Unpaid internships again, and it’s not good news

I found three separate items on the appellate court’s unpaid internship problem–which I’ve written about frequently, whenever a new case popped up. And a lot of cases popped up, especially one against Fox Searchlight Pictures, a Rupert Murdoch subsidiary.

I am not pleased with New York’s federal appellate court, known as the Second Circuit. Which has leaned heavily toward employers and away from these poor kids who take this jobs out of desperation.

Here are the items:

A ruling by federal appeals judges involving the studio Fox Searchlight Pictures could have broad ramifications for the way employers rely on unpaid work.

Source: Employers Have Greater Leeway on Unpaid Internships, Court Rules – The New York Times


 A federal court ruling makes it harder for students to challenge exploitative work programs.

Source, Ross Perlin, The New York Times: Interns, Victimized Yet Again

Here are a couple of key paragraphs in the Times’ opinion piece:

At oral arguments in January — I had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs — it was evident that the three judges had no firsthand experience of what they call “the modern internship.” Focusing on “what the intern receives in exchange for his work,” the judges completely ignore the significant benefits that employers derive from their interns.

Yes, the best internships pay a living wage, teach real skills and can lead to permanent jobs, but the majority do none of the above. Without pay, interns lack the most basic workplace protections.

And then there’s the New York Law Journal:

Circuit Adopts Employer-Backed Intern Pay Standard

Ben Bedell, New York Law Journal  

The Second Circuit unanimously rejected the Department of Labor’s six-factor test championed by the plaintiffs, three aspiring filmmakers who worked at Fox Searchlight Pictures, saying “the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship.”

I am really bugged. And there’s no point in appealing this to a higher court, since the “higher court” is the Highest Court, i.e., the Supremes, and they have been handing everything to businesses.

Although the interns could appeal, I think, to the full Second Circuit. I once saw the full Second Circuit courtroom. It was empty at the time, but that long bench high in front of me, with I don’t remember how many judges’ seats, was so impressive. Took my breath away. And the Second Circuit is historically more humanely considerate in its decisions than this particular decision would suggest. So maybe they will appeal.

The Times’ opinion piece by Ross Perlin got it right, when he used the word “exploitative.”

Why don’t we just discard all labor laws and go back to child labor? Unpaid child labor?

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