The employment climate for many students and graduates has been a difficult terrain to not only navigate but also survive. And slavery masked under labels of ‘apprentice’ or ‘intern’ only make it worse.
Bogged down with insurmountable student debts, and often forced to take remedial positions to make ends meet, many of this educated generation are enticed by intern or apprentice programs – hoping that their volunteered time could break them into their fields, making them some real money. However, with the rising cost of living most are unable to dedicate much to these mostly unpaid positions, or fall deeper into debt when they do.
The Hollywood Reporter published an article Thursday, outlining a class action suit taken out by many of Hollywood’s unpaid workers against a multitude of movie giants, notably Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom, with the latter two agreeing to pay their bottom barrel workers. Even millennial darling Lena Dunham came under fire after it became known that her book tour performers were working unpaid. She has since agreed to pay them, but only after a public outcry. A move I find amusingly hypocritical, considering the show that made her a household name often focuses on post graduate employment or lack there of. I thought ‘art’ imitated ‘life’, Ms. Dunham, or is that only when you’re broke?
Here in Canada, the Toronto Star, CBC and even Global News have shed a spotlight on intern financial and even personal rights. And while advocacy groups like the Canadian Intern Association are here to support them, will amending the minimum wage act to include intern and apprentice positions really solve the problem or create a multitude of new ones?
Working for free is not a new concept to me, if I have to hear “I can’t pay you, but it’ll be great for your portfolio” one more time, somebody is getting punched. But the bigger problem is not whether or not interns should be paid at least minimum wage, it’s why there are no paid positions in the first place.
This generation, generation screwed, is the first in modern history to be worse off than the generation preceding it. And yes we can continue to blame an aging population that is draining the pension pot, or a global economy that has shipped jobs over seas, or even the apathy that is assumed so many young workers have towards trade labor. And though these could and I’m sure are contributing factors, it’s the expanding income inequality gap that has screwed us.
As long as the loyalty of big business rests solely with shareholders, layoffs will continue, work hours will grow, employment opportunities will be scarce and “living to work” will be the mantra of the masses. So we can continue our state of denial. We can continue to take slave positions labeled intern or apprentice. We can tell ourselves that what we’re doing will be good for our CV’s and portfolios. Or we can hold the lawmakers accountable for allowing big business to destroy the economy. And demand, that here in Canada, we work to live.