Another day, another interesting story in Salon about unpaid interns. This one, by LA writer and producer Charles Davis, focuses on the upcoming SXSW hip music festival in Austin, and lays out a clear case why its organizers could be sued over the roughly 3,000 “volunteers” or “interns” they employ but don’t pay to put the thing together.
In fact, one of the speakers at the festival, Eric Glatt, told Salon he will be there explaining why a class action lawsuit is probably going to bite organizers in the ass by next year. Glatt, a Georgetown law student, worked as an intern on the movie Black Swan and successfully sued that movie’s producers in a landmark case. He’ll speak on a panel called “Debating Internships: The Value of Unpaid Work.”
As astutely pointed out by Washington Post‘s Radley Balko on Twitter, Salon, ironically enough, has some unpaid intern issues of its own — namely that they repeatedly write about how unpaid internships are morally reprehensible while — you guessed it — employing a number of unpaid interns. As of October 2013, the site still had unpaid interns running around, according to Daily Kos.
The author of today’s story in Salon says a widespread practice of not paying interns is probably “not legitimate.” He points to a federal case in which the ruling declared that Fox Searchlight owed Eric and other Black Swan interns money. Fox has appealed the ruling.
A Salon story in October, 2013, writes about how the U.S. government was being staffed by unpaid interns while employees were furloughed. The visual: a young male in a pinstriped suit holds a piece a cardboard that reads: “Will work for free.” The author of that story, Keenan Steiner, writes that essential government employees were readily replaced by interns. But it was hard for the writer to get many flacks to comment on the record: “Press offices at many of these agencies, including the White House, did not respond to inquiries about their policies toward interns.”
Another October, 2013 story in Salon (they were on a roll apparently) calculates the cost of an unpaid internship. The deck is pretty special: “If you’re reading this while interning for credit, it could be costing you your own money.”
Davis concluded today’s story with a New York attorney saying if an SXSW intern came to his office, he’d take the case. Wrote Davis, “I asked SXSW about that possibility and never heard back.”
So we asked Salon: how come you don’t pay your interns but you write stories about unpaid interns?
As I suspected might happen, Salon never got back to me.