Internships are widely known to be students’ entry into the professional workforce — where fresh-out-of-school youth get “paid in experience” to do the mundane, nitty-gritty work of the office. With the economy in its current state, the market for internships is fiercely competitive — and almost impossible for paid internships.
However, after a year of negotiation, interns at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have voted on forming the “first non-medical intern union” in United States history, an AFT spokesperson announced Wednesday.
AFT interns are already a part of the minority that do get paid.
In a statement released regarding the interns’ union, AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “We respect the decision of the American Federation of Teachers interns to form and vote for a union … [because] we know that people are more likely to succeed when they have a real voice on the job.”
This union has emerged amidst the nationwide Debate Over Unpaid College Internships, which has focused on concerns about the “fairness and legality” of college internships.
“Low paid temporary work has become the norm,” Lou Wolf, organizer with the Office And Professional Employees International Union, told NPR/a>. “[Interns] need a living wage, and they are not paid one. And many of the laws do not protect interns.”
The AFT describes itself as “committed to advancing [the] principles … of fairness, democracy, economic opportunity, and high quality education, health care and public service … through…political activism.”
Whether that activism is correctly guided, only time will tell. The intern union will be negotiating hours, wage and benefits with the AFT beginning in July.