Guest post by Joe Pulcinella
There is a lot of talk going around Washington about cracking down on photographers and other creatives for the “crime” of using unpaid interns. The classic argument (among others) is that we have minimum wage laws to protect the workers of America and to force young people into performing tasks for free would undermine the government’s best intentions to allow everyone to earn a living.
Ok, I’ll go so far as to say that I, like most people, don’t want to see anyone “forced” to work for free. But to ban unpaid internships would hinder, not help, those young people who would like to break into the industry. Let me explain why by addressing some the arguments against unpaid internships.
“Everyone should have a right to earn a living wage.”
The misconception with this reasoning is that not everyone needs to earn a living wage. One example would be young people who are still living at home and would greatly benefit from exposure to the workings of a small business. This experience is worth much more to a young person than a few hours of minimum wage could ever be.
“Employers would force young people to work for free.”
An employer/intern relationship is a consensual one. The compensation (in this case, a learning experience), is already agreed-upon by both sides. In the absence of this right of an intern to offer her services for free in exchange for knowledge, the intern may very well not have an opportunity to learn at all since most creatives are sole proprietorships without the resources to pay inexperienced people to learn on the job.
“The intern has no bargaining position with the employer.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The intern always has the ultimate bargaining chip in that he or she can simply walk away if the experience is not to their benefit. A good intern would be a valuable commodity in the creative community, and if afforded the opportunity to learn in exchange for a little labor, could start their own business and effectively compete in the industry themselves.
This is by no means an exhaustive refutation of the arguments against unpaid internships. It is only a starting point. So to deny an intern the right to offer service in exchange for experience would serve only to keep new entrants out of the market. To require an arbitrary, minimum hourly wage would only eliminate these valuable positions and encourage unemployment among young people. Keeping a free market truly free would not only benefit employers and interns but also our clients.
Joe is a professional wedding photographer, and this is the second time he has authored a guest post here on the Cutting Edge Entertainment DJ blog. I really enjoy Joe’s writing style and fresh perspective, and in this case I would have to say I agree with him. As a DJ, the time, knowledge, experience and relationships I have honed, evolved and invested are priceless, and to think that I should have to pay someone to share that is absurd. In contrast, I believe that in many cases an unpaid internship can be more valuable in the real working world than a college accreditation or even a degree. As an example, if you were to ask a bar owner if they would rather hire a bartender fresh out of bartending school versus a bartender with real experience, nine out of ten times the answer would be the latter.
Thank you for your post Joe, I look forward to more in the future.
click here to check out Joe’s last guest post
Photo Of Joe Pulcinella courtesy of Rosemary Taglialatela