Apprentice. Intern. Slave.

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.

Infographic: The 99% vs. The 1%, www.policyalternatives.ca

Infographic: The 99% vs. The 1%, http://www.policyalternatives.ca

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.

-Parry

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The Road to Employment

Exaggeration has always been part of story telling, particularly of days long past. My father would grumble of ‘kids these days’ not knowing real difficulty if it bit them in the ‘tukus’ in an attempt to teach me a life lesson.

A favorite anecdote of his was him having to walk some ten miles to school through a twenty foot snow drift with no shoes over broken glass – a doubtful scenario, but effective nonetheless. My in-laws once disclosed that when they graduated from university in the 1960s’, they were immediately offered a job in their fields. Both of these accounts seem ridiculously unlikely. The sad thing is, one of them is true.

Here in Canada we have national healthcare, top-tier education, and a beautiful and cared for landscape. We also have long stubborn winters and a bitter lack of decent employment. Graduates find it more difficult with each year to secure meaningful work in their respective fields, often opting to move back home and taking what is available – minimum wage part time positions. Or baring that, these fresh-faced professionals travel abroad to up and coming markets in second and third world nations where speaking English is equally as valuable as your undergrad. I can tell you from personal experience, choosing between paying your debt and unpolluted air is not an easy choice to make.

Employment prospects in Canada have been on the decline since the 2008-2009 recession, and part time positions have been on the rise as companies have cut back to prevent or balance losses. Unfortunately, many late twenty to thirty-somethings are left serving fries with one hand while clutching a degree with the other. This leaves me to wonder if that undergrad I spent four years laboring over (and another ten to pay off) was no more than a glorified high school diploma.

A post-secondary education was a promise of a middle class existence. Academia was a window to a comfortable life. But, with a market saturated with degrees and a system only accountable to shareholders, more and more Canadians are left with a mountain of debt and no means to work it off.

Kids these days may not have to endure the same inconveniences as generations before them. But many of us do grow up unable to follow in the footsteps of our parent’s good intentions. And like many stories of days past, the one about a fruitful job market has sadly been left in the dust of nostalgia.

-Parry

Mad As Hell

I got up this morning to a fog rolling into the city. It’s not from rain, or from temperature change or any other natural reason for a hazy day. It’s because I live in Beijing, and the pollution levels are on the rise today. Jumping a few dozen points between 8:00 and 9:00am. The AQI is 249 at the time of writing this.

I made tea, and watched the latest episode of VICE, which only further disgruntled me with its expose on the scrapers working legally and illegally in America’s industrial towns, taking apart once booming factories to sell the metal to China – not only have our jobs gone there, our buildings are being sold to China piece by piece.

I have been awake for just over an hour.

We are killing each other with video game warfare, poisoning our selves to buy poorly made products, dehumanizing the disenfranchised by way of forced labour, and bankrupting our once great nations so the 1% can buy another yacht.

Any words I could muster through the rage that is burning in my belly, would not do justice in articulating the total shit show going on outside my door, your door, and the doors of anyone, everywhere. So instead I’ll leave you with the words of Network’s (1976) Howard, as I think it is more poignant now than ever before.

– Parry

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won’t say anything.” Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being. God Dammit, my life has value.” So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change my friends. You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

– Network 1976