David Yamada Talks Interns

David Yamada
David Yamada

David Yamada Talks Interns

Yamada posts a timeline of the key events in the unpaid intern controversy. It’s a good story. Suddenly, an industry practice of extorting labor for access and hope became controversial. Needless to say, I was pleased. Yamada has been a major player in the anti-bullying movement for years. You should pay attention to what he has to say.

James Pilant

It played at a summer near you: “The Unpaid Intern Strikes Back”

  • It started in June, when a New York federal district court ruled in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures that lead plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alex Footman, who worked as unpaid interns on the production of the movie “Black Swan,” were entitled to back pay under federal and state minimum wage laws.
  • The Glatt decision triggered a wave of mainstream national media coverage that, in turn, spurred public discussions about the intern economy and whether unpaid internships should be permitted under the law.
  • In the immediate aftermath of Glatt came a marked increase in filings of legal claims for unpaid wages by former interns.
  • ProPublica, the non-profit investigative journalism organization, created a project to examine the intern economy in America and conducted a well-publicized and successful crowd sourced fundraising campaign for a paid project intern.
  • When a senior official with the Lean In Foundation, a charitable organization launched by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg to support the careers of women, advertised for an unpaid editorial intern in August 2013, the result was a loud public backlash. Within 48 hours, the Foundation announced that it would create a paid internship program.
  • Interns at the Nation Institute in New York, publisher of the political magazine The Nation, submitted a letter to the editor to the magazine, calling upon it to pay its full-time summer interns a living wage, rather than the $150 weekly stipend it currently paid. The Institute’s director responded by saying that it will raise the internship stipend and raise money for travel and housing grants.
  • As Intern Labor Rights continued its key role as a face-to-face and social media organizing presence in New York, the movement expanded beyond its New York base to Washington, D.C., another common site of unpaid internships. The Fair Pay Campaign went public with a call for the White House to pay its interns, citing the Oval Office’s hypocrisy in calling for a higher minimum wage while failing to pay even the current one to interns for their work.


From around the web.

From the web site, Thoughts from an Unpaid Intern.


When life gives you lemons, start a blog.

As one of the many unpaid interns/waitresses that, I like to think, run this town, I leave work every day with frustrations I need to vent and a days worth of my own pent-up political commentary that no one wants to listen to…yet…I hope.

So I’m going to throw it all up here and see what happens.

Here’s my attempt to find humor in the thankless jobs of unpaid interning, waitressing and my humble thoughts on the assorted tidbits of news I come across at work and the many foreign policy-related talks that DC has to offer.

Indentured Servitude or Life as a Temp



Involuntary Servitude
Involuntary Servitude

Indentured Servitude or Life as a Temp

The Expendables: How The Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed


Across America, temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy, leading to the proliferation of what researchers have begun to call “temp towns.” They are often dense Latino neighborhoods teeming with temp agencies. Or they are cities where it has become nearly impossible even for whites and African-Americans with vocational training to find factory and warehouse work without first being directed to a temp firm.

In June, the Labor Department reported that the nation had more temp workers than ever before: 2.7 million. Overall, almost one-fifth of the total job growth since the recession ended in mid-2009 has been in the temp sector, federal data shows. But according to the American Staffing Association, the temp industry’s trade group, the pool is even larger: Every year, a tenth of all U.S. workers finds a job at a staffing agency.

I strongly believe that we should hold companies responsible for the acts of their subcontractors. These workers are essential to the American economy but are treated little better than lab rats. This kind of indentured servitude while useful for settling agricultural colonies has fewer uses in the modern world except rank exploitation.

It’s hard to be middle class on these kinds of salary. I read a report the other day that this new generation now coming of age is much less likely to buy cars than the previous ones. What a surprise? There are fewer jobs and the jobs pay less. Of course, they won’t be buying as many cars, or anything else. We pay a lot for our low prices at these huge chain stores, perhaps too much.

James Pilant

From around the web.

From the web site, National Staffing Workers Alliance.


The problems of temp/part-time/precarious work isn’t just a problem in
the U.S. our Canadian sisters and brothers are fighting the same fight. 
The article below highlights how Government run Liquor Control Board of
Ontario (LCBO) used temp and part time workers and while the workers
struggle with low wages, the LCBO rakes in huge profits (sound

From the web site, Migrants Canada.


Most of these workers are no longer on the margins of the economy, but
are central to the functioning of the economy. In most where house work,
day-labor in the agricultural sector, food processing, and in the
healthcare sector, agency workers are becoming the Norm. In fact, these
agencies are part of one of the fast growing industries in Québec;
according to Statistics Canada, in 2008 there were approximately 1200
placement agencies across the province, and the industry had an
estimated value of $1 billion.

From the web site, Flip Chart Fairy Tales.


I suspect that similar forces are at work in the market for part-time professionals. A small number of highly marketable people are able to negotiate part-time contracts on very good rates. Some may have more than one part-time job, others may be working as non-exec directors. A few may be wealthy enough not to need to work full-time. Employers tend to be reluctant to employ part-timers in professional jobs so the very fact that people are in such positions may be an indication of their bargaining power.

As ever, skill levels and social factors, rather than types of employment contract, are the key determinants of pay. If you have highly marketable skills, good social support networks and/or affordable child-care and, crucially, powerful and well-placed contacts, you can make the flexible labour market work for you. If you haven’t, you can’t.

The higher up the social hierarchy you are, the more likely you are to be working on part-time or temporary contracts from choice and the more likely those contracts are to be highly lucrative. At the other extreme, part-time and temporary work is poorly paid, precarious and often all you can get. What is a lifestyle choice for some is Hobson’s choice for the rest.

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