Thursday 10 October 2013

An Open Letter to George Stroumboulopoulos Regarding Interns

Dear George,

I caught your show last night, (George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, season 4, Ep 17) and my interest was definitely piqued by the panel section (approximately 14min and 40sec for you following along at home). You decided to tackle the issue of unpaid interns, good on ya!

...But, you completely flubbed it.

I am disappoint.

Things seem to be going well for you...Do you remember me? We lived on the same street for 3 years... You kind of hit on me when I asked you a question about getting a motorcycle license... I nearly ran you over on my bike several times when you were showing your motorcycle to random people at 3am...

Hello, friend!
...Oh, that's never remember me, despite us being neighbours for years, and running into you several times a year at film & TV industry events (and re-introducing myself each time, naturally)... But hey, I'm just a member of Gen Y, we're all just soft, interchangeable, slave labourers to you, right?

Whump wah.

On your show last night, you brought up a valid, timely issue... the issue of unpaid internships, and whether they are necessary, just, or exploitative. Now, how did you introduce this section?

"You know, on this show over the past ten seasons we've paid close attention to things in the natural world. We care deeply about the survival and sustainability of this glorious place, but now we talk about a species that is, well, on the verge of extinction. It's quite tragic, it has no special skill, not even that fast, not everybody's entirely sure what it provides to the ecosystem, but we care nonetheless. We're of course talking about...the unpaid intern."

Now, I've highlighted a few points in your opening statement that I'd like to address...but before I do, let's give you the benefit of the doubt, and hear what you wisdom you have to impart on the subject...

Your esteemed panel of experts include:

  • 1 radio host, "Humble Howard"
  • Local comedian, Kurt Smeaton
  • Local comedian, Leslie Seiler

Hmmm, not the best of authorities on the issue, but maybe, just maybe they've studied the data, looked at some studies, and have even read the recently published Report on youth employment Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives...?

The extremely qualified panel on all issues of employment law. They haven't, you haven't, and what follows shows that even if you had, you wouldn't give a shit...

The ironically titled "Humble" Howard starts things off by remarking:
"I remember when you were an look at you!"
You explain that in the "early, early days of your career you ran an overnight radio show", wait, you ran a show? As an intern? "More details, pls!" cry your audience's critical thinking lobes...but you've already moved on, and used this tenuous anecdotal evidence to establish that an intern, any intern, can start at the bottom and rise to the top...Just. Like. You.

This is bullshit.

...but I digress. What other oeuvres can you and your panelists provide on the subject of illegal unpaid internships?

"Humble" Howard goes on to explain that:

"...we gave them tasks we thought were commiserate [sic] with their experience"
...but isn't the entire purpose of interning to gain experience? Surely, not to be assigned work "commiserate" with their current level of experience?


Well, let's not let facts or logic get in the way of a rich, middle aged Baby Boomer shitting on the younger generations, right? You stop him, thankfully, only to show that you are more than capable of shitting on the younger generation yourself:
"...they are smarter, they are more connected, but they are SOFTER."
You turn to one of your esteemed panelists:
" you think the current interns could handle what the old school days were like?"

...She responds with a heavily research-backed response of:
"...young kids today, if I may sound 80, are spending so much time like this *mimes texting*, and getting things handed to them I think it does them a little bit good!"
Panelist demonstrates what statistically backed research says "young kids today" are "spending so much time doing"...

Well, what are "young kids today" actually spending so much time on? Here are some real, data-backed answers:

  • Paying down the highest student debt in Canadian history: 
    • Between 1990 and 2010 average tuition fees rose from $1,271 to $5,139. In 2010, student debt exceeded nearly $15Billion, higher than the debt of some provinces...and it is still growing.
  • Desperately seeking employment: 
    • The 2013 unemployment rate for Ontario Youth ranged between 16 and 17.1%. Higher than the Canadian national average of 13.5 to 14.5%.
    • Toronto's youth unemployment rate is 18.1%, and it's employment rate is only 43.5%...the worst in all of Ontario.
Hey, wait, let's go deeper and examine the definition of "young kids", who is doing all that unpaid work?


The answer is pretty awful...

  • Statistics Canada keeps no records for internships, paid or unpaid... We have literally no idea who is working for free, or how many people are... But Labour Lawyer, Andrew Langille's research shows there are likely between 100,000 and 300,000 in Canada alone not being paid for their work.
  • Even using the lowest minimum wage in all of Canada (Alberta, $9.95/hr) that is $398/week, and using the lower of Andrew Langille's estimates, that is $1,990,000,000 missing from the economy.
Oh, F***!

So, George, let's go back to your opening statement to your panel on unpaid internships, and break down those points I highlighted...

"You know, on this show over the past ten seasons we've paid close attention to things in the natural world. (1) We care deeply about the survival and sustainability of this glorious place, but now we talk about a species that is, well, (2) on the verge of extinction. It's quite tragic, (3) it has no special skill, not even that fast, (4) not everybody's entirely sure what it provides to the ecosystem, but we care nonetheless. We're of course talking about...the unpaid intern."

(1) You do NOT care about the survival or sustainability of "this glorious place" (let's assume Canada). You do not seem to care that youth debt, and youth unemployment are scary high. You do not seem to care that at least $1,990,000,000/year is missing from the Canadian economy. How can a country with hundreds of thousands of slave labourers survive? Who will contribute to the EI and CPP funds and support the Baby Boomers as they retire and draw on health care? Certainly not those unpaid, life-long indebted unpaid interns. 
(2) Are interns on the "verge of extinction? NO. In fact, there has been a substantial increase in the number of unpaid internships in Canada, starting in the late 1990s. They are even moving out of the "traditional fields" of media, and journalism, and into "real" professions like software development, and into fields that have always been done with on-the-job training... like bus boys in restaurants.
(3) Interns have no special skill(s)? Let's look at the (horrible) moment when you paraded one of your own slaves on the air:
Blake, a slave for George Stroumboulopoulos.
George: "Who do you think benefits more in this scenario?"
Blake: "...In the long run, probably the intern..."
George: "Before you answer that though, remember, I'm your employer."
Blake: "Hmmm...I beg to differ on that one..."
"I beg to differ..."
Way to go, Blake, for standing up to George's outrageous, offensive bullying. George, you brought a human being (who you think is undeserving of minimum wage) out on your show, to humiliate him, and to bully him into agreeing with you, for fear of losing his "opportunity". He had the guts to point out that only those with financial support from their families (aka, rich folks) can afford the "opportunity" that unpaid internships present... Your guffaw at that only highlights the point I made in (1).

And finally,

(4) "Not everybody's entirely sure what it provides to the ecosystem"...? How about this, let's assume that "the ecosystem" is your tax-payer funded TV show that airs on CBC... Let's assume that you have 3 unpaid interns working for you, filing, photocopying, or maybe just moving boxes (all a part of my 6 month unpaid internship in the film industry). So, 3 people working 40 hours a week, at Ontario minimum wage ($10.25/hr) would cost your show $1230.00/week. So what is the mysterious "unpaid intern" offering to your ecosystem? 
It's saving you money. Roughly $1230.00/week, or $61,500.00/year.

And hey, the only trade off is you have to be OK with slavery and breaking Ontario's labour laws:
Ontario’s Employment Standards Act states that all employees must be paid at least the Ontario minimum wage ($10.25 per hour for most employees).  An “employee” includes a person who receives training from an employer.  A person is not considered an employee if these six conditions are met:
  1. The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school
  2. The training is for the benefit of the individual
  3. The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained
  4. The individual does not displace employees of the person providing the training
  5. The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the person providing the training
  6. The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training did we get here? You were awesome. It was the 90s, you were young, and you stood up to the big bullshit media...

...and now you are the big bullshit media. You are the old, rich guy with his boot on the neck of the youth. Giggling as you parade them on your tax-payer funded show, forcing them to dance for the possibility of opportunity.

...You, sir, are a trafficker of hope, and a bully.

...You started in the entertainment industry because of your love of music...I'll try and wrap things up with a piece of advice from singer-songwriter, Billy Bragg on the topic of cynicism and losing your values:

...Look, I hope that you re-evaluate your position on the matter. I hope that you realize that cheap, clichéd jokes that mock young people, their laziness, and how they could never work as hard as you, are just that... Cheap and clichéd, and that there are far bigger, more unpleasant truths to the how many, many employers will gladly trade their employment ethics to save a few dollars...

Maybe you'll listen to me, maybe not...but you may just remember me the next time we bump into each other.


Claire Callway


  1. So I guess the take away here is that you're still not over the Stromb not having enough interest in you?

    Was he supposed to remember you?

    Is there someone else on your street maybe that is equally as guilty of said offense?

    Or was this really about standing up for people working for nothing?

    How is this Georges fault exactly?

    This article makes no sense.

    George is guilty of being one of the worse entertainers in media (that gets paid) but the personal tone in this "whatever it is" ... is laughable.

    1. So you focus on one detail, that the author uses to establish character, and use it to as an excuse to completely ignore the list of valid points she made (with data to back them up)?

      *the point*


    2. ^^^^^ YES!

      WWM clearly didn't read more than his attention span can handle (1/10th of this article)

    3. Oh George. You the worse.

  2. It is a personal blog. I write through the lens of my life. Google for more details.

  3. I think that one of the takeaways of this, and possible reasoning for including the anecdote of Claire and George being neighbours, is that George is overlooking the 'little people', in his everyday life, and well as when he's speaking to the public through his show. Do you think that he even understood the comment made by his own intern, regarding that George is this kids 'employer'?

    I think that this was a great article Claire. Kudos on exposing this issue.

  4. Great article! Man..I knew the stats were bad, but I didn't realize how bad. Yeesh. Horrifying.

    1. It's pretty bleak, but the night is always darkest before the dawn, or some other uplifting thing like that.

      Basically, yup, it's terrible. But if people know that it's terrible, we can do something about it! :)

  5. Great, great article/post Claire!!! WWM's comment is way off! It was so obviously not about Stromb not having enough interest in you! And more like what d of z pointed out! And I remember George on CFNY back in the day, yes he got the shitty nighttime shift that newbies get, but like you said... him making it is NOT proof that anyone can! Total bullshitt like you said!! And I'm technically older than Gen Y but attitude and ideals-wise am more Y than X, and you know what I think? I think they think of Gen Y as having it good and being lazy coz we're not willing to put up with shitty jobs and shitty lives and want more out of life! And why not?! Let's grow and improve as a population and demand better work environments and lives! And unlike other generations have been shafted by post-secondary education! My degree when I started cost $2.5k in 1996, by the time I finished in 2003 it was $7k, by the time my boyfriend's niece went in 2010, it was $11k!! WTF!! PLUS insane amounts of unemployed degree-holding grads coz there aren't enough jobs!! Including engineering which was supposed to be so lucrative and such a practical degree. Plus there is no loyalty from companies to employees, we, unlike our parents cannot ever hope to stay at one company for a lifetime. We're lucky if we get 5 years before a layoff. sigh. ...... In a final note, just gotta say I LOVE the Billy Bragg video about cynism!! So well put!!

    1. and yay on you for doing the research, and boo on them for having such a joke of a panel of "experts". sigh. :/

    2. The way tuition has sky-rocketed is pretty grim. My undergrad was roughly $4700..three years later it was up to about $6100. Same program, same profs, same facilities, and lord knows minimum wage didn't shoot up to match...

      As unpaid internships become the norm, it bleeds into every industry... I have a friend in med school where someone wanted unpaid interns 35hrs/week doing medical research... THAT'S terrifying. :\

      ...and Billy Bragg is awesome. I completely poo-pooed his comment on cynicism (he gives it at the end of ever concert I've been too)...took a few years before the weight of it really hit me...

  6. I got paid $9/hour in my U of T co-op job. I felt like a piece of crap at the time, but I worked my ass off and got a job at 35k + commission.

    Interning and working for shit pay is what it is, and if you're not willing to do it, someone else will, whether they're in Canada or in India or Costa Rica or Manila or wherever else in the world they're offshoring to nowadays.

    We live in a world where we're no longer the best at everything, and we're just going to have to get used to getting 1) paid and 2) treated, little by little, the way the rest of the world does. That is, like shit.

    More directly, to your points
    1) You do not seem to care that youth debt, and youth unemployment are scary high.

    Doesn't really have anything to do with unpaid interns. This has more to do with the fact that we get other people to do a shit ton of work in North America. This is not a bad thing, it is what it is. Oh, and CPP is going to run out regardless of the youth employment situation, just ask Greece, Ireland, and all of the other countries going through what we're headed for in 10-20 years.

    2) You are correct

    3) Interns have no special skill(s)?
    Broadly speaking, yes, most interns don't have any special skills. That's why they are interns. If they had special skills (comparatively speaking), they wouldn't be interning for free. Are they talented? Perhaps. Do they have potential to translate that talent into skills needed in the workplace? Sure. But by no means are they skilled. You learn how to translate talent into a skill when you work.

    4) I agree with ya. He just needed to say something to finish his sentence.

    Damn this is a long comment. Long story short, you're right to get angry, but don't direct it towards Strombo. History is filled with the sounds of silk slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming upstairs. We're about to enter into the decline of North American civilization, and let's just be happy that we're not going to be at the end of said decline.

    [stepping off soapbox]

    1. You got paid $9/hr. That's a lot better than $0/hr, especially when it's 40hrs x $0, leaving young people with basically no time for even a part time job. I don't want to be in a race to the bottom. Labour laws exist not only to protect employees from unscrupulous employers, but from other people willing to work for nothing.

      Is the world changing with globalization? Yes. Does it mean we let corporate interests crush everyone down to the poorest quality of life available on the planet so a small percentage can get rich? Fuck me, I hope not.

      What we CAN do, is let our human decency FIGHT corporate greed, and raise the global standards so that everyone has a good quality of life.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Nope, you still don't get it.

      'Getting treated like shit' is comparative. We get treated better than 90-95% of the humans on the planet. The vast majority of the world would kill for the change to work in our 'conditions.'

    4. "We get treated better than 90-95% of the humans on the planet" - Still doesn't make it right. Manufacturing Consent? You know what this is? It's a slow burn scenario where u slowly accept something. I can elaborate but if you read, or Audiobook Al Gore's book "the Assault on Reason" you will understand Manufacturing Consent" It's not pretty. It's rather sinister.

  7. If these viewpoints are of any representation then I would confidently add 'with an unfortunate sense of self-entitlement' to George's 'softer' comment.

    Only a sense of self-entitlement would allow someone to believe that employers should pay for this 'bonus' position. Because yes, internships are just that a bonus, a privilege. Employers do not employ interns to fill positions that could/would go to more experienced, qualified candidates.

    Why should someone be paid simply on the basis that they have completed relative studies and are wanting and or needing to gain practical experience? Moreover why should an employer pay to help them achieve that?

    Surely the writer is not so naïve as to believe that there are not unemployed qualified persons whereby this 'bonus' position would be better served. It is notable that only youth unemployment statistics were provided in the article. Further support of my opening comment.

    I am a 'Gen Xer' and I viewed my internship as an opportunity to learn as much as I could and demonstrate the skills I could bring to the firm. Time much better spent than whining about $10.25/hr complete with goofy images.

    I don't believe my response would be complete without mentioning the value in what you can learn during your internship with the right attitude and mindset. For instance, had the author asked for a critique of this article, I would have most definitely advised her to remove all of the gibberish about her interactions with George. It diminishes the effectiveness of the message and makes her appear petty and bitter. Just that tidbit has got to be worth at least $2.65.

    Nonetheless, I hope this type of nonsense does not discourage well intended employers from continuing to support internships and share their invaluable knowledge and experience.

    1. I highly recommend that you do some research. The issue is VERY MUCH that jobs that should have paid employees are being given to unpaid interns. Many times when employees leave (or are laid off) they are replaced by unpaid labour. That is a problem, one that all forward thinking people should care about...

      I do not have time to parrot studies and stats to you. Google is your friend. Use it. You can also use it to research the popular meme "rage faces" and see that your age and lack of cultural references is showing.

      Gen X, you got old, and cynical. It's not a good look.

    2. oh I can only laugh at your response... your sense of entitlement and smug superiority are emblazoned on your reply... XD ... yes, the irony of it is filling my eyes with tears of laughter... I am a Gen X'er, graduated with a Honours degree (not a 3-year 'Mrs.' degree as they called it back then...) some 20+ yrs ago...couldn't afford grad school... worked at crap jobs for 10 yrs, until I was considered 'mature' enough to get a proper job... the asinine comments I got in interviews from the baby-boomer (YOUR parents’ generation btw) in charge were degrading, insulting and very-biased... Even once I got a 'real' job (not commensurate with my 'edumacation' either...), the attitude that I encountered in co-workers (10-15 yrs older than me - bb's) was that they were threatened by me and my useless degree, in an entirely irrational way... So I had to work harder and longer than those folks (who spent their time shopping online, rather than working... and then having the gall to complain about their workload (which was WAY lighter than mine)), just to try and prove myself worthy... after 12 years, I am now out of a job, with a mortgage and car payments to finance, and I WISH I had've had an internship in my youth, so I could realize earlier either that I hated what I did for a living, or found it rewarding... just the opportunity to see the daily workings of a place to see if it was something I could do for the rest of my life... oh yes, sweetie, your heightened sense of entitlement is what drowns your generation, not the ‘seeming’ discrimination of unpaid internships... sorry, I just calls 'em as I sees 'em... and your immature, haughty labelling of Gen X, just makes me laugh at your rage, instead of sympathizing... you will have to learn to pick your battles in life, honey, that's just the way it is... very few people get a hand up, and if they do it's because they are there, right under the nose of those people who can see them, know them, and they KNOW who wants to really be there and bust their ass doing ANYTHING just for the opportunity to be there... that's what it comes down to, and that's exactly what George is getting at... and after all, it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek humour... apparently a sense of humour is something that you do not possess, or else it's just that prince/princess snobbish kind of attitude that is taken for humour these days... essentially, grow the eff up, there are lots of people that have been there, and either survived or went elsewhere... your generation is freakin' lucky to have access to those internships... there were very few available in my time, (oh, unless your mommy or daddy had a fellow baby-boomer friend who could 'get you in'... that's all there was then... anyways, this has been fun... don't bother to comment, I won't read it.... cheers!!! :)

    3. Oh, and btw, I've heard George speak, and he lived with a bunch of guys in a crap apartment, putting together just enough change just to get 10 burgers on the 2 for 1 day, which they could put in the fridge and live off of for the rest of the week... and then he was immediately available when he got the call (the 'great opportunity') to a cover someone's else's show in the graveyard shift... but because he was willing, ready and able, that got him some attention, (as well as a positive eager attitude) and the rest is history my friend... ;) .. maybe your attitude is what keeps you in an internship... and your boss knows it... and you can keep job-searching all the time (yes, I've done it), so you can get that next opportunity and be able to tell the freeloader where to get off, and continue your life... you don't have to stay... if he has high employee turnover, (and you and your young coworkers move on), then it will come to bite him in the ass eventually... trust me, it takes a long time, true, but what comes around, goes around... you are building skills that you can take with you and later be able to tell him and the system to kiss your ass, until then, suck it up cupcake, we've all had to (ok, there are some exceptions, like the children of the CEO's of the corp., etc. who get opportunities that they didn't work for or don't qualify or have the skills for, but that's not something you can avoid)... seriously, you don't want to live and work in a communist country... it ain't pretty, nor comfortable... and the level of nepotism and corruption exceeds what we have here... well, Ima gonna go... tata!!

    4. ...what is so sad is that instead of taking your experience of discrimination, sexism, and ageism and fighting to prevent it in the future... you choose to turn your rage against the younger generation.

      Instead of bitterly taking all the negatives you have been through and demanding that the next generation suffer too, you could fight for a better future for everyone who follows you. That is what I intend to do.

    5. Also, not that it is necessary, but at no point did I say I was an intern. I have been working in my industry for 5 years. And working since I was 13 years old. I just want labour rights for workers, what a monster I must be.

    6. Opening with your personal feelings of rejection kinda kill your point and made you sound...well, psycho. I run into George here and there and he seems like a nice guy. Anyway, to the point, should people not get paid to go to post-secondary school? Or at least be unpaid students (go learn for free)? No, they pay to go to school. Internship is free schooling and resume credentials. Look at the number of grads that cannot find a job in their field. Many of the interns that have worked in my company have been hired by us (and others have become employed elsewhere). They would not have been when they were fresh out of school. Does it suck to not get paid? Yes. I get it. This is short-term. The alternative is to get a lower paying job at a lesser company and stay there, making less, for longer and ending with an unimpressive CV. Internship gives you the leg-up (experience in companies that you would NOT get into right out of school) into higher paying gigs that you would otherwise be unable to land. I think that you will find people who have done internships will have mostly benefited from their experience. Sure there are shitheads that will offer a poor experience and exploit the system, but this is true in the paid workforce as well. Take some time to consider how you want to think about the world and slice the stats (and how you gain attention by smearing someone or your 15 mins will be up right here and now). Cheers!

    7. Unpaid internships are illegal. What is your company's name? I will gladly pass it along to the Ministry of Labour.

    8. You played the old card. Petty, bitter and predictable.

      Admittedly, I had no idea what you were referring to.* How shameful. Because you know what they say 'knowledge is power'. pfft

      *Thanks to Drew for clearing it up

  8. This is a great article, thank for writing this. As a member of Gen Y and a grad student, I have been trying my best to avoid unpaid internships. But many of my friends my age have not been as lucky, they have had to work as an office slave for years.

    1. The fight is not getting the laws changed, the laws already exist. The real battle is changing the public's entrenched (and incorrect) view of what internships are, who is doing them, for how long, and what the long term effects will be... As Imola llyes said a little further up, the key is labour solidarity.

  9. As a young media man with plenty of unpaid work experience under his belt, I cannot agree with you more about the issue of "unpaid interns."

    However, lashing out at Strombo is completely irrational and incorrect.

    First off; the fact that he apparently doesn't properly acknowledge you when you bump into eachother is meaningless to the point you're attempting to make. All I can say to that, is I've seen Strombo walk a few red carpets and that man will not only speak to all reporters, but he will individually shake hands with every single freaking producer and camera man standing there too.

    And second; if you're looking to bash on the mediocre panel for the segment, blame the producers for the episode. You obviously know that it's not Strombo's role to go out of his way to chase down prime "talking heads" for the issue. Clearly the producers had intended to feature the issue with a more lighthearted approach (i.e. having two comedians to comment). And Strombo has no say on which interns get hired. He's a cog in a machine. If anything, this letter should have been addressed to the network as a whole, but not a specific host.

  10. Slaves? Old rich guy with his boot on the neck of the youth? Seriously? Are these positions not voluntary? If these kids don't find value in the position, then why not use their current experience and apply for a paid job? Don't have enough experience? Then do an internship! What a load of intellectual pablum. This article is straight non-sense on stilts.

    1. Why should people work for free? Previous generations did not, it doesn't benefit the economy, and the data proves that it does not benefit the intern. Stats show there is little to no correlation between those who do internships and those who don't in finding paid work.

      The problem is that it is insidious. When people demand unpaid labour, it becomes the norm. You don't want to work for free? But what if there are 30 people applying for the same job who will? Why would the employer hire anyone for money when SOMEone will work for free?

      I spent 4 years in an animation studio that did almost all its work with unpaid intern labour. Four salaries (industry standard around 40k-45k for juniors) simply disappeared from the economy because they found 4 people willing to work for nothing (and I'm talking 60hr work weeks). When they eventually quit due to financial pressures, they were told they were "throwing away a golden opportunity"...heh, a golden opportunity for my boss to reap the benefit of slave labour.

    2. Why do you say "previous generations did not" work for free? Where did you get this information? This is a huge generalization on your part.
      My parents worked for free before getting paid. And I did four unpaid internships in the media industry before getting hired. And that's okay because I was able to learn things that were never taught in school. I was given the opportunity (for free) to start off and gain more experience before getting paid. And I think that's fair.

    3. Irina, as someone also working in the entertainment industry who started out as an intern, I would say that not all interning is bad. But I will say that it becomes very problematic when companies start actually building budgets around this constant influx free labor due to it becoming increasingly more acceptable/accepted.

      The problem is if we as professionals all start laughing off the idea of interning to a generation who doesn't know better due to being inexperienced how are they supposed to know if what they are doing is training or exploitation? You can't tell kids out of college that every internship they get is going to lead to a job. Watching interns spend 3 months doing unpaid roto-scoping and then get the boot after the project is over is not cool.

      And to top it off the more corners are cut to save companies money off of this free labor, the harder it is to actually give realistic budgets for projects initially. Things everywhere are about to get a lot more expensive and the last thing we need is more creative accounting that's simply differing the costs onto the next generation.

  11. great read. well written and peppered with laughs to offset the depressing conclusion. still not sure how people think "kids today" are going to live off a full time unpaid internship and, if they're lucky, a part time job at minimum wage and crippling student debt. oh, you went to school and now expect to be employed now that you're done? HA. live with your parents while Gen Xers berate you for not contributing and yet being lazy for wanting to be paid for your labour. ugh.

    1. They want us to build debt. Debt makes (certain) people money. Indebted for life? AWESOME! - says the credit card companies. There is an excellent (if terrifying) documentary on the predatory practices of credit card companies if you're's on Netflix!:

  12. The CBC is governed by the Canada Labour Code, not the Employment Standards Act.

    1. The law still applies. When they operate in Ontario they follow Ontario labour laws, same as in any other province.

  13. Unpaid internships are equated to slave labour? That's rich. And very offensive to the history of the European slave trade. But as a young black person you are sensitive to that right? As a young black guy myself I wouldn't call the numerous police shootings and killings of young black males a holocaust. We're on the same page right?

    Here's an idea: if you dont like the opportunities made available to you, then don't take them. Make your own. But why, right? You want to be successful. And successful people don't make their own opportunities. Glad your not entitled.

    1. slave labor
      persons, especially a large group, performing labor under duress or threats, as prisoners in a concentration camp; a labor force of slaves or slavelike prisoners.
      labor done by slaves.
      any coerced or poorly remunerated work: Typing at that salary is slave labor.


    2. You can critique my touch screen typos. You can also rely on Wikipedia or or whatever other reference website you find convenient.

      But how about addressing my point: unpaid interns are not slaves. They are not working under duress or threats. They are not literally slaves who do labour. They are not coerced into taking on the internships they accept.

      And while they are poorly remunerated workers in the sense of not being paid at all, so are workers at McDonalds or Wal-Mart. Or perhaps more fitting, so are the workers who likely assembled the computer you used to snarkily point out my incorrect usage of your v.s. you're. So are the children in Bangladesh who probably put together the shoes you are wearing. So are the women in Vietnam who probably sewed the shirt or jacket you are wearing. So I suppose you benefit from this slavery scheme too. Or do you only buy/use electronics manufactured by unionized Canadian companies that pay everyone who reports for duty? I hope your $5,000 cell phone or $13,000 computer makes you feel better about yourself.

      I shouldn't be snarky. But I think you could have made your point much more effectively without resort to hyperbole like "slave labour". Your ad hominem attacks on Mr. Stroum are also distracting. But my biggest complaint against your point is that you complain and don't offer any workable solution.

      If you go back to your dictionary I'm sure you'll find that these unpaid internships that you describe as poorly remunerated work are actually volunteer positions. An unpaid intern is actually a volunteer. And the definition of volunteer is... well, I think you get my drift. Just because we have fancy names for these positions doesn't mean that they aren't volunteer positions. Of course, there's something less impressive about landing a volunteer gig at CBC. But man oh man, I'd be on top of the world if I could land an internship there. Yes, I'm saying that an unpaid internship is like a participation ribbon. It usually looks better than it is.

      So please forgive my snarky response. And try to look past any additional typos/grammar errors I may have committed. There's a point in these words here.

      Finally, I realize its your blog and you can use creative license to get your point across. But its a public blog. So I figured you were looking for public dialogue.

    3. I am going to call unpaid labourers what they are: slaves.

      If you choose to debate whether or not a young person being coerced/threatened into doing unpaid labour is ethical or not in the face of global labour injustices, that is your prerogative.

      Regardless, it is illegal in Canada.

      Now, I could continue to educate you on the illegality of unpaid internships on my "$13,000" computer (which you are reading on your $5000 phone), or you could take a serious interest in an injustice being committed in this country, right now.

      Here is a great starting off point, a group that I am part of, that is actively trying to educate, and find solutions:

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    1. George's Intern is going places!! Humble's Intern fed him pocket lint and plam sweat and who knows what else! Clarie is a stronger person because of it all. The value of the Internship has been restored - in my eyes! There are a ton of gears at play. - as the CBC Intern has stated. Sometimes you do have to through sand in the sandbox. Just rinse your eyes and keep playing Claire. I wouldn't respond to card tricks - you've suffered enough.

  15. Wow, I can't believe people are actually standing up for unpaid internships! Getting people to work for free is illegal. Great article.

  16. Thanks for the article Claire. I Like that name, Claire. Met many through my life and all beautiful people. This article found me, and I see why. Let's look this a bit differently...more on "the system" - first of all we need to agree that the system of education, government and the way we live is inherently flawed. I'm looking into this and working everyday to see passed this fact.

    If you have a skill, in the historical tribal past, when rights were equal, you would just have an obligation to pass on your skills to anyone who wanted to learn...taken on as an apprentice, and treated like family...or at least as part of the whole tribe...or Ecosystem (I like that you use this word rather than economy...shows a better form of balance)

    We can, as a North American community, GenY,X, or even upcoming Z, argue this fact till we are blue in the face...but the truth is most, including you are looking at this from the perspective of a citizen within this corrupt system. Yes, Google is your friend...and it's free. Institutional education is not, and part of the with Credit Cards, and Mortgages you mentioned are going to cause you to be in debited to the a slave...for life. The dream is false. And you seem to be on to that are some others who are awakening to this reality.

    But how do we work within the able to live, pay rent, buy food...etc. without conforming? Good question. And that is the trap. Here's a fact that I have come to realize...not just the quality of life but quality of "Energy" is really the most valuable resource and what people need and want - Some suck the life from others, and others are slaves. George went in with good intentions and now is part of the problem. Not his fault,'s the bad "energy" of the system he is working with. He's polluted and loves his Red Carpet experiences. It's all a trap.

    I encourage you to continue to educate this is the only way to freedom. Not stuff yourself full of knowledge...because "there is nothing new out there" it's an illusion. But rather continue to seek the truth...stand firm in the face of adversity, don't fall a slave to the current system. Create your own patterns and try to unlearn what you already think or know to be true...and keep blowing out the crap. Endure to the end (which there is none) and you will be alright. It's a paradox...I, know, but it's the way....

  17. I really enjoyed this, your perspective and research are both greatly appreciated.

    That out of the way, the "rage memes" gotta go - unless you included somebody else's intellectual property in a pay-for-play piece as an ironic juxtaposition.

    They're unfunny and played and distract from the strength of your writing and validity of your points.

  18. it's simple.. To work in the field/job you want and, you know, make money; you need experience. Without working for free and getting the experience you won't get the job generation y thinks they deserve from graduation because we grew up being told we're special.

    I did a 4 month internship and while it took a number of months after that I got a job that let me quit Staples and paid me amounts of money I couldn't even fathom as a Staples employee who would have turned lifer if it wasn't for a piece of paper from school that forced me to take a semester long internship in order to get that paper. Compared to people I know im similar courses at different schools; I'm much better off.

    People have to stop being whiny little bitches.

    1. I'm glad you participated in a legal internship. Any internship that is required for education is legal under Ontario's labour laws.

      When you actually look at the data, you will discover that many companies are eliminating paid positions and replacing them with unpaid interns. Many internships are demanding skill sets that, until recently, were for entry level positions.

      Your anecdotal evidence does not negate the reality of the situation, nor absolve the illegality of many, many companies in Canada.

  19. I agree with you claire. People should be paid at least minimum wage for their time spent. That is why they have a minimum wage. If an internship is for pure educational purposes and not a money making scheme for the company, then the company should have an educational department where interns can work on non-money making work. The way I see it is, if the cooperation makes tons of money off your work, you should get something for that.

    1. Absolutely. If companies want to say that interns have "no skills" and should not be paid (in violation of our labour laws) then how can they ask for resumes? For skills (photoshop, programming, web design, etc)? It's maddening. :(

  20. lol @ "outrageous, offensive bullying."

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  22. Yes, let's all shift blame on to random people we don't like for whatever reason we can conjure in our minds. "He was my neighbor and didn't remember me, ergo anything unfair that he brings up is his fault!"

    Imagine, if you had used that energy to write something meaningful you could have the beginnings of a great fiction novel.

    1. Actually I was offended by his promotion of illegal labour practices, and bullying one of his illegal interns on national television. That is why I wrote an article backed by research to raise awareness.

  23. Great article. But let's not forget that the CBC is now run by the Conservative government. So there may be some censorship involved.

  24. ...The best thing about being broke is that it doesn't cost anything.

    There is a particular tendency (generally found among right-wingers), that poor people have a 'free ride', and are too 'entitled' for their own good. I think Jesus said something like "Blessed be he who gets to line up at the food shelter"...But I digress. Why are we so quick to blame individuals for compensation when the corporations exploiting them continue to make record profits?

    Why should people have to struggle in poverty, often working several jobs, just be able to attain an education?

    Now granted, I've stepped away from the specifics of 'the intern' to make a more general statement regarding labour today. But, allow me to explain. It seems there has been a shift in the public discourse - pundits like to portray 'employment' (regardless of how sh*tty said employment is, like how little it follows those conventional standards of 'having a pension', 'benefits', 'overtime pay') as a gift from god. There's this notion of 'responsibility' attached to (mandatory) volunteering - like the 40hour requirement to graduate high school. Why isn't that same responsibility placed onto the company that lays off 250k workers to maintain their profit-margin? No, instead it's all about the individual, whose job it is to whore themselves through the ever-fluctuating tides of the job market.

    I think the disappointment in George-y boy (and the panel's discussion) is quite valid. But he works for the CBC, which has laid off most of its full-time employees - and I know because I've worked there. It certainly would have been nice to see him provide some sort of criticism on the matter. Still, it's important to raise these concerns, as you have, because students, interns, and workers in general are evermore facing these kind of struggles. At the very least let's not put the blame on them as well.

    1. This this this. How is it that people are so quick to blame those with the least for ripping off the system, when it is obvious that obscenely low corporate tax rates/rising costs of living without rising wages is creating a system where our taxes subsidize corporate greed?

      Ugh. Just depressing.

  25. The tapestry of comments here is pretty impressive - if nothing else, this article has provoked some discourse that might not have otherwise occurred. I don't have much to 'contribute', but I think I might have an interesting opinion. Let me open with a prelude: people get things wrong more often because of the details than because of the trends (myself included). My points are thus:

    1. Unpaid interns do 'get' something IF they are given an opportunity that would not have existed otherwise.

    2. Many companies do abuse the notion of the 'intern' in order to save money.

    3. We are in a race to the bottom...but the bottom is rising up to meet us. We're more productive and educated than at any other time in history, but as globalization takes hold, the no-free-lunch theorem will begin to reach into the wallets of even the most well-heeled among us. That said: current legislation is broken, and income inequality needs to be fixed. Note that fixing the inequality won't actually make 'success' any easier to obtain, but it will allow more people to make ends meet (even during a 'good' unpaid internship).


    Bringing it all together, my opinion is essentially that we need better legislation. Unpaid internships aren't all bad (even though they are illegal), but they do need to be regulated. I've got a similar opinion on marijuana - legalization will make it safer for everyone (disclaimer: I've got no real experience "on the street" to back that claim up).

    For some context - I'm a recent graduate with low-income parents, high-income relatives, and some business interests. I can relate to the lack of employment options, but I do think change needs to come from within. The second you set up 'sides' for conflict (as in this thread), you get a lot of needless argument that causes the political machinery to grind to a halt.

    P.S. It's almost irrelevant, but if you want to develop some more effective argumentative strategies (not that yours aren't effective for journalism), I'd recommend testing out some consensus theories. You'd be surprised how much easier it is to convince someone when they/you think you're/they're on the same side.

    Just my two cents.

  26. Why do some people defend unpaid internships? Here are some suggestions...

    - They take pleasure in the exploitation and economic hardships of others. Sadism, essentially. This could be conscious or unconscious. It could also be that some people think, "I struggled, so I want a bunch of other people to have to struggle even harder, otherwise it's not fair". The super-rich love to see this kind of attitude predominate. It deflects from the fact they're robbing everyone blind.

    - It seems many ordinary people have so embraced the slave mentality (propagated by the super-rich who generally inherit wealth rather than earn it) which dominates North America, that they truly believe it is right or "natural" for the overwhelming majority of people to live in or near to poverty regardless of how hard they work. Again, this perfectly facilitates the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of parasites.

    - A small number of people are able to use unpaid internships to make career progress, largely because they can live off their parents' wealth while they work. The fact that some people have done this then somehow translates into "See, I did it! So everyone else should be able to. And if they can't, it's because they have the wrong attitude". A similar principle is at work with the tiny number of people who can claim a "rags to riches" story about themselves - the overwhelming majority of wealthy or very wealthy people come from families with significant wealth, but sometimes an individual will "make it" despite not having the typical advantages of inherited privilege. The defenders of unearned wealth can then point to these rare cases and say, "Look slaves, if you work hard you too can be like this guy!"

    - Fundamentally, though, it’s just pathological selfishness at work. People who are economically secure just don’t give a damn about people who are not, and find a number of ways to justify their attitude: they point to laziness, bad attitude, lack of ability, or “youth today just don’t cut it”. Or they just pretend these problems don’t exist. And if they can do that in Canada, no wonder they care *even less* about the approximately three billion people on this planet who barely survive day to day. The only time they even refer to them is to wag their fingers at others in a country like Canada and say, “At least you don’t live over there!” It really is a race to the bottom, and the plutocrats are laughing at us.

  27. It seems that some are going off point. We are discussing an internship - it is temporary as someone noted earlier. There is discussion of some form of compensation. Personally, I would caution that way of thinking. I think it will have a watering down effect. My question is after those right wing sadists see that you are willing to perform the same duties (presumably or there wouldn't be a debate) for minimum wage, how do you go up from there? Or perhaps you mean being compensated equal to that of a qualified person? Well, that opens up a whole other discussion about unemployment and why should the intern be paid while others are struggling to find work. Furthermore, why would companies take on interns when they could hire a qualified person? I can't make any sense of that notion.

    I have read the other perspectives on the topic, but my position remains the same. Consider your internship a form of free education, gain as much as you can from it, and prove your worth. Which is more than $10.25/hr. My 0.02

    1. Perhaps that's the problem: internships, like other sources of education, should be eligible for scholarships and other sources of funding. Maybe that's how you make unpaid internships turn into semi-compensated 'apprenticeships'. Or maybe there should be a regulatory body that also serves as a 'job board'. A regulated internship organization could also ensure that interns are actually being hired.

  28. Claire - Great article - Georges show is about as a watered down as a gas station cup of coffee. Heres a similar issue in china.

  29. I wonder how many people commenting on here have every had the privilege of hiring talent with their own money. This is the only experience you need to get the economics of 'unpaid internships'.

    I can guess from the '$1.9B is missing from the economy' comment that the author has not hired. Claire - Money isn't just created for you whenever you decide to hire employees. It's reallocated. From your own bank account. So when employers choose not to hire, that $1.9B is still in the economy. It's in their bank accounts, acting as a buffer against a likely economic downturn, so they can keep paying their existing employees and avoid even higher unemployment.

    This topic is easy to understand. It's simple supply vs. demand.

    If you're a company operating in a bad economy, your expecting less demand for your products and lower prices in the future. This means you have less demand for employees to build your products. Which creates less job opportunities, and hence, high unemployment of 18+% for Ontario youth.

    At the same time, this increases the supply of workers looking for jobs. Especially young interns.

    When supply of labour is higher than the demand for labour - the price paid for labour drops. And that isn't the employers fault. The unemployed bid each other into lower and lower wage pools to try and get hired wherever they can. And obviously, if the entire job chain - from skilled labour down to untrained interns - is bidding down their
    expected income, what do you think the untrained interns are going to do?

    They're going to work for free! Why? Because they can't get hired at $10 an hour! Why? Because they aren't worth $10 an hour! Why? Because the skilled woman I just interviewed said she was willing to work for $20 an hour! Why? Because unemployment is super high and she needs to feed her kids.

    The fact is, she is more than 2 times as qualified as an unskilled intern, so I'm definitely not hiring any interns with her around. It would be offensive. And just bad business. I'd rather hire 1 more skilled worker than 2 over-priced, unskilled interns.

    Now - that doesn't mean the interns don't want to work. They do. They have to if they want to acquire skills for their future. But they have to drop their expected wages to meet market. But wait! They can't! Why not? Because the government has made it illegal to work as a paid employee for less than $10/hr. So what do they do? They offer to work under the table, or even for free, to try and get skills and hope to earn a paid spot after they improve their skill and show their potential.

    How do I know this happens? Because I have interns come to me every week asking for unpaid internships. Asking me! I don't demand any of this. I pay my employees. As best I can. And as much as I have to to earn their talent. And it's an honour. But the hard truth is, minimum wage and government policy can't stop economic reality. And the more you make pretend that their is enough money to pay $10/hr and benefits and EI and CPP for unskilled interns, the more disappointed you're going to be in 30 years when the government support you paid into doesn't even exist. Get used to it... It's coming. And you're misleading the youth if you say otherwise. If you don't believe me, just ask Detroit.

  30. There's truly no creature more pathetically entitled than the aging boomer, handed things their entire lives by their parents and deluding themselves that they earned them, and now so infantile as adults that their ever-starved egos can only be satisfied by helping themselves to the labor of their own children for free and then whining when said children don't thank them for the privilege.