Law student complaints kill Day of Pay campaign

A fundraiser asking University of Toronto law students with paid summer jobs to donate a day of their wages to those in unpaid roles has been cancelled, following backlash over whether the initiative targeted the right pocketbooks.

In an email circulated to the school on Wednesday, the Students’ Law Society acknowledged that “recent controversy” over its #OneDayofPay campaign had “made it impossible for the Pledge Drive to fulfill its purpose of building community or to raise the required funds to achieve its goals.”

The initiative, led by the Students’ Law Society with faculty support, originally aimed to raise money for aspiring lawyers in unpaid positions with social-justice oriented organizations. But as reported by the Star last week, the fundraiser prompted some students to ask why young people should subsidize salaries rightfully paid by employers.

“They’re sort of suggesting that the people who should fix the problem of unpaid work are students rather than employers that are getting people to work for free and getting the benefit of that work,” said Ella Henry, a third-year law student at the school.

The idea was also panned by U of T Law’s student newspaper, Ultravires, which published a sharply worded editorial decrying the Pledge Drive in the context of mounting tuition fees and student debt.

“Under the new regime there is but one solution to every possible problem. Salaries too low? Raise tuition. Articling alternative law practice program underfunded? Bill the students. Students’ employment rights being violated? Ask their classmates to make up the difference,” the paper’s editor-in-chief David Gruber wrote.

Unpaid internships at magazines new target of Ontario labour ministry

Two of Canada’s highest profile magazines have been told by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to immediately end their internship programs after complaints about unfair labour practices.

The Walrus and Toronto Life magazines will shut down their programs on Friday, after an inspector from the ministry informed the publications that their programs, which brought in aspiring journalists, designers, and others for temporary unpaid stints, contravened the Employment Standards Act.

‘It’s just exploitation’: Backlash against unpaid internships growing


OTTAWA — Nicholas Smith is a 22-year-old Torontonian, working on his second unpaid internship after graduating from the University of Toronto last year with an ethics degree.

Working without pay for months — and sometimes years — after graduating triumphantly wasn’t exactly what Smith and his friends had in mind when they toiled away along the path to what they believed was a bright future.

“I am working with people who’ve done their masters degrees, and definitely there’s an emotional toll in having to work for free,” said Smith, whose current unpaid internship is at a Toronto-based think-tank as a foreign policy analyst.

End Unpaid Internships, Urges Social Mobility Tsar Alan Milburn

The UK government’s social mobility tsar has called on professional employers to axe unpaid internships in order to ensure fair access to Britain’s top jobs.

Labour MP Alan Milburn argued, as part of an agenda to tackle the plight of the “forgotten middle class”, that the growth in professional employment is not creating a new “social mobility dividend” for the UK.

Milburn, writing for New Labour pressure group Progress, claimed that Britain’s top jobs are dominated by a “social elite” and unpaid internships go to young people on the basis of “who, not what, you know” as well as disadvantaging people from backgrounds who cannot afford to work for free.

“Nearly one-third of MPs, more than half of top journalists, and 70% of high court judges went to independent schools, though only 7% of the population do so,” Milburn stressed. “This is social engineering on a grand scale.”

The influential MP also called for the national minimum wage, which currently stands at £6.31 ($10.15, €7.52) per hour for over 21s, to be increased.

“The working poor are the forgotten people of Britain,” Milburn said. “They need a new deal. The minimum wage is worth £1,000 less in real terms today than it did in 2008.”

Milburn also suggested, among other things, that colleges should receive performance based pay rather than recruitment number, and that the “best teachers” who work in the “worst schools” across the country should have a pay increase.

“It is in Britain’s DNA that everyone should have a fair chance in life. Yet too often demography is destiny. Over decades we have become a wealthier society but we have struggled to become a fairer one,” he said.

Milburn’s comments come just a day after Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband delivered a keynote speech in London which set out a wide-ranging platform and was tipped as the official start of his party’s election campaign.



Slavery returns: Toronto college students clean tubs for nothing


When a Vancouver luxury hotel placed an ad seeking unpaid interns to bus tables last month, there was public outcry.

But using unpaid interns in the hospitality industry is widespread in the GTA as well. Some spend a semester changing pot pourri and scrubbing floors. While many interns gained meaningful experience, others found themselves doing menial tasks for nothing.

Samantha May, now 21, found herself cleaning rooms, including toilets, at an airport hotel for three months in 2011. She was required to clean 16 rooms a day, just like paid housekeeping staff.

“There were days I didn’t want to get up in the morning, mostly because I wasn’t getting paid. It’s like, ‘I don’t have to do this.’ ”



Unpaid interns not protected from sexual harassment


A New York federal district court ruled last week that Lihuan Wang, an intern at a TV broadcaster named Phoenix Satellite Television U.S., could not bring a sexual harassment claim under New York human rights laws because she was not paid, and therefore not considered an employee.

Wang was a graduate student at Syracuse University in 2009 when she interned in the New York bureau of Phoenix Satellite Television, the American subsidiary of Hong Kong-based media conglomerate Phoenix Media Group.

In a lawsuit, she said the station’s Washington D.C. bureau chief Zhengzhu Liu sexually harassed her after luring her to his hotel room on the pretext that he wanted to talk about her job performance and the possibility of hiring her full time.

When the two were alone, Wang alleged that Liu threw his arms around the then 22-year-old intern, tried to kiss her and “squeezed her buttocks with his left hand.” After she refused to let him go any further and left the hotel, she said Liu no longer expressed interest in permanently hiring her.

New York Judge Kevin Castel ruled that Wang can’t assert these claims, because as an unpaid intern, she didn’t have the status of an employee.

“It is uncontested that Wang received no remuneration for her services,” Castel wrote. “New York City’s Human Rights Law’s protection of employees does not extend to unpaid interns.”


censorship: BBC Breakfast rejects guest over her views on unpaid internships

The founder of a website that provides careers advice to graduates claims she was dropped from a BBC TV programme because she refused to abide by a legal request about what she should and should not say.

Tanya de Grunwald, who runs the Graduate Fog site, was booked to appear on BBC Breakfast last Friday to talk about unpaid internships.

On Thursday evening, some half an hour after catching the Manchester-bound train from London at the BBC’s expense, she was called by a researcher questioning what she was prepared to say.

This was followed up by an email from a producer, who wrote:

“We cannot infer that… any employer is breaking the law by not paying interns – this has been absolutely specified by the BBC duty lawyer.

We are asking you to comment on the wider point about whether internships should routinely be paid regardless of current law.”

De Grunwald responded by arguing that many employers are breaking the law by not paying interns, and that it was important viewers knew that.

The producer, says de Grunwald, insisted that she had been advised by the BBC’s duty lawyer that this “claim” was only an “opinion”.

So de Grunwald attempted to explain the minimum wage law in some detail. The unconvinced producer then asked her if she would say something positive during her interview on the show, such as how unpaid internships can be a good thing because they add experience to a young person’s CV.

De Grunwald refused and, after the wrangle – when her train was just 10 minutes away from Manchester – the producer left a voicemail saying she was “terribly sorry” but the “editorial decision from on high” was that “we won’t be able to proceed with the interview as planned tomorrow morning”.

So de Grunwald ended up spending a night at Salford Media City Holiday Inn (double room fee: £109). The train ticket cost a further £79.

“On the up-side,” she told me, “I enjoyed an excellent cooked breakfast the next day.”

She said: “The BBC’s coverage of the issue of unpaid internships is routinely appalling – they minimise and trivialise every development that happens, it’s infuriating.”

Update: The BBC emailed a statement by a spokesperson at 8pm: “On some occasions it is decided, for editorial reasons, to stand down a guest.

“On this occasion the decision was made close the time of broadcast and for this we have apologised to the guest. The decision was made to interview MP Hazel Blears who’s currently campaigning in parliament on this issue.

“The item also featured a case study of a former intern. We then challenged Hazel Blears on her stance and explored some of the issues around internships, including payment.”

MUN student union fights against unpaid internships


Memorial University’s students’ union has started a campaign to fight back against unpaid student internships.

MUNSU launched “Work is Work” — an attempt to put money into the pockets of unpaid interns — during a public meeting at the university on Thursday night.

Many of the university’s programs involve internships that require students to work regular hours for no pay.

Executive director of MUNSU external affairs, Candace Simms, said changes need to be made to the current system.

“Students in engineering and business pay for one course, which is $255 and they get paid for the work they are doing,” Simms said.

“Students in programs like education, nursing and medicine pay up to five times that amount — $1,200 — and they don’t get paid for the work that they do while on their placements.”

Simms said the issue goes beyond a student’s ability to pay their bills. For many, the difference between paid or unpaid internships is an issue of student rights.

“Work is work, so no matter what students are doing they’re still contributing to the work force. Often times they’re working 35-40 hours a week, they’re not able to get part-time work to off set the cost of participating in these placements.”

Fourth-year MUN student Kate Walsh, who starts her internship next year, said she is one of the lucky ones who does get paid.

“I think it creates competition in our program,” said Walsh.

“Therefore, people work harder for your job, if you’re getting paid, right?”

Ideally, the students’ union would like one cost for all students on work terms, but the bigger battle will be getting a pay cheque for those student interns who now work for free.

Vivienne Westwood under fire for hiring unpaid interns



The eccentric designer’s London office is recruiting a range of “volunteer” interns to assist staff across departments, from accounting and human resources to graphic design and jewellery making. Some of the schemes last as long as three months, for approximately five days a week, between 10am and 6pm – mirroring typical working hours for many paid employees.

The placements, which ask applicants to send in a CV and covering letter, demand that interns undertake everyday office tasks, using computer programmes like Word and Excel, with some stating the need to cover “reception duties” when required.

The adverts, which emerged after Dame Vivienne said “poor people” should buy fewer clothes, will fuel the debate over whether unpaid interns who are being asked to do a job are being “exploited”.

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of careers consultancy Graduate Fog, said: “Dame Vivienne saying ‘poor people’ should ‘buy less’ sounded lofty to most of us – but to fashion interns her comments were downright offensive. Giving lifestyle tips to people on low incomes while advertising five unpaid internships is disgusting.”

The law makes it clear that if people are given set tasks and hours, they are by definition ‘workers’ and must be paid. Earlier this week David Cameron urged unpaid interns to report their employers to authorities if they felt they were being exploited.

The Internship cancer still spreading!

is it time for an anti-internship rebellion?




A former office employee for an Ontario member of the provincial parliament says that her job was replaced with an unpaid internship and is filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

Samantha Bokma, a student at Laurentian University, worked as a constituency assistant in Barrie for local Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson. The job involved “general office upkeep, answering phones, emails,” Bokma told CBC News.

Her contract was set to expire on Aug. 30, but Bokma said she expected her paid work to lead to a part-time job in the fall.

Instead, on Aug. 20 Bokma was told that her contract wouldn’t be extended. The next day, she turned in her letter of resignation, explaining that she needed the extra week to secure a new job elsewhere before her classes started.

A week later, a posting for an unpaid internship at Jackson’s office was distributed on Laurentian University’s campus. Bokma said the responsibilities described in the posting — including reception duties, office administration, responding to constituents and organizing community outreach events — were tasks that she was responsible for as a paid employee.

“This position provided me with much-needed funds to pay for my tuition fees at Laurentian University and it is concerning that this paid, entry-level position has now been replaced by an unpaid internship,” Bokma writes in her complaint.

The Ministry of Labour won’t comment on Bokma’s case, but says that it is investigating her complaint.

Overtime demands and steep tuition costs are placing a burden on many of Canada’s unpaid student interns, who have little recourse to fix their predicament in an educational system that gives employers and schools most of the power.

Attention turned to the internship programs last week, as CBC’s GO Public reported on the sudden death of a 22-year-old Alberta practicum student, Andy Ferguson, who crashed while driving home after being made to work long hours in November 2011.

Alisha Denomme eagerly embarked on a three-week academic, unpaid internship at a strategic branding company in Hamilton, Ont., while studying graphic design at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont. But the experience quickly soured as Denomme struggled to pay tuition, finance her internship and work the long hours.

Still, Denomme was thrilled when the owners decided to hire her part-time after she completed her internship, compensating her slightly above minimum wage. That excitement quickly turned to dejection when she realized they expected her to put in overtime hours for free.

“I was still getting the same amount of work as when I would come in for the whole week,” she says, explaining that she would be given a week’s worth of work to do, despite only being paid for two days.

However, Denomme never worked outside the paid hours, despite feeling pressure to complete the extra work.

21 year old intern worked to death


A young student who died after working ‘crazy hours’ as an intern at a top investment bank was days from being offered a full-time job at the company, it was claimed today.

German student Moritz Erhardt collapsed in the shower of his student halls in east London just days before completing a gruelling internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch International investment bank division.

Friends of the 21-year-old, who had recently completed a study abroad programme at the University of Michigan, claimed he had been forced to work through the night eight times in a two week period in an effort to secure long term work with the firm.

A source told The Sunday Times he was about to be offered a £45,000 analyst job at the bank starting after he graduated from university next year.

The source said: ‘He was one of the best interns. They hadn’t made him the offer yet because they didn’t get that far but it was going to happen.’

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Friday that it will be reviewing working conditions of its employees, particularly those of junior staffers, after the death of Erhardt.

His emails and swipe card will be analysed to discover what times he entered the company’s building near St Paul’s Cathedral in the City.

It is believed the student regularly left the office at 5am only to return to the flat to have a shower and change his clothes before returning to work.

CCTV evidence shows him returning to his flat just after 5am on the day he died.

When he did not show up for work, another intern who lived in the same flat, called the building managers who found Erhardt’s body in the shower at about 8.30pm on August 15.

It is believed he may have had an epileptic fit possible caused from exhaustion.

In an online portfolio Mr Erhadt told prospective employers that his upbringing taught him to always be driven to be good at everything.

He wrote: ‘I have grown up in family that expected me, in whatever respect, to excel in life.

‘Therefore I have become highly competitive and ambitious nature from early on.

‘Already during my times in elementary school I began playing soccer as well as tennis, I engaged in track and field athletics, and I started ski racing.

‘Sometimes I had a tendency to be over ambitious, which resulted in severe injuries.

‘With respect to my performance in school, I was striving for excellence and trying to be the best all the time.’

Reflecting on his intensive approach to his education he added: ‘Over the last year, I have learned that complacency implies stagnancy.’

The profile also shows that prior to his seven week internship at Merrill Lynch, he had also completed placements at KPMG Consulting, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank’s corporate finance division.

Mr Erhadt had studied business administration as an exchange student at the University of Michigan
before attending WHU Otto Beisheim School of Managment in Vallendar, Germany.

A representative for the Otto Beissheim School of Management business college where Mr
Ergardt studied and from where he was due to graduate next year, called him ‘a wonderful person.’

Head of PR Peter Augstin said: ‘We are all deeply shocked. He was a wonderful person and a
dedicated student. He will be sadly missed. We are still trying to come to terms with his death.’

Paid interns at the bank normally earn £45,000 ($70,550) a year pro rata – around £2,700 ($4,200)
a month.

Many banks are known to encourage their young students to work late into the night and in the past
there have been claims those keen to impress have put in long hours with very little sleep.

Mr Erhardt had been living in the Claredale House student accommodation flats in Bethnal Green, east London. The apartments are rented out to hundreds of interns during the summer months.

A friend from one of Mr Erhardt’s classes said that he was such a workaholic that he would turn in
assignments early because he ‘wanted to be the best.’

A statement from BAML said: ‘We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Moritz Erhardt’s

‘He was popular amongst his peers and was a highly diligent intern at our company with a promising

‘Our first thoughts are with his family and we send our condolences to them at this difficult time.’

The Walrus profiting from slave labour

               Today’s blog post is going to examine the labour practices relating to unpaid internships at the Walrus, one of Canada’s pre-eminent magazines, to unmask one of the most prolific illegal unpaid internship scams currently in existence in Canada. For the uninitiated, the Walrus is a magazine that positions itself as the Canadian equivalent to Harper’s or The Atlantic Monthly. It derives funding from donations, advertising, and circulation. Over the course of its existence the Walrus has become a financially sustainable enterprise with a sizeable reserve fund.
             John Macfarlane, the Editor of the Walrus, posted a bizarre article yesterday defending the practice of using a revolving stable of unpaid interns at the magazine. The piece trumpeted the benefits of these internships and highlighted that many of the interns have gone on to careers in the magazine industry. Absent in Macfarlane’s piece was any acknowledgement that the Walrus’ use of unpaid interns is utterly illegal under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 as it’s tantamount to wage theft and employee misclassification (it’s clear that points one and three of the six-prong test aren’t being met).
              The Walrus uses interns in all aspects of its operations – in the art, digital publishing, marketing, and editorial departments – with the currently website advertising five separate internships. These aren’t internships targeting students, no the internships explicitly target graduates who are starting their careers. These internships aren’t terribly educational, rather the interns are doing work and performing functions critical to ongoing operations of the magazine. Simply put, without interns the Walrus wouldn’t be able to function or would face severe operational restrictions. One interesting point is that originally the Walrus had a paid internship program, but decided to stop paying their interns around 2007 for unknown reasons.

Why unpaid interns are bad for the music industry

The entertainment industry is an “it’s-who-you-know” business, perhaps more so than any other business, and for at least half a century it has meant companies have taken advantage of an endless stream of people willing to work for free in order to get their foot on the ladder. But this summer has brought a “revolt of the unpaid interns” in the US, with Fox Searchlight, Warner Music, Atlantic Records and, last week, Sony and Columbia all being hit with class-action lawsuits.

In a lawsuit resembling those filed against the other record labels, Britt’ni Fields claims that her work day at Columbia was spent answering phones, making copies, sending mail and “other similar duties” that “did not provide academic or vocational training”, adding that the label “would have hired additional employees or required staff to work additional hours” if she and other unpaid interns had not been hired.

Could this be a rebellion spreading to the UK? How widespread are unpaid internships among British labels? Warner Music UK confirms that they pay all their interns. A Sony UK source said: “We provide several different types of work experience, including long-term paid internships.”

A Beggars Group source said that the label group uses interns for specific purposes: “Such roles in and for a company like us are a fantastic foot on the career ladder, and a great way to learn – most of our entry level positions these days are filled by ex-interns.” The group pays interns’ expenses.

The problem with unpaid internships is not just that they put a financial strain on the interns – it also creates a somewhat homogenised pool of applicants, by excluding those that may be the most talented but can’t afford to work for six months to a year unpaid.

Universal Music UK spokesman Selina Webb agrees, and says this was one of the main reasons the company launched its paid internship scheme in 2009. “Before then we offered unpaid work experience, but we weren’t particularly comfortable with it. Longer periods of work experience were really only an option for people whose parents could afford to support them – of course that narrowed the talent pool considerably. Now we have applications, and interns, from a wide range of backgrounds.”

The company, which was singled out as a “fantastic leader in the field [of paid internships]” by Hazel Blears in the House of Commons earlier this summer, now takes on about 25 new interns a year. The internships cover every part of its business from A&R, marketing, promotions and digital through to legal, finance and sales. They last 12 months and interns are paid the London living wage.

Can’t afford an unpaid internship? Ask for donations

Internships can be crucial career-builders. But what if you can’t afford to  work for free all summer?

Jessica Padron of Nevada may have found the solution.

After securing a prestigious unpaid student internship in the office of  Senate leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, she has begun a crowdfunding appeal  online.

She is asking donors to help pay for her housing, transportation, and food,  which she estimates will cost her $6,500 over the four months in the  capital.

“If I don’t reach my goal,” she writes in her appeal, “I will be forced to  relinquish this opportunity and miss out on this once in a lifetime chance.”

As of Tuesday, online donors had already chipped in enough for half of her  costs.

Some observers say there is some irony here, given that plenty of lawmakers  are pushing to raise the minimum wage, yet don’t pay a cent to some of their  hardest workers.

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Unpaid Interns Aren’t Protected By Sexual Harassment Laws

Unpaid interns aren’t legally protected from sexual harassment in the workplace because they don’t get paid. As ProPublica explains, without pay, interns aren’t considered “employees” under the Civil Rights Act, although company policies and state and local laws could protect them.

One woman who took an unpaid internship in Washington, DC was sexually harassed, so she filed a lawsuit. But it was ultimately dismissed because she wasn’t considered an “employee” and therefore had no grounds to file suit.

That story prompted DC City Councilor Mary Cheh to propose a bill that extended its Human Rights Act to protect unpaid interns, which the city passed in 2009. Other areas have taken notice of the problem. In June, Oregon passed a law that would protect interns from sexual harassment.

Some universities and colleges have also come to the defense of their students. UCLA, for example, requires that an employer to adhere to its sexual harassment policy to list an unpaid internship on its website.

The vulnerability of unpaid interns has been written about since at least 2010, but little to nothing has been done at the federal level. If laws were set up to protect interns who experience sexual harassment, they might be more willing to come forward. But right now, they must rely on recommendations from internships to get ahead in the job market. That means that if the company or state doesn’t have a law to protect them if they come forward, they may just end up with no recourse and no recommendation.

All of this is because of the widespread practice of hiring interns without paying them. Some have launched a fight against this practice that has just begun to change the culture of internships. After a court ruled that two unpaid interns should have been paid for their labor, 15 other lawsuits popped up, and the number will likely continue to grow.

Mcqueen got caught advertising for free, full-time labour


British fashion house Alexander McQueen has been forced to apologise after putting out an advert for a full-time, unpaid internship for a fashion student to work at their London studio.


The ad in question was circulated around various fashion and design colleges around the capital, and requested a “talented knitwear student” to work in the studio five days a week, nine and a half hours a day for up to 11 months. It further specified that only travel expenses would be paid, as well as just £60 per month in lunch vouchers.


The apology came after Shelly Asquith, president of the University of the Arts London Student Union, spotted the request and, angered by the design house’s abuse of free, student labour, decided to write them a letter explaining as such.



The apology came after Shelly Asquith, president of the University of the Arts London Student Union, spotted the request and, angered by the design house’s abuse of free, student labour, decided to write them a letter explaining as such.

READ: Isabella Blow’s custom-made McQueen dress, yours for £35,000                

“As if studying for a degree in arts and design wasn’t a financial burden enough, your email requests students to work for free for up to 11 months in your studio, and all they will receive in return is a meal voucher,” begins the letter. Asquith then goes on to point out the “bitter irony” that a twill-woven jacket from McQueen’s latest collection costs £8,930, an amount that almost equals the university fees a fashion student pays each year.

“No amount of luxury is worth the slaving away of an unpaid worker,” she wrote. “That students are spending months creating these pieces of clothing and not seeing any return is downright disgraceful and the label should be ashamed.”

Asquith later states that what the company were asking the intern to do – ‘knitting on a domestic machine and making knitted samples, as well as research, CAD, presentation and organising of the collection’ – can be clearly defined as integral ‘work’, meaning that under UK law the student should be paid the National Minimum Wage.

In response, McQueen claim the advert was “issued in error and was not in accordance with our HR policy”.

“In line with UK government guidance, Alexander McQueen has a strict policy of only accepting interns where the student is required to complete a placement as part of their higher or further education studies,” the design house told the                 Huffington Post.                

Speaking to                 The Telegraph                , Asquith called unpaid work an “endemic within the fashion industry”, and called for the poor practise to be exposed so that the law can be enforced.

“I was particular sorry to see unpaid interns being used at McQueen as Alexander [the design house’s late founder] himself he was an alumnus of our university, and in his will donated to a bursury scheme at Central Saint Martins (one our our colleges) for poor students to access,” she said.

“His ethos seemed so removed from the current practise of non-payment and exploitation, and given his [working class] background it seems unlikely he’d have ever have been able to afford to do an unpaid internship. Many talented students may have trouble succeeding in art and design because they just aren’t able to get the inital experience, because so many placements don’t pay a wage.”

The issue of extended unpaid internships within the fashion industry is ever-present. Many fashion students are forced to undertake unpaid positions in the belief that is ‘the done thing’ and that in order to progress in their careers, they must.

In 2011, Stella McCartney was forced to close down its much-criticised unpaid work experience programme after pressure from student campaigners, but many design houses still operate on a no-pay basis.

Unpaid internships exploit ‘vulnerable generation’



At least 100,000 young Canadians are working as unpaid interns — with an unknown number of others missing out on key, early work experience because they cannot afford to go without a paycheque.


Liberal MP Scott Brison is on a mission to raise awareness of the issue. He’s calling on the federal government to measure the scope of the unpaid workforce, identify acceptable unpaid work placements and legislate changes to protect an increasingly “vulnerable generation.”


Wealthy kids get ‘a leg up’

Brison is all too familiar with stories of talented Canadians missing out on job opportunities early in their careers because they cannot afford to work for free.

Carrie O’Marra, for example, may not be able to receive her radio broadcasting college diploma in October, despite completing all of her coursework.


The 48-year-old mother, saddled with student loan debt and caring for her ailing parent, cannot afford to do unpaid work. Yet her school requires students in her program to complete a 160-hour internship — many of which are not paid.

“I take care of my mom who has Alzheimer’s and working for nothing is simply not an option,” says O’Marra. “I have an adult life with adult expenses.”

Brison says he doesn’t want to see this become an issue where, “children of privileged families get a permanent leg up in the workforce and on their career over everyone else.”


But, not all unpaid interns come from upper-class families.

Student organizations and lobbyists estimate between 100,000 and 300,000 Canadians work without bringing home a paycheque. Statistics Canada does not track unpaid internships.

Bell accused of breaking labour law with unpaid interns

the war against internship slavery in full effect


Two former interns have filed complaints with government against Bell Mobility, alleging the telecom giant broke labour laws by not paying them for work they did for the company.

“It felt like I was sitting in an office as an employee, doing regular work. It didn’t feel like a sort of training program,” said Jainna Patel, 24, who was an unpaid intern with Bell for five weeks last year.

“They just squeezed out of you every hour they could get and never showed any intent of paying.”

She filed a complaint with federal authorities in May 2012, which has yet to be resolved.

Patel and others were “associates” in a Bell program that invites 280 post-secondary grads per year to work voluntarily in Bell’s Mississauga, Ont., complex, for three to four months at a time, on projects that are supposed to enhance their future careers.


Class-action lawsuit filed over unpaid internships at Warner Music, Atlantic

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A former intern has filed a class-action lawsuit against Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records over his unpaid internship.

The suit was filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Plaintiff Justin Henry says he was never paid for the office work he performed from October 2007 through May 2008 but should have been under state labour law.

The suit alleges there was no academic or vocational training as part of the internship, and that employees would have needed to be hired to do the work if Henry wasn’t doing it for free.

Atlantic is part of Warner Music Group. Warner declined to comment on pending litigation.

Similar lawsuits over unpaid internships have been filed in other industries like magazine publishing.

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