A top author and expert on US internships has praised the “gutsiness” of UK interns and campaigners – in particular our courage when naming and shaming the organisations who we believe exploit young workers by failing to pay them the wages they deserve.
Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How to earn nothing and learn little in the brave new economy told Graduate Fog that the US is “lagging behind” the UK in challenging the culture of unpaid internships – and that our vocal campaigning is an inspiration to interns around the world:
“Over in the US we have a lot to learn from the UK – the smart campaigns you guys have run, the widespread sense of outrage and gutsiness about ‘naming and shaming’, which we get shy about in the US.
“The US is lagging behind the UK in terms of rolling back the culture of unpaid labor. Part of it is definitely that unpaid internships have been going so long now (several decades in some cases) that we take the practice for granted.
“In general, consciousness about working conditions is low in the US. Unions have a small footprint, employment law is weakly enforced, colleges are deeply involved in the internship system.”
Perlin also slammed US politicians for staying shamefully silent on the issue, telling us:
“Few politicians – if any – are willing to speak out. However hypocritical some UK politicans might be in their criticism of unpaid work, at least they’re saying something. And the way Congress runs on intern labor makes the UK Parliament pale by comparison.”
But Perlin said there is hope for American interns struggling to get their careers started Stateside:
“Things are looking up here – not only because of the slew of recent lawsuits (up to 10 in the past two years, with one that just set a crucial legal precedent), but also early organizing efforts like those of the Intern Labor Rights group in New York and others in the works, which we hope will soon bear fruit.”
Graduate Fog is proud of the campaign work that we – and our good friends Gus and Ben at Intern Aware and Shiv Malik at the Guardian – have achieved in the last few years here in the UK, when our politicians, official bodies and universities have either refused or proved to be woefully ineffective. The TUC and the unions – especially the NUJ and Bectu – have also provided welcome muscle. We are also hugely impressed by the interns who have been courageous enough to claim what they are owed – step up, Keri Hudson and Emily Wong – and the tens of thousands of young people who have been brave enough to retweet our progress on Twitter and share our updates on Facebook, and get their friends involved in the campaign for a fairer deal for interns. We can’t do anything without you! Graduate Fog is acutely aware there is still much work to do and at times progress can seem slow. But Perlin is right – we are a gutsy lot…
*ARE UK INTERNS AN INSPIRATION?
Did you realise our campaigning was being noted and praised around the world? If you are interning outside the UK, are you aware of any campaigning on this issue in other countries? If you’re part of an international campaign group, please let us know how you’re getting on – and if we can do anything to help! Just post your comment below…