“No one who believes in equal opportunity could support such a system.”

In this section, we bring you some statements that illustrate the main arguments against the practice of unpaid internships. Have one of your own? email us at intern.labor.rights(at)gmail(dot)com.

  • Only individuals with financial support can afford to take an unpaid internship, excluding low-income individuals. It “reinforces the culture of privilege and stunts class-mobility. “No one who believes in equal opportunity could support such a system.” (The Atlantic, May 10, 2012)
  • Unpaid internships contribute to unemployment by eliminating paid jobs.
  • Unpaid interns are not protected by basic worker protections, such as those against sexual harassment and racial discrimination; nor do they enjoy social security and unemployment benefits.
  • Unpaid internships create downward pressure on wages by forcing workers to compete with free labor
  • Unpaid internships undermine the dignity of work, by denying workers a measure of the value they provide their employers.
  • “not only do students pay internship credits…they pay for the skill to work for free” (The Atlantic, May 10, 2012)–>rather than having a company train them, they are using the skills they learned in college for the benefit of the company, without compensation.
  • Colleges require students do internships, which the students have to pay for in order to receive credit.  This often times leads to an increase in loans, and thus perpetuates the cycle of debt.
  • “When companies have a financial investment in someone, they are more inclined to gain a full return on that investment” (The Atlantic, May 10, 2012)–>if they’re not paying for the intern to work with them, they are often less inclined to give the intern proper attention and training.
  • If a friend pays thousands of dollars to take a photoshop or HTML class in college, employers are getting free labor to utilize that skill. If the company was instructing students in photoshop, I’d see the value. But those skills are required to get the internship in the first place. So what is the point of learning a skill when it is being used for nothing? Companies that otherwise would have to pay a worker for that technical ability can utilize it for free. So, not only do students pay internship credits, pay for housing, they pay for the skill to work for free. That’s wrong.
  • Unpaid internships lower wages for everyone—they devalue the cost of labor.
  • Most companies are looking for interns with some experience—the unpaid internship has replaced the entry-level position in the current economy.
  • Unpaid internships lower your sense of worth: “Unpaid [internships] only devalues the skills you *paid* for via a college education. How can you negotiate a salary if you have not had the chance to develop a sense of monetary worth? If no one is willing to pay you for your talents you will perceive your skills as worthless.” (The Atlantic, May 10, 2012)
  • Business owners and shareholders profit from the uncompensated labor of others.
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