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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DIRK HAYHURST » The Proletariat is Right

You would think major leaguers would be a far better option than a lawsuit against the owner. 

In my first year I was paid $800 dollars a month. After housing, taxes, dues and insurance were taken out, that was down to $360. My minor league brothers and I were oblivious because we were playing the game and chasing our dream, all suffering from the delusion that we were only weeks from the bigs and escaping the bills, and mortgages, and mouth feeding struggles we still had. But even then, as naive as we were, it was comical. We’d look at our checks and have sad, satirical chuckles, punctuated with the now tongue-in-cheek phrase, “living the dream!” Over time, however, it became much less funny.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:44 PM | 132 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: economics

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   1. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:04 AM (#4663346)
Working for (basically) free to get your foot in the door is certainly not unique to baseball. It's pretty much the norm for any highly competitive industry. If you are good enough, you make it, if not you have indeed wasted years of you life. That is the path you have chosen, don't ask someone else to subsidize it.

   2. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 27, 2014 at 05:45 AM (#4663350)
That doesn't make it right in baseball or any other field. Nobody is asking someone to "subsidize" it, they're asking to at least get paid the minimum wage for the hours they've worked.
   3. John Northey Posted: February 27, 2014 at 07:53 AM (#4663356)
I say business shouldn't be asking those who are flat broke to subsidize it. Interns, minor league players, heck even college athletes (in football especially) are more lottery tickets than real job prospects often. There is a minimum wage for a reason - businesses, if they can get away with it, will pay $0 an hour to employees while holding 100% of the profits for those who own it. Some feel that is A-OK but history has no shortage of cases where the ruling class thought it was OK to hold the vast majority of the wealth and learned otherwise the hard way.
   4. depletion Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:27 AM (#4663361)
Try the music business. Try acting. All these lines of work have minimal return for people starting out. At least with baseball, and pro sports in general, if you perform much better than your peers you will get noticed. There is no such guarantee in music, as one can become great at a certain music style only to see it go out of fashion as you're beginning to get noticed.
   5. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4663368)
Working for (basically) free to get your foot in the door is certainly not unique to baseball.


Unpaid internships are terrible in other businesses too.
   6. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:02 AM (#4663374)
I have had unpaid interns that I did not have the money to pay. New CA law has made it basically illegal, so now I don't have interns. Everyone loses.
   7. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:05 AM (#4663379)
I have had unpaid interns that I did not have the money to pay. New CA law has made it basically illegal, so now I don't have interns. Everyone loses.


No, you lose. Working for nothing doesn't constitute winning for anyone.

In isolated theory the concept of "work for no money but for exposure" seems sound, but in practice it amounts to institutionalized slavery.

shouldiworkforfree.com is geared toward freelancing graphic artists and such but is generally sound on its Business branch. In reference to a company promising "exposure" (or in this case, "experience") instead of money, I can hardly say it better myself than "This is the most toxic line of bullshit anyone will ever feed you."
   8. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:12 AM (#4663383)
The kids I've turned away seem to think that they've lost.
   9. AROM Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:12 AM (#4663384)
Try the music business. Try acting. All these lines of work have minimal return for people starting out. At least with baseball, and pro sports in general, if you perform much better than your peers you will get noticed. There is no such guarantee in music, as one can become great at a certain music style only to see it go out of fashion as you're beginning to get noticed.


At least actors and musicians can wait tables and tend bar to pay the bills. Pretty tough for a ballplayer to have a day job during the season considering all the travel.
   10. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:12 AM (#4663385)
The kids I've turned away seem to think that they've lost.


They're kids. They're wrong professionally.
   11. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:13 AM (#4663388)
Baseball is ruled by money, just like everything else.
   12. BDC Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:14 AM (#4663389)
In isolated theory the concept of "work for no money but for exposure" seems sound, but in practice it amounts to institutionalized slavery

Exactly, because the tendency is for that unpaid or grossly underpaid work to expand and expand.
   13. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:18 AM (#4663395)
An interesting study would be one looking at unpaid internships and what happens long-term to those that take them. I wouldn't be surprised if a frequent result is a lot of debt and no high-paying job despite the "foot in the door".

Regardless, none of that can possibly justify players making well below the minimum wage in the minors. That's illegal.
   14. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4663402)
In isolated theory the concept of "work for no money but for exposure" seems sound, but in practice it amounts to institutionalized slavery


Unpaid internships amount to one of two things. Either "institutionalized slavery" as you mention above, or a means for the upper class to maintain privilege and pseudo-aristocracy by giving "the right people" a means of getting their legacy kids into the doors at monied institutions.
   15. TDF, situational idiot Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:29 AM (#4663406)
An interesting study would be one looking at unpaid internships and what happens long-term to those that take them. I wouldn't be surprised if a frequent result is a lot of debt and no high-paying job despite the "foot in the door".
I know exactly one person who's ever been an unpaid intern - she worked for an NBA team. Despite the fact that everyone had nothing but praise for her work, she couldn't parlay it into a job in the industry (EDIT: Not NBA, but college/pro sports) let alone one for the team.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4663415)
I'm a chef. I probably wouldn't have my career if I didn't take in an unpaid internship. In my industry, a young kid can get a decent job at a hotel or chain restaurant, or, if he is culinarily ambitious, he can take an unpaid internship at an excellent restaurant. So the unpaid job itself is not a necessary step in the career path, it's voluntary. Working (unpaid) at a place like the French Laundry or Daniel is the modern equivalent of working in Rembrandt's workshop. It is real exposure of immense value to your development as a chef and to the strength of your resume. So I object to #14.
   17. AROM Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4663425)
Preserved Fish,

I don't see how anything you said is at all inconsistent with #14. In your case, unpaid internship is voluntary, but also has great value to your career prospects. So who is more likely to benefit from that?

A: from a single parent family, with an unemployed mother and 4 younger siblings, just out of culinary school with a pile of student loan debt

B: Rich parents paid his way through school, provide him an apartment and some spending money while he starts his career.

If the unpaid internship offers a better long term career path than someone who needs money right of school, it seems obvious the benefits of this will mostly go to the already privileged.
   18. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4663437)
I had an unpaid internship at the University of Arizona Press back in the summer of '83. Luckily, ASU arranged for an $800 (IIRC) scholarship from one of the school's benefactors, & we found cheap housing via a sublease about 20 feet from the Press' front door, so we weren't completely destitute even though my wife didn't have a job. It was a requirement for the Public History program I was enrolled in as a grad student, & I didn't have a lot of choices after the previous summer's expected internship (can't remember if it would've been paid or not ... probably the latter) at UT Austin fell through at pretty much the last minute (as if I needed more reasons to hate UT Austin).

Still, it would've been nice if the Press had at least offered me my choice of something from their catalogue (I'd have gone with James Byrkit's Forging the Copper Collar: Arizona's Labor-Management War, 1901-1921, which instead I wound up obtaining through ABEbooks for something like $35 about 15 years later) as compensation for my labors editing this. But nooooooooooooooooo.

And no, of course I didn't wind up in the book-editing biz, though I also never really pursued it, since there were a lot more newspapers than book publishers, especially in the wilds of SW Arkansas.

   19. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:57 AM (#4663446)
An interesting study would be one looking at unpaid internships and what happens long-term to those that take them. I wouldn't be surprised if a frequent result is a lot of debt and no high-paying job despite the "foot in the door".


Besides the internship itself, you would need to look at the people, in this case.

Who is able to spend their days working for free? It's not the working classes. If your sibling or parent depends on the money you can bring in for living, it would be completely irresponsible of you to elect to work for free.

My point is that such a study as suggested above would include a lot of statistical noise, as those lucky enough to attend college and graduate with little/no debt are sure to be way overrepresented; with no bills in particular, one can spend days/months/years without a paycheck for the "promise" of something better down the road. And I would bet that people with stable economic and family situations who are college educated (or have been through trade training) are most likely better off career-wise in the long run.

I'm a chef. I probably wouldn't have my career if I didn't take in an unpaid internship. In my industry, a young kid can get a decent job at a hotel or chain restaurant, or, if he is culinarily ambitious, he can take an unpaid internship at an excellent restaurant. So the unpaid job itself is not a necessary step in the career path, it's voluntary. Working (unpaid) at a place like the French Laundry or Daniel is the modern equivalent of working in Rembrandt's workshop. It is real exposure of immense value to your development as a chef and to the strength of your resume. So I object to #14.


I don't disagree with any of this. But in order to open this sort of opportunity up to those who economically cannot give their labor away, Daniel or the French Laundry should pay a minimum wage in exchange for the real work that is being done in their kitchens. It's not a smackdown of those who have done it, it's looking forward to make sure that more people have the chance to work there.

Sam said it in his typical incendiary fashion, but unpaid internships are an (unwitting, I believe) way to stratify the classes. It's not true in every situation, but making sure that only certain types of people can "get their foot in the door" means that the chances of the son of an investment banker working at KFC while the son of a mail carrier eventually works at Goldman Sachs is significantly reduced.
   20. Rusty Priske Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4663447)
The crazy thing is that if every major league player too a 1-2% pay cut and that money was used to pay minor league players, there would be enough for everyone.


Not all that different than life in general... but even more pronounced.

SACRILIGE!
   21. The District Attorney Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4663456)
   22. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4663461)
Working for (basically) free to get your foot in the door is certainly not unique to baseball. It's pretty much the norm for any highly competitive industry. If you are good enough, you make it, if not you have indeed wasted years of you life. That is the path you have chosen, don't ask someone else to subsidize it.


I understand this logic, but the alternative logic (in addition to above) is that we should be pulling people up and not pushing them down. In other words all instances of this unfair practice should be eliminated and people should be paid for their work. An existing instance of a wrong (even a traditional and currently accepted wrong) is wrong and should be fixed. You don't use existing instances of something wrong to spread the wrong. You don't want to end up at the least common denominator, with bad practices driving out good ones.

I think "people should be paid for their labor" is pretty much a good principle.
   23. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4663474)
Working for (basically) free to get your foot in the door is certainly not unique to baseball. It's pretty much the norm for any highly competitive industry.


Actually no, it's not.
   24. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4663475)
I think "people should be paid for their labor" is pretty much a good principle.


This. "But I worked for free so it's tradition" is a really crap line of thinking.
   25. GregD Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4663478)
On a narrower note, major-league teams refusing to pay for healthy food spreads for their minor leaguers is just asinine and counter-productive.

Try the music business. Try acting. All these lines of work have minimal return for people starting out.
Minor-leaguers are full-time (often full-time plus) employees of organizations, not freelancers.
   26. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4663479)
Unpaid internships amount to one of two things. Either "institutionalized slavery" as you mention above, or a means for the upper class to maintain privilege and pseudo-aristocracy by giving "the right people" a means of getting their legacy kids into the doors at monied institutions.


This
   27. alilisd Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4663507)
Try the music business. Try acting. All these lines of work have minimal return for people starting out


But these are the equivalent of being self-employed. It's not the same as being underpaid by an employer.
   28. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4663517)
But these are the equivalent of being self-employed. It's not the same as being underpaid by an employer.


Until the draft is eliminated and all minor leaguers are freely contracted on an open market, the comparison to acting or music industry is broken from the start.
   29. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4663519)
The thing is, if these fancy restaurants suddenly had to pay interns, they would probably just eliminate interns. I'm not a well known chef but I have a few things to teach youngsters and that's what I have done.

I agree that it's a shame that the unpaid kitchen job is more easily available to the affluent. I don't see the way around it.
   30. BrianBrianson Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4663524)
I don't see the way around it.


You made them paid kitchen jobs, rather than just a mechanism to enforce social class.
   31. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:25 AM (#4663532)
The thing is, if these fancy restaurants suddenly had to pay interns, they would probably just eliminate interns.


If the positions can be eliminated then the work is not necessary. If the work is necessary, the positions can be paid. Your argument here is that cooking is an art-guild where "payment in experience" trumps actual pay. What you see as a reasonable guild scenario the rest of us see as company tin.
   32. TDF, situational idiot Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4663533)
I agree that it's a shame that the unpaid kitchen job is more easily available to the affluent. I don't see the way around it.
Sure there is. It's called the Minimum Wage Law.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:39 AM (#4663543)
Again, if you make the jobs paid, the majority are eliminated.
   34. GregD Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4663554)
And the ones that won't be eliminated will be paid. Win-win!

If you presume internships are inherently a positive good, then of course any solution will be bad since any solution will lead to reducing internships.
   35. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:52 AM (#4663557)
I agree that it's a shame that the unpaid kitchen job is more easily available to the affluent. I don't see the way around it.


I'm pretty sure that a place that charges a $150 corkage fee can figure out a way to pay the underlings a minimum wage. Or a place that charges $20/glass for a $20 bottle of wine can manage.
   36. BDC Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4663577)
I did a few weeks as an unpaid intern at the Michigan Department of Education when I was in my last year of college. In fact paid tuition to do so, though I did earn credit. The contacts went nowhere, and I doubt the experience (which I never listed on my resumé for very long) ever helped me in any way professionally. I did learn a bit about how standardized tests get constructed, and I learned that I never wanted to work in an educational bureaucracy. But that was the point, to learn: it wasn't like I was a graduate contributing to somebody's profit margin in hopes of parlaying the credit into a career.

   37. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4663598)
Experience and contacts are much more important than minimum wage early in your career. If indeed it is a career you are looking for and not just a job. I'll second the idea that if interns cost, interns get cut. They are squarely in the 'nice to have, not need to have' bucket. Everyone loses.
   38. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4663602)
I did a few weeks as an unpaid intern at the Michigan Department of Education when I was in my last year of college. In fact paid tuition to do so, though I did earn credit.


Then it was a college class outside in the real world. Sounds like you got more out of it than I did in most of my actual classes.
   39. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4663604)
Experience and contacts are much more important than minimum wage early in your career.


a career. Perhaps your career. But not in every situation.
   40. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4663607)
Experience and contacts are much more important than minimum wage early in your career.


Yes, but eating and having a roof to sleep under are more important that experience and contacts. Amongst fresh grads, only those who have parents or benefactors willing to pay their living expenses can survive an unpaid internship. How this is difficult to understand is beyond me, but I guess a lot of things are beyond me these days.
   41. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4663612)
You made them paid kitchen jobs, rather than just a mechanism to enforce social class.


That won't solve that particular problem. The paid jobs will still tend to go to well-connected (usually meaning wealthier) people, as paid jobs worth having always do.

Experience and contacts are much more important than minimum wage early in your career.


Again, we're talking about two separate issues here, at least to my mind. "A person should be paid for their labor" is a fundamental principle, at least to me, and I think to many others.

If indeed it is a career you are looking for and not just a job. I'll second the idea that if interns cost, interns get cut. They are squarely in the 'nice to have, not need to have' bucket. Everyone loses.


This isn't true to nearly the extent you purport. Companies bring on slavesinterns because there's grunt work that needs done, and they prefer to get it done for free. Force them to pay and the grunt work will still need done. The jobs will be there--though I'd expect companies to try to get top value out of their eight bucks an hour by hiring fewer of these entry-level workers and working them half to death, just as the retail world does. So there will be a small loss of positions, but not a major one. Any negative effect is well outpaced by the positive effect of not enslaving people.
   42. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4663613)
Yes, but eating and having a roof to sleep under are more important that experience and contacts. Amongst fresh grads, only those who have parents or benefactors willing to pay their living expenses can survive an unpaid internship. How this is difficult to understand is beyond me, but I guess a lot of things are beyond me these days.


In fairness, minimum wage doesn't really pay for those things anymore either, at least not in cities. It would at least chip away at the hours a person has to work other jobs to pay the bills.
   43. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4663617)
In 1997, I relocated from my college in South Jersey to an employer in Bristol, CT. That's about three hundred miles or so. I didn't know anyone within 100 miles of me when I first moved up. The employer in question paid me - it wasn't a lot. I ran through some calculations and decided that I could pay food and rent, but no car. So in my first year of employment, I bummed a lot of rides from friends and did a lot of walking. Had this employer not been willing to pay an underling on his first professional rung, I would simply not have been able to make it.

And you know what? I'm still there. I would gamble that whatever piddly amount of money they invested in my first year has been repaid a hundredfold.
   44. Traderdave Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:55 PM (#4663621)
Shouldn't a big league club WANT its prospects to live a life at or above the poverty line?

If I own a team, I want my minor leaguers to able to afford a decent meal and sleep on a decent mattress and buy some decent clothes. The players are potentially very valuable assets, I'd make sure they were maintained as such, wage laws or not.
   45. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4663626)
Shouldn't a big league club WANT its prospects to live a life at or above the poverty line?

If I own a team, I want my minor leaguers to able to afford a decent meal and sleep on a decent mattress and buy some decent clothes. The players are potentially very valuable assets, I'd make sure they were maintained as such, wage laws or not.


It occurred to me while reading Hayhurst's first book that major league teams probably ought to pay more attention to, and invest more money in, seeing to it that their minor league players have better nutrition than they do. I think the team's perspective is that it's up to the individual player to choose to eat healthy to give himself a competitive advantage. But eating healthy is pretty much impossible on their absurdly low wages. I still tend to think a major league organization could derive an advantage from spending a few million bucks a year on making healthy food and a professional diet planner available (optionally) to their minor leaguers, rather than on Bruce Chen or whoever.
   46. BDC Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4663630)
Then it was a college class outside in the real world. Sounds like you got more out of it than I did in most of my actual classes

Yeah, but you went to college in New Jersey :)

Internships for credit have greater or less instructional value depending on what the host puts into it. My "boss" in Lansing was a very smart and earnest professional, but he was a state bureaucrat and there was a limit to how much anyone could put into or get out of such a situation.
   47. dr. scott Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4663633)
When the unpaid intern trial was happening there was an article in the Atlantic about college students and unpaid internships.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/do-unpaid-internships-lead-to-jobs-not-for-college-students/276959/

They took three sets of students 1) those who had paid internships during college 2) those with unpaid internships and 3) those with no internships. they then tracked them after graduation to determine if there were significant differences in job prospects among the groups. Those who had paid internships had the highest employment rate, which was 30-40% higher than the other two groups which had about the same employment rate. What was worse is those with no internships got higher salaries than those with unpaid internships. It did not rate job satisfaction, so its possible that the people with unpaid internships that got jobs were happier than those with no internships, but there was no difference in employment between the groups. Having an unpaid internship made no difference in their post college employment opportunities.

As I recall the court case centered on unpaid internships at publishing companies where the interns were basically free office admin. Copies, coffee, schedule appts etc. There was little effort from the company to teach the interns, which violated the laws in NY state... but others with more knowledge of the case could probably speak more accurately.
   48. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:05 PM (#4663635)
When I started my laboratory in 2007 I made an agreement with my former department at the local university to provide 5 students a semester with unpaid internships in exchange for 3 hours of coursework credit. That's a real win/win: their best students got very technical hands-on experience in a field for which little real academic training exists, the students got credit towards their graduation, and I got 5 pairs of hands to help me with routine tasks around the lab. I ended up hiring one of the interns full-time and serving as references for two others who were placed locally.
   49. Traderdave Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4663638)
45:

I'd go so far as to serve them healthy food directly. Buy an apartment building or an old motel in a minor league city and set up a kitchen and dining hall.

A weak major league team is worth 9 figures and that value depends greatly on 150 people, give or take. Under those circs, I make sure they are comfortable.
   50. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4663639)
They took three sets of students 1) those who had paid internships during college 2) those with unpaid internships and 3) those with no internships. they then tracked them after graduation to determine if there were significant differences in job prospects among the groups. Those who had paid internships had the highest employment rate, which was 30-40% higher than the other two groups which had about the same employment rate.


This is hardly a surprising result, since in a world where both paid and unpaid internships exist, the paid ones will go to the people with the best connections. Similarly, where some jobs pay better than others, the better paying ones tend to go to the people with the best connections.

There is no solution to this problem. It's human nature. The best you can do is outlaw overt discrimination and try your best to enforce it, but people are always going to want to hire based on the recommendation of someone they know and trust, and/or return favors.
   51. Brian Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4663677)
I love the certainty of the people here. "We are right, you are wrong. Even though you have much more actual experience with this than we do, we are not only right but also have the only morally defensible position".

Isn't at least possible that PreservedFish is making a valid point? Not at BTF. Thinking fan my arse.
   52. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4663679)
In my industry, a young kid can get a decent job at a hotel or chain restaurant, or, if he is culinarily ambitious, he can take an unpaid internship at an excellent restaurant.

So the places with more prestige and more revenue are the ones that don't need to pay their workers. Sounds fair.

Isn't at least possible that PreservedFish is making a valid point? Not at BTF. Thinking fan my arse.

Obviously it's good in lots of individual instances. On a societal level it's unquestionably bad.
   53. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4663681)
We have (mostly) unpaid internships, although occasionally if there is an extraordinary candidate who cannot afford to spend the time here we will pay them slightly above minimum wage. Paying everyone would mean instead of having 20 or so people spend a few months here every year (and I have absolutely no question the time here is very valuable)we would have 2 or 3. 2 or 3 is the number we pay anyway with the current arrangement. The paid positions go to those with unique skill sets, not those with connections.

We have far more qualified candidates interested in the unpaid jobs than we have slots. There connections certainly do help secure one of the positions. Usually the unpaid folks are getting course credit from their grad school programs to do this, although occasionally we have someone looking for a fresh start who just wants new experiences. The guy I have now is trying to take his career in a completely different direction and he'd have no shot in hell at doing it without someone willing to let him be an unpaid intern, unless he paid to go back to school- he needs hands on experience. Seems unfair to tell him, "sorry, you have to shell out $120,000 grand to go back to school".

   54. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4663683)
That won't solve that particular problem. The paid jobs will still tend to go to well-connected (usually meaning wealthier) people, as paid jobs worth having always do.


This is America. Making that statement is untrue. Our country is full of unconnected working their way to the top.

In my case I had no connections, but had trained myself in how to develop software for this brand new computer Apple released (out of boredom with mediocre university class material). I gladly accepted a near minimum wage job at a startup from people I had never met thru the interview process, worked my ass off (taking off Saturdays, Sundays, and thanksgiving are optional, people) forcing them to give me 4 raises in 2 years, then left for a much better paying job when they balked at giving me equity.

Throughout my career I've hired dozens of people. I've hired 3 people through connections. 2 were among the best employees I've ever worked with, so bringing them on was a no brainer. The third was a super bright guy who was a favorite of my CEO, so I hired him but he was a lousy employee. He was clearly an example of a guy getting his job through connections, and it was a near disaster that cost us a great deal of money.

Economics clearly trump connections every time, bad decisions mean you get to hire fewer people in the future while your smarter competitors hire more.

This isn't true to nearly the extent you purport. Companies bring on slavesinterns because there's grunt work that needs done, and they prefer to get it done for free. Force them to pay and the grunt work will still need done. The jobs will be there--though I'd expect companies to try to get top value out of their eight bucks an hour by hiring fewer of these entry-level workers and working them half to death, just as the retail world does. So there will be a small loss of positions, but not a major one. Any negative effect is well outpaced by the positive effect of not enslaving people.


The arguments for minimum wage laws always treat the increase in unemployed as "a small negative effect", but to the unemployed it's a bit more than that.

The laws of supply and demand are just as immutable as gravity, yet somehow we don't try to legislate the strength of gravity. It's always painful to me that really smart people advocate higher unemployment and more poverty through a mechanism they intend to do the opposite, and it's a blunt instrument whise benefits don't go to the most needy. Increasing the minimum wagged doesn't cost a 17 year old kid living at home in Connecticut his job if his market value at McDonalds in his high cost area is already higher. A non-white single parent in a distressed area is more likely to lose their job, and that's a tragedy.

The correct answer is providing full employment without restrictions. Any unemployment rate above 3% should be a national disgrace. No minimum wage laws, no payroll taxes on the poor, maximize the pool of available jobs, and use a federal payments system to bring low paid workers out of poverty, payments that take in account their family needs. IE nothing for yuppie stay at home kids working at fast food joints.

Low paid jobs are so important because they provide far easier entree into higher paid employment. It's far easer to succeed at your first job and use that as a stepping stone to better jobs than to convince a room of strangers you can do something you've never done before.

Unpaid Interns aren't paid often because they typically have zero or negative value at first. The time spent training and supervising them can be very expensive. for example my time is theoretically worth $100+ an hour if I ever ship a damn app that sells. I brought on a smart young guy to help, and he literally cost me many hundreds of hours in development time. Not entirely his fault, but it took a while before he learned enough to have areas he could add value while unsupervised. And I paid this kid, more than minimum wage (ie he made much more than did during his tenure). If sales were better and he had continued to learn and grow the investment I made in him would have worked out great.

Some of the work interns do is "nice to have", it simply won't be done without them. That work disappears if minimum wage laws are enforced. In my case I would have done less testing (but far more efficiently), less support ( but again far more efficiently) and the work that he did that was necessary I would gave done faster and rarely have to redo it..

Yes, there are shitty bosses who abuse interns. But taking away unpaid internships from everyone to protect the few is a terrible policy. The intern themselves are far better at determining if it's worthwhile than blanket government policies.
   55. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4663684)
The guy I have now is trying to take his career in a completely different direction and he'd have no shot in hell at doing it without someone willing to let him be an unpaid intern, unless he paid to go back to school- he needs hands on experience. Seems unfair to tell him, "sorry, you have to shell out $120,000 grand to go back to school".

And this is a new problem. Tuition is insanely expensive so it makes more sense to work for free and be trained than to pay lots and lots and lots of money to be trained, once you assume that being trained while being paid is impossible.
   56. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4663685)
Hey, I work in a field with 6-month unpaid internships and they suck for the most part. Student teaching is kind of a joke, because they totally depend on the mentor to give up control. One of the problems you run into is that you get like what my wife had in that she never really got to teach during her internship while there are other teachers who use the student teacher as an extended break.

It would be far better to do what I did. Pay the student intern a nominal wage to be an instructional aide and visit a number of classrooms on a daily basis and an opportunity to work with students in small groups. The money I made before I started teaching wasn't much, but a grand a month (at least) along with a full-time salary (my wife) did make things much easier. I'm guessing that I learned far more while I was finishing my degree and being an instructional aide than most teachers do in their credential programs could dream of.

//my internship was paid as a full salaried teacher, btw when I got to that point.
   57. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:57 PM (#4663690)
The correct answer is providing full employment without restrictions. Any unemployment rate above 3% should be a national disgrace. No minimum wage laws, no payroll taxes on the poor, maximize the pool of available jobs, and use a federal payments system to bring low paid workers out of poverty, payments that take in account their family needs. IE nothing for yuppie stay at home kids working at fast food joints.

Yes, I'm sure if there was a giant federal program to keep track of what everyone earns and top it up, that would have no effect on wages. No wait, it would mean that all employers would pay $1 an hour in the knowledge that the government would subsidize the rest.

And you would have no problem with that program. No wait, you would bemoan the idea that people making more money from their employer would then get less of a wage subsidy, disincentivizing work and serving as a huge de facto tax. Also, you would bemoan the massive government bureaucracy that would be needed for monitoring everyone's income and deciding how much extra they should get. What total BS. Even aside from the Econ 101 equation of "increased minimum wage" with "increased unemployment", which doesn't actually happen.
   58. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4663692)
Some of the work interns do is "nice to have", it simply won't be done without them


I would say that's about 85% of what our unpaid interns do. The rest would probably fall on existing staff. Maybe we'd add one more minimum wage person every once in awhile.
   59. Pooty Lederhosen Posted: February 27, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4663705)
An interesting study would be one looking at unpaid internships and what happens long-term to those that take them. I wouldn't be surprised if a frequent result is a lot of debt and no high-paying job despite the "foot in the door".

Regardless, none of that can possibly justify players making well below the minimum wage in the minors. That's illegal.


I got my first professional career start working for a public interest organization that paid very, very little even by the penurious standards of public interest groups. The ones that were able to work for it long term were those with wealthy parents willing to subsidize them.

For the record, I wasn't one of those but I found a public interest group that allowed me to live a penurious existence that didn't involve starving the last few days of every pay period.
   60. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 27, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4663707)
Isn't at least possible that PreservedFish is making a valid point? Not at BTF. Thinking fan my arse.


Well I think some of us articulated the first principle that people should be paid for their labor. Unpaid interns violate that principle. You can argue it is an unwieldy principle or a bad one, but if that is the principle then there it is.

And so far the arguments mustered suggesting it is not a valid principle have not convinced me. Yes it is common in some industries to violate it, but the cost of having it does not seem to be worth the benefit (other than to the employer and those that can afford the privilege of taking unpaid work).
   61. dr. scott Posted: February 27, 2014 at 02:25 PM (#4663712)
This is hardly a surprising result, since in a world where both paid and unpaid internships exist, the paid ones will go to the people with the best connections. Similarly, where some jobs pay better than others, the better paying ones tend to go to the people with the best connections.


Maybe my reading comprehension is low, but not sure if you got the point of the article.... though clearly people with paid internships did better, people with unpaid internships did no better than people with NO internships in terms of employment rate, and of those that were employed, the group with no internships got paid more than the group with unpaid internships.

Basically the conclusion was on average... get a paid internship, or don't waste your time.
   62. Tricky Dick Posted: February 27, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4663730)
As an employer I would give more weight to a paid internship in an applicant's background than a unpaid internship. If someone is getting paid, it indicates that they produced sufficient value that an employer was willing to pay for it. I also assume that the paid intern had to demonstrate basic skills like showing up on time and actually working in order to keep their job. I'm not so sure of those attributes if the person had an unpaid position.
   63. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4663740)
As an employer* I have to say that my employees are all basically useless parasites. And I hired all of them through connections rather than for their merit. And none of them were ever unpaid interns. One of them was a paid intern for a while during graduate school though, at more than minimum wage, helping study the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program through economic models at Argonne National Labs. They have a really cool herd of white deer (Warning, PDF!) on the campus.

* OK, I admit I have only one employee, me. You caught me.
   64. Rusty Priske Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4663741)
If the work the unpaid interns are doing is not worth paying them for, then they are not getting real experience anyway. They are just getting facetime and masquerading it as work experience.

I think it is worth noting that most places that have unpaid interns are thriving businesses that could afford to pay those people if they chose to, even if just minimum wage.
   65. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4663743)
I also assume that the paid intern had to demonstrate basic skills like showing up on time and actually working in order to keep their job. I'm not so sure of those attributes if the person had an unpaid position.


Maybe things are different other places, but in my field (foreign policy/government relations) an unpaid intern would be out in his ass in about two seconds if he was consistently late. Our internships are pretty competitive and they are expected to deliver on tasks they are assigned- it is the same with other organizations here.

I imagine the value of unpaid internships varies pretty widely by field and location- that would be an interesting study.
   66. McCoy Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4663745)
Some feel that is A-OK but history has no shortage of cases where the ruling class thought it was OK to hold the vast majority of the wealth and learned otherwise the hard way.

Well, history is a long time and the human lifespan is relatively short compared to all of human history. Most of the ruling class has got along just fine thinking the plebes are just peons and most have learned it is far better to be part of the ruling class than to not be.
   67. TDF, situational idiot Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4663747)
Some of the work interns do is "nice to have", it simply won't be done without them
So not only do you have slaves, you're making them do useless work. It may surprise you to know this doesn't reinforce your argument for unpaid interns.

On the other hand, if your business model requires slave labor, maybe you should change businesses.
   68. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4663749)
If the work the unpaid interns are doing is not worth paying them for, then they are not getting real experience anyway.


There is a big difference between "not worth paying for" and "not a realistic budget priority"- they can learn a great deal by working to make marginal improvements to a major project.
   69. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4663753)
So not only do you have slaves, you're making them do useless work. It may surprise you to know this doesn't reinforce your argument for unpaid interns.

If your business model requires slave labor, maybe you should change businesses.


I must have missed the part in "12 Years a Slave" where Chiwetel Ejiofor applied for his competitive slave posting, after discussing with his professors the most valuable place to toil the fields.
   70. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4663755)
I mean, seriously, there are still real economic slaves in this world. They aren't college kids learning how to take meeting notes or make spreadsheets of economic data.
   71. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4663757)
Well I think some of us articulated the first principle that people should be paid for their labor. Unpaid interns violate that principle


Unless they are getting "paid" something- like in knowledge- someone who interns for a chef likely is learning something useful about how to work in and run a restaurant kitchen- but that's anomalous, what most unpaid interns "learn" is how to make copies and act like a gopher.

   72. The Good Face Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4663761)
Unless they are getting "paid" something- like in knowledge- someone who interns for a chef likely is learning something useful about how to work in and run a restaurant kitchen- but that's anomalous, what most unpaid interns "learn" is how to make copies and act like a gopher.


I don't understand how an unpaid intern learning the restaurant business from a skilled chef is a form of exploitative slavery, but a guy shelling out $60k a year to a university to sit through classes he has no interest in and will never use once he graduates is just peachy. Well, actually I DO understand, but it's still a bullshit distinction.
   73. Brian Posted: February 27, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4663792)
Bitter Mouse, that is exactly what I'm talking about. You articulated a principle and then that's it, no other thought that doesn't conform to your principle can be valid. There are no exceptions, no situations where this principle may not yield the best result? PreservedFish has seeen it work differently, with good results for all involved. Why does your theoretical principle blithely take precedence over PF's experience and view?
   74. The Good Face Posted: February 27, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4663823)
Bitter Mouse, that is exactly what I'm talking about. You articulated a principle and then that's it, no other thought that doesn't conform to your principle can be valid. There are no exceptions, no situations where this principle may not yield the best result? PreservedFish has seeen it work differently, with good results for all involved. Why does your theoretical principle blithely take precedence over PF's experience and view?


They're religious thinkers. They have their creed ("Minimum wage good, unpaid labor bad!") and anything that deviates from it needs to be attacked or ignored.
   75. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 27, 2014 at 06:47 PM (#4663852)
There is a big difference between "not worth paying for" and "not a realistic budget priority"- they can learn a great deal by working to make marginal improvements to a major project.

Interns may do some real work, but they also require the time of other employees to supervise them. My experience is they are a net drain on productivity. I'll include paid interns in that too.

Internships are basically only useful to the company as an extended job interview.

   76. Zach Posted: February 27, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4663860)
The issue of a minimum wage and unemployment becomes tricky when taking an internship is a speculative bet by the intern. If only 30% of interns are going to get a job offer, it's to the interns' advantage to force employers to choose the winners early. Then the unlucky 70% can go and do something else instead of getting strung along by a never-quite-vanishing possibility of being chosen. The lucky 30% benefit twice, actually, because after they're hired they aren't competing with a lot of hopefuls providing free labor in hopes of getting their foot in the door.

Things are different when the investment by the interns is small, or when the likelihood of a job offer is large. But I certainly wouldn't take an unpaid internship myself, nor would I advise someone else to do it. My gut instinct is that if you're in a job where you're actually producing value, there ought to be money somewhere to pay you for it. No money is an indication you're in the wrong job, working for the wrong people, or taking too much risk onto your own shoulders.
   77. PreservedFish Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:02 PM (#4663876)
Well I think some of us articulated the first principle that people should be paid for their labor. Unpaid interns violate that principle. You can argue it is an unwieldy principle or a bad one, but if that is the principle then there it is.


I'm not really one for unyielding principles. But maybe I can agree to this if we change "paid" to "compensated." I've worked unpaid (for a few days at a time) in Michelin-starred restaurants: the knowledge that I gained from those experiences hugely outweighs the effort I spent. You get to watch a famous and absurdly talented person work, right next to you. You get an inside look at how a successful business is organized and operated. And, typically, you get to eat a lot of food, food that people are paying hundreds of dollars for. It is a tremendously popular thing to do with good reason.

I realize that this type of experience is the top .01% of all unpaid work that's done in America, but I believe that it proves that your principle is incorrect.
   78. zenbitz Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4663880)
I believe the only legal and moral use of unpaid internships is to provide tangible educational benefits to the trainee.

This is analagous to tgf's buying a degree. If preservedFish's restaurant trains young chefs and gives them a certificate of approval, then I am ok with it.

But that means the work they are doing has to be literally worthless -- of no value to the employer. For example if the trainee chef makes soup, it can't be sold. (Some graduate programs push the envelope a little, but then again, they also pay some sort of small as stipend)

Its analogous to me giving an applicant a programming test. It would be immoral and illegal to give them a task of writing code that I then actually USED.
   79. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:23 PM (#4663883)
Unpaid internships for educational credit are OK, although, like standard courses, the educational value can vary considerably depending on the internship. However, many "foot in the door", "start at the bottom", "we can get away with it in this economy" internships are on shaky legal ground. According to the Department of Labor, unpaid internships need to meet these criteria:
1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Just doing grunt work for no pay wouldn't seem to meet the criteria.
   80. Select Storage Device Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4663888)
Its analogous to me giving an applicant a programming test. It would be immoral and illegal to give them a task of writing code that I then actually USED.


You definitely don't work in the video game industry. Didn't happen with the company I worked for, but have heard folks who interviewed elsewhere that the app process actually asked them to spend a moderate amount of time doing small things for ongoing projects. Pathetic (and as you said, immoral and illegal).

We had unpaid interns. They did meaningful, published work and I'd say about 10% of them ended up with jobs with the same company once the internship was over.
   81. GregD Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4663890)
I have read DoL attorneys' statements that almost all unpaid internships in for-profit companies are in violation of the law.
   82. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:56 PM (#4663892)
I have read DoL attorneys' statements that almost all unpaid internships in for-profit companies are in violation of the law.


That has to be true, considering the criteria that Clapper quoted. #2 is probably questionable in a lot of cases and #4 I'm sure is virtually never fulfilled.
   83. DL from MN Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4663913)
I'm pretty sure the new slot system just saved MLB enough money that they can afford to pay minimum wage.
   84. McCoy Posted: February 28, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4663945)
I have never worked at a restaurant for free and in fact I've worked at a few restaurants where they tended to have people work off the clock and I've put a stop to it. IF you want to pay me for just an 8 hour shift then I'm going to work for 8 hours. If you give me 10 hours worth of work I'm not going to come in to work 2 hours early to get the job done. It has worked out fine for me so far and in fact I've ended the practice of off the clock working at a few places I've worked at. I don't think I've ever met a chef or a kitchen where they didn't have to pay me at least something to work there. I've taken paycuts to work at places but that was to get my foot in the door. If they wanted to keep me they had better give me a raise and do it quickly.
   85. BrianBrianson Posted: February 28, 2014 at 04:57 AM (#4663950)
That won't solve that particular problem. The paid jobs will still tend to go to well-connected (usually meaning wealthier) people, as paid jobs worth having always do.


Tend to, but much less than they do now, because poor people will be able to do them, and companies will expect you to actually work, which will again favor poor people looking to work over rich people looking to ride on their connections. Perfect is the enemy of good.

Hell, when I was in school, I did co-op study positions, and still got paid $10-$15/hour. I wasn't as good at the position, and was doing some learning, but that was still a lot less than a full time employing would've made (My jobs were more or less engineering jobs, although I was a physics major).
   86. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:25 AM (#4664005)
Tend to, but much less than they do now, because poor people will be able to do them, and companies will expect you to actually work, which will again favor poor people looking to work over rich people looking to ride on their connections. Perfect is the enemy of good.

You act like the kids of richer people are equally talented as poor kids. Usually they are as talented, or more talented, and most want to work, not just coast.

People are still going to give the paid internships to their nephews and nieces, or their friends' kids if the kid is at all competent. This is stock normal human behavior.

Nepotism is often quite efficient, because a person that comes with a recommendation is far less likely to be a total loser. A smart friend won't ask me to help an idiot get a job, because he knows that will be the last help he ever gets from me.

I find it very funny that people see nepotism in hiring as some great evil, but nepotism in funding a $250,000 education for your children is considered being a good parent. People will always favor those more closely "related" to them, it's basic human nature, and it's really smart behavior, because those are the people likely to help you when you need a hand. Favoring people close to you for jobs is no different than paying for your own kids college rather than giving the money to a scholarship fund.
   87. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4664010)
You act like the kids of richer people are equally talented as poor kids. Usually they are as talented, or more talented, and most want to work, not just coast.


And then there's Dubya.
   88. GregD Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4664012)
Yes and no, snapper. If you think children of rich people don't like to coast, then I have some lovely lower-ranked liberal arts colleges and prep schools for you to your. Some are quite close to lovely skiing, so you might enjoy the trip.

But, you're absolutely right that the #1 driver of inequality is the things people do for their kids. It is a much bigger driver of inequality than other forms of nepotism, but we assume that the morality is seen entirely differently.

To me, it's the simplest reason why we need taxation and redistribution. To expect people not to help their own children is silly; of course they will use their resources to give their kids a leg up. It's not a question of is it status anxiety or is it fear of their kids being dependent or is it love. It's all of the above and more.

Given that, there's virtually no policy that affect that significantly. And the more disposable income people have, the more of it they will spend (often with very, very, very marginal effects or even counter-productively).

So the only chance to create opportunities for others is to siphon some of that high-end disposable income into programs that build access for other people's kids.

Narrowly, on internships, I am opposed to unpaid internships and am for strong prosecutions. But I don't think ending unpaid internships will appreciably fix inequality. There are plenty of other ways, as you say, for that inequality of opportunity to come to bear.
   89. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:40 AM (#4664014)
So the only chance to create opportunities for others is to siphon some of that high-end disposable income into programs that build access for other people's kids.


If you want redistribution why not cut out the middlemen and redistribute the kids directly? OK so maybe it didn't work out so well in the case of the Starks and Theon Greyjoy but you can't extrapolate policy from one case.
   90. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4664015)
And the more disposable income people have, the more of it they will spend (often with very, very, very marginal effects or even counter-productively).


Give your kids enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.
   91. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4664016)
Yes and no, snapper. If you think children of rich people don't like to coast, then I have some lovely lower-ranked liberal arts colleges and prep schools for you to your. Some are quite close to lovely skiing, so you might enjoy the trip.

The number of true rich kids is stunningly small, and they don't even bother competing for prestigious jobs. They coast, like you say.

The people driving the "meritocracy" and growing inequality are the professional class. The parents have plenty of money to subsidize their kids, but not nearly enough that the kids don't have to work. Hence the anxiety about getting into "the best schools". They believe their kids need that education to succeed professionally, and maintain their lifestyle.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4664018)
So the only chance to create opportunities for others is to siphon some of that high-end disposable income into programs that build access for other people's kids.

I think this is a fool's errand.

The focus should not be on the 10% of the poor and working class kids who are smart enough to join the professional classes. Most of them will do fine in life regardless, even if they don't match the achievements of the kids of the professional class.

The focus should be on making decent paying jobs available to the vast majority of poor and working class kids who will never excel in education.

If a hard working person with a high school education, who didn't make any catastrophic life choices, was basically assured of a lower middle class lifestyle, we'd all be able to care a lot less about equality of opportunity.
   93. BrianBrianson Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4664022)
Of course people are going to engage in nepotism, and of course it's a huge driver of inequality, probably the biggest one.

But the rest of us shouldn't be rewarding people for doing it. As a society, we should be trying to tilt the deck back to fair (even as we, as individuals, should be engaging in some nepotism).
   94. GregD Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4664025)
I think this is a fool's errand.

The focus should not be on the 10% of the poor and working class kids who are smart enough to join the professional classes. Most of them will do fine in life regardless, even if they don't match the achievements of the kids of the professional class.

The focus should be on making decent paying jobs available to the vast majority of poor and working class kids who will never excel in education.

If a hard working person with a high school education, who didn't make any catastrophic life choices, was basically assured of a lower middle class lifestyle, we'd all be able to care a lot less about equality of opportunity.
I don't think it is a fool's errand in the sense that it has been accomplished before and can be accomplished again, but, morally, I agree with you that providing a reasonably decent life for the mass of people is more important (and also probably more likely to produce long-term stability, but that's another question.)
   95. BDC Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4664030)
I don't understand how an unpaid intern learning the restaurant business from a skilled chef is a form of exploitative slavery, but a guy shelling out $60k a year to a university to sit through classes he has no interest in and will never use once he graduates is just peachy

The terms of this analogy seem misplaced to me. I'd see it as chef : university president :: intern : graduate teaching assistant :: diner : student.

In both cases, the diner (or her boss's expense account) and the student (or his parents) may be incorrectly evaluating the worth of the experience, or outright bilked, but that's life in a capitalist society :)

In both cases, the more work provided by the unpaid or underpaid folks in the middle – work that allows the folks on the left to profit more – the worse the situation for everybody, especially the consumers who expect to eat food cooked by Chef Megastar or discuss great ideas with Professor Brilliant.

The Fish makes a case here that not much actual work or value is provided by top restaurant interns, who meanwhile get a lot of good training, and I think that's a key point. I wish it were truer in higher ed.

Although the liberal in me now has to say that if you're getting an intern to do a bunch of prep tasks in a kitchen, and thereby not hiring somebody to do that work, then yeah, that's uncool for everybody, especially the displaced wage worker. If the intern is just shadowing the chef and mopping his brow while they imbibe wisdom about beurre manié or something, maybe that's different.
   96. GregD Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4664031)
Although the liberal in me now has to say that if you're getting an intern to do a bunch of prep tasks in a kitchen, and thereby not hiring somebody to do that work, then yeah, that's uncool for everybody, especially the displaced wage worker. If the intern is just shadowing the chef and mopping his brow while they imbibe wisdom about beurre manié or something, maybe that's different.
That sounds to my non-lawyer ears like the difference between an illegal and a legal internship, right?
   97. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4664034)

Maybe my reading comprehension is low, but not sure if you got the point of the article.... though clearly people with paid internships did better, people with unpaid internships did no better than people with NO internships in terms of employment rate, and of those that were employed, the group with no internships got paid more than the group with unpaid internships.

Did this study control for the type of job? I would assume that fields with unpaid internships are the same fields that pay junior employees very little, and for the same reasons -- there's a ton of people who are willing to do those jobs for little pay because they're in interesting fields, they're enjoyable jobs, and there's an outside chance you will become wildly financially successful.

I'm not defending unpaid internships -- where I work, our summer interns do real work, and we have to pay them both for competitive reasons and legal ones.
   98. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4664044)
Bitter Mouse, that is exactly what I'm talking about. You articulated a principle and then that's it, no other thought that doesn't conform to your principle can be valid. There are no exceptions, no situations where this principle may not yield the best result? PreservedFish has seeen it work differently, with good results for all involved. Why does your theoretical principle blithely take precedence over PF's experience and view?


Sorry been away from the thread. I think you are being a bit unfair. I am willing to argue about the role of compensation and labor in terms of principles, but that is not what was happening. The argument at the time was "It is tradition and common across industry". That might have been true, but the tradition violates a principle I hold. ANd i said so.

If my principle is theft is bad, then that is what I believe. If someone says, yes but starving guy needed to steal, in my opinion that does not change the fact that theft is bad. It just so happens that starving is worse, and in the moment I don't blame a starving person for stealing. And I think that rather than saying stealing when starving is OK, we should keep saying stealing is bad and address the starving part separately.

Similarly I think labor should be compensated. It is possible there are similar "starving" analogies for unpaid internships, but so far I am not convinced. I have read the arguments that "hey it is tradition" and "Hey plenty of people are grateful for the chance" and also "hey it worked for me" (I think, without rereading the whole thread those are the major themes in favor). Well none of those rise to the level of challenging how strongly I feel about the principle that labor should be paid for.

Allowing unpaid for labor has bad consequences. It leads to a perpetuation of class privilege and other issues as detailed very well by others above. Removal of the unpaid internship, does not seem to have many negative consequences (assuming going away from tradition is not a huge barrier - which it is not for me).

You or anyone can feel free to challenge the idea that labor should be paid for, that is fine. But on the other side I have no seen much as to the principles behind the idea that labor does not have to be paid for, other than tradition.

They're religious thinkers. They have their creed ("Minimum wage good, unpaid labor bad!") and anything that deviates from it needs to be attacked or ignored.


I love that I have been accused by you on multiple occasions as to having no principles (I hear Liberals don't have any). And then of course when convenient you suggest it is all "Religious thinking". Perhaps you could explain for the class the exact difference between a principle and religious thinking. Feel free to give examples.
   99. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4664045)
I don't think it is a fool's errand in the sense that it has been accomplished before and can be accomplished again, but, morally, I agree with you that providing a reasonably decent life for the mass of people is more important (and also probably more likely to produce long-term stability, but that's another question.)

I don't think there's very much evidence that there's less opportunity for poor/working class kids to move up today than in the past. Poor and working class kids make up a smaller % of the professional class, but that's because there's a much larger professional class to self-perpetuate (and smaller working class, and larger middle class vs. say 1920 or 1950), and much less growth in the professional class. For any giving person, the chances of moving up probably haven't changed much

There's tons of evidence however that income/wages have stagnated and declined for the working class. That should be the focus.
   100. McCoy Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4664046)
Unpaid cooks put in a lot of work and hours in kitchens and they can get really run over. I had a buddy who used to work for free at the Four Seasons and Philly and also worked at a shoe store or something to make money. He was working something like 6 days a week at the Four Seasons and putting in long hours during those days. One day somebody called out and the sous chef told him he had to stay. He told them to screw off and went to France instead and worked as illegal undocumented worker for about a year before he got deported.

I know lots of people who have and do work for free in NYC. They aren't a minor part of the operation at all.
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