Unpaid Internships

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Remember The Devil Wears Prada? Now .. the Devil is in the details as a former intern with Harper's Bazaar begins a class action lawsuit, alleging she was exploited in an unpaid internship. The lawsuit comes at a time when internships in Canada and the U.S. are ever-increasing, where an estimated 1 to 2 million people in the U.S. toil for free for the chance to get a foot in the door. Today, we're looking at the implications of a method of free labour that now has the attention of a generation ready to ask tough questions.


Part Three of The Current

Unpaid Internships - Former intern suing Harper's Bazaar

Many students and new graduates are beginning their summer internship positions.
The CBC has just received a new group of journalism students to complete six-week internships as part of their academic journalism credit; six week unpaid internships.

Most journalism schools require an internship as part of the course, although they don't insist they be unpaid. Students see these internships as a important step toward working in the industry, when presumably someone will pay them for their efforts. Aaron Taylor is a student at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton currently interning at the Edmonton Sun.

You don't have to be clobbered with a copy of The Fountainhead to feel there's something amiss here. Bethany Horn -- a former journalism student at King's College in Halifax -- refused an unpaid internship because she says working for free is exploitation.

Diana Wang believed she landed a dream opportunity as an intern at the New York offices of Harper's Bazaar -- the fashion magazine owned by the Hearst corporation. But she found the experience so horrendous she's suing the company. Diana Wang joined us from Columbus, Ohio.

The Hearst Corporation did not respond to our request for an interview.

Unpaid Internships - Panel

Diana's Wang's class action is one of three law suits in the United States filed on behalf of former interns. Our next guest says these lawsuits mark a turning point for unpaid internships. Ross Perlin is the author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. He joined us in our New York Studio. And Andrew Langille is a Toronto employment lawyer currently researching unpaid internships in Canada for his master's thesis at York University. He joined us in our Toronto studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch.

Last Word - Devil Wears Prada

We've been talking today about interns who feel abused by cruel bosses. Hollywood has made good use of fiery employers roasting unpaid workers in films like Office Space and Swimming with Sharks.

But Meryl Streep turned down the heat and applied sub-zero contempt for her new assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. Different job description ... similar outcome. On today's Last Word, a very public dressing down on the subject of dressing up.


Other segments from today's show:

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