It’s Just Business: How Corporate America Made Slaves of the Young

From Truth Dig:

By Christian Neumeister
Aug 9, 2012

Companies across the nation are gleefully denying interns fair wages for their work, in flagrant violation of long-standing labor law, and have the nerve to tell the world they are doing these people a favor.

Huge numbers of college students and recent graduates in a tight labor market are too scared to ask for compensation. Consequently, many interns must work for years in unpaid positions to build their résumés while depending on their parents for financial support. Not only do unpaid internships stop some from paying down a collectively exploding student debt, they compound the economical class differences between those who can afford to work for free and those who can’t.

This exploitative practice has evolved over the generations since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 and a 1947 Supreme Court ruling about railroad trainees that officially defined unpaid internships; that ruling was mostly ignored by businesses, and today’s systemic abuse of interns eventually developed.

Now, a disturbing percentage of U.S. companies accepts as routine the illegal work of unpaid interns. One of the legal challenges to the abuse is a class-action lawsuit against the Hearst Corp. being pressed by the New York employment law firm Outten & Golden on behalf of interns who claim they were improperly denied wages and benefits at 19 of Hearst’s magazines. The law firm is pursuing two other corporations on similar grounds, Fox Searchlight and television’s “The Charlie Rose Show.”

In the suit against Hearst, the principal complainant, a former intern at Harper’s Bazaar, says she often worked 40 hours a week without pay or benefits. Hearst’s lawyers maintain that the corporation can lose in the proceeding only if the court reads the law in “a novel and rigid way.”

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