt whenever corporations do something less than savory in regards to labor laws. Yes I am talking about the small businessman. It is not just corporations that use interns. Many small businesses across the US use internships to provide a needed service. They use interns to do jobs that they just cant afford to pay someone to do and they also use it as a recruiting ground to hire their future employees.

Unpaid internships are right now in a type of legal holding pattern as we are determining what facets of the internship are allowed and what facets aren’t.

While we sit in Legal purgatory wondering there are bright kids looking for a break that might not be able to get one. There are small businesses with work piling up that they are hoping an intern will be able to do while gaining the experience and skill to one day have a career in their chosen field and of course…

There are corporations trying to find a new ways to get around whichever internship laws end up sticking.



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