This is a response to a misinformed editorial, “Government says unpaid internships may have to go: Why does it want to end a practice that benefits students?” in the News-Sentinel. I submitted a version as a letter to the editor.
I strongly disagree with the June 14 editorial arguing that companies shouldn’t have to pay interns minimum wage. It is incorrect that “No one forces [students] to accept internships.” The reason “many companies are besieged by students who want them” is that many degree programs require an internship or practicum to graduate. Not only are the students spending a summer working for free–when most need to be making money to pay for school–they may have to pay the university for credit hours earned by working an internship. I’ll say that again: Interns are often paying to do productive work that benefits the company they were working for, as well as paying the cost of living for the time they are doing the internship. When I did my practicum several years ago, most students found one that paid somewhere between minimum wage and ten dollars an hour. When my brother did his two years ago, only a few students in his class were able to find paying internships. This is completely unreasonable. Since the employer is directly benefiting from the work of the interns, they should be required to at least pay enough to cover the student’s basic living expenses during the time they are interning. It is one thing for a non-profit or volunteer organization to have unpaid internships, but it exploitation when a for-profit company does not pay its interns.