Intern Labor Rights Happy Hour in NYC on May 17th!!!

Intern Labor Rights in the Park!

Intern Labor Rights in the Park!

It’s been a while!

But with peak intern season coming up right around the corner, we think this is a good time to reconnect, regroup, and reassess the state of interns’ rights and intern activism… over a drink or two!

This is a very informal get together. We don’t care if you haven’t been involved in any past labor rights organizing, or whether you have capacity to do so in the future. We’d just like to connect with other concerned interns and advocates to hear what you have to say about the intern economy.

RSVP on Facebook to let us know if you can make it.

We look forward to seeing you at Grassroots Tavern on May 17th. Look for the “Pay Your Interns” tote bags!

Intern Labor Rights in the Park!


RAIN LOCATION: Due to today’s rainy weather we are moving our meeting to Think Cafe at 248 Mercer Street, just a couple of blocks from Washington Square Park. See you at 6:00pm! Can’t locate us? Call 718.344.4820

Join Intern Labor Rights in Washington Square Park in Manhattan for an open-air meeting this Tuesday, August 11, 6:00-7:30pm. We’ll be sitting just to the west of the arch. Just look for the “Pay Your Interns!” sign. Can’t locate us? Call 718.344.4820. Our meetings are informal and we are always happy to welcome new people.

See you Tuesday!

Summer Intern Fact Check

01ILRFactcheckColorASchool’s out and summer intern season is in. Meanwhile, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has lost its marbles in the latest ruling in the ongoing “Black Swan” intern lawsuit. Time for a fact check.

Each week this summer, Intern Labor Rights will be publishing a fact about internships in the form of an image designed to share on social media platforms. We’ve collected our facts by using a fine-tooth comb to pour over studies, surveys, a book, news articles and more, to glean the salient points that get at the heart of what is wrong about the current state of internships and especially unpaid internships. We promise – no intern had to wield that comb!

Keep your eyes out and share our facts. To share an image now, click here.

You’ll be seeing the images here:

Facebook: InternLaborRights
Twitter: @InternLabor
Pinterest: @internlabor
Instagram: @internlaborrights


Pay Your Interns.

The Second Circuit Doubles Down on Exploitative Internships in the “Black Swan” Intern Case, Fabricating New Labor Rules While Rejecting U.S. Supreme Court Precedent.

Last Thursday the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals vacated a Federal District Court’s 2013 ruling that employers must derive “no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” This latest ruling in the Glatt et al. v. Fox Searchlight Pictures case, known as the “Black Swan” intern case, weighs heavily in favor of employers.

The Court disregarded the six-point test on legal internships set out by the United States Department of Labor in 2010, rejected United States Supreme Court precedent from a relevant 1947 case, Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., promulgated an entirely new set of legal rules based on a so-called “primary beneficiary test,” and raised the bar required to certify a class of workers, potentially closing the door on an effective legal strategy for exploited interns. Its misguided focus on “educational benefits” continues to perpetuate the exploitation of free student labor, exempting employers from any responsibility of payment as long as students are working for academic credit.

Intern Labor Rights sees the Second Circuit’s ruling as a direct attack on the central purpose of Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA): that people must be paid at least a minimum wage for the work they do.

In a recent article published in Forbes Magazine, Boston University labor law professor Michael Harper stated that the reasoning behind the appeals court’s seven new criteria for evaluating unpaid internships “is made out of whole cloth.” Suffolk University law professor David Yamada concurred stating “All the factors they drew up were really without legal authority.” Yamada believes that the Second Circuit judges “apparently decided to invent something new here, which is surprising at the appellate level.”

Intern Labor Rights believes that the Second Circuit’s seven new criteria are arbitrary and fabricated to shift the burden of evidence in cases of exploitative internships away from employers and onto the backs of student workers. As Yamada stated in his recent blogpost on the ruling, “In practical terms, the decision invites private employers and universities to collaborate on schemes that (1) create unpaid internships; and (2) charge students tuition for the “privilege” of doing unpaid work.”

The Appeals Court stated “As our previous discussion of the proper test indicates, the question of an intern’s employment status is a highly individualized inquiry,” using the haphazard nature of existing internship programs to deny class certification. This ruling significantly raised the bar for class certification, arguing that each individual intern is essentially on their own, undermining the very notion of how class action functions in our legal system. The rejection also rewards employers for creating poorly run training programs that lack the unified standards required for a program to be considered part of an intern’s “formal education program” – one of the new criteria promulgated by the court.

The Court’s ruling works to legitimize unpaid internships “for school credit” as an alternative to waged compensation. This absurd, yet common practice has convinced many young people that paying thousands of dollars to universities somehow absolves for-profit corporations of their obligation to compensate for entry-level work. In fact, these collaborations between universities and employers not only extract more money from students by way of academic credits, but simultaneously avoid paying instructors, as they conveniently assume the student is receiving ‘training…similar to that which would be given in an educational environment” at the workplace. All this is taking place at a time when national student debt has reached $1.2 trillion.


Intern Labor Rights stands in solidarity with Eric Glatt, Alexander Footman and the other plaintiffs in this case, who are some of the first interns to hold mega-corporations such as Fox Searchlight Pictures accountable for their exploitative practices. We would like to remind everyone that “Black Swan” earned over 300 million dollars while Glatt and Footman were paid nothing. We continue to stand by them and all unpaid interns as they fight through all legal channels available.

We also see a few silver linings.

First of all, the Second Circuit decision has now sent the Fox Searchlight case back to the District Court. Despite the difficulty of certifying a class of interns, there is a strong possibility the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail in their specific case. Among other implications, the new standards appear to suggest that for unpaid internships to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, they need to be well integrated into a formal educational program—a condition anyone familiar with the internship economy knows is rarely the case. While we firmly believe that all internships, including student-internships, should be paid whenever employers benefit from interns’ work, this ruling implies that thousands of unpaid internships held by college graduates are not in compliance with the law, including Glatt’s and Footman’s.

Secondly, the publicity this case has received has already sparked numerous lawsuits, resulting in millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements being allocated to former interns. These are major victories for student workers. Together they caused a sea change toward paid internships across multiple industries, notably entertainment and journalism, along with some major arts institutions. It will be quite difficult for those employers to revert back to unpaid internships and to justify the “extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees.”

Finally, Intern Labor Rights recognizes that this ruling demonstrates the practical limits of working solely within the legal system to achieve justice for student workers. By removing many reasonable legal options from the list of steps available for student workers seeking redress from exploitative internships, the Second Circuit judges have booted the fight back into the realm of politics. That’s where the battle should be. We hereby call out the corporate greed that seeks to control our education and exploit a new generation of workers. We do not need the permission of judges, politicians, bosses, deans, or academic advisors to demand respect and fair compensation. Our voices will be heard loud and clear.

For details and commentaries on the Second Circuit ruling, see:

13-4478-cv (L) Glatt et al. v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. et al.
Why The Second Circuit Made A Flawed Decision In Upholding Unpaid Internships,” Susan Adams, Forbes Magazine, July 7, 2015.
Employers Have Greater Leeway on Unpaid Internships, Court Rules,” Noam Scheiber, New York Times, July 2, 2015.
Circuit Adopts Employer-Backed Intern Pay Standard,” Ben Bedell, New York Law Journal, July 6, 2015 (Registration Required).
Interns, Victimized Yet Again,” Ross Perlin, New York times, July 3, 2015.
U.S. Appeals Court deals setback to interns seeking to be paid for their work,” David Yamada, Minding the Workplace, July 2, 2015.

Top Eight Intern Cash Settlements


A sea change is fundamentally reshaping the relationship between media businesses and their interns. Over $26 million in settlement agreements have recently been reported, resolving lawsuits filed by former interns claiming they were owed wages for their work. Meanwhile, other suits continue to be litigated while new suits continue to be filed. As the media industry is increasingly pressured to clean up its act, how long can it be before the rest of the intern economy follows suit?

Intern Labor Rights has identified the following settlements:

Viacom settlement for unpaid interns: $7.2 million.

NBCUniversal settlement for unpaid interns: $6.4 million.

Condé Naste settlement for unpaid interns: $5.8 million.

Warner Music Group settled with unpaid interns reportedly for $4.2 million.

Lionsgate settled with unpaid interns reportedly for $1 million.

ICM settled out of court with unpaid interns reportedly for $725,000.

Elite Model Management settlement for unpaid interns: $450,000.

PBS’ Charlie Rose Productions settlement for unpaid interns: $250,000.

Intern Labor Rights – Monday Meetings in the Park

Intern Labor Rights in the Park!

Intern Labor Rights – Monday Meetings in the Park.

Join Intern Labor Rights in Washington Square Park in Manhattan for an open-air meeting this Monday, June 29, 5:30-7pm. We’ll be sitting just to the west of the arch. Just look for the “Pay Your Interns” sign. Can’t locate us? Call 718.344.4820. Our meetings are informal and we are always happy to welcome new people.

See you Monday!

Join Us in the Park on Monday, June 22


Join Intern Labor Rights in Washington Square Park in Manhattan for an open-air meeting this Monday, June 22, 5:30-7pm. We’ll be sitting just to the west of the arch. Just look for the “Pay Your Interns!” sign. Can’t locate us? Call 718.344.4820. Our meetings are informal and we are always happy to welcome new people.

See you Monday!


LFW PYI image

Intern Labor Rights is looking for intern stories this summer! As a movement that is gaining wider recognition over the years, we know that visibility is a key component towards building greater awareness and coalition-building around our stories. We believe it is crucial for educational institutions, employers, policymakers, and fellow labor organizers to understand the depths and complexity of the intern labor experience.
In particular, we are seeking stories that explore:

  • Lack of Access to Internship
    Have you been seeking (an) internship(s) but finding it difficult to secure because of lack of compensation and/or basic job security by the employer?
  • Unpaid or Underpaid Internship
    Have you taken on an underpaid/unpaid internship but are struggling with multiple jobs, other sources of financial support, and/or an unsupported work environment? Are you working long hours and tasks for little to no pay?
  • Paid Internship, Unfair Working Conditions
    Are you in a paid internship, but experiencing a difficult work environment, such as little to no supervisory support, worker protection, and/or put to precarious tasks or job roles?
  • Intern Organizing
    Are you currently engaged in and/or attempting to organize within your organization and/or educational institution to raise awareness about internships in your area?
  • Additional Internship Stories
    Did you sign up for an internship thinking you would be getting an educational or learning experience, but didn’t get it? Were you told you would be presented with (a) job offer(s) post-internship, but didn’t receive anything?
    ….and many other stories!

What is your internship story? If you’re in the NYC area, we encourage you to contact us so can start filming our own stories and narratives! E-mail us at
DEADLINE to contact us: July 15th, 2015
PLEASE NOTE: If you would like for your story to be filmed but do not wish to be shown fully on camera, please let us know. We would like to facilitate a safe process for story collection.

Join Us in the Park on Monday, June 1! Rain Location Below.

intern-labor-rights2RAIN LOCATION!:

Weather reports indicate that we’ll be having a rainy day today so we are moving our meeting to Think Cafe at 248 Mercer Street, just a couple of blocks from Washington Square Park. See you at 5:30pm!

Summer’s finally here! It’s a great time to get out and get involved with Intern Labor Rights.

Join us in Washington Square Park in Manhattan for an open-air meeting this Monday, June 1, 5:30-7pm. We’ll be sitting just to the west of the arch. Just look for the “Pay Your Interns!” sign. Can’t locate us? Call 718.344.4820. Our meetings are informal and we are always happy to welcome new people.

See you Monday!

Paid Internships Slowly Arriving in New York Non-Profit Art Scene

PAID-mugAs the social, economic, gender and racial injustice of unpaid internships continues to grow, some non-profit arts institutions in New York are taking steps to change their policies and pay their interns.

One year ago, the arts blog Hyperallergic announced their own paid internship program, noting that their interns had previously been provided only with a “small daily honorarium and paid as contributors for their blog posts.” In March of this year, the nonprofit public art organization Creative Time announced a new pilot program that will fund ten paid Summer 2015 internships. Meanwhile the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has expanded its paid internship programs after cutting back on paid opportunities for several years running. These are small but important steps towards transforming a cultural industry that is heavily reliant on unpaid or low-paid work by art workers at any stage in their careers, including interns, educators, administrators, artists, critics, preparators, curators, designers and writers.

While the conversation might be changing, it is worthy to note that just a few years ago, most arts organizations, from galleries to museums to non-profits to journals, seemed content to accept the idea that interns were privileged students whose labor was disposable. As Hyperallergic noted, “We’re hopefully creating opportunity for a wider range of students and emerging writers and photographers.” The fact that the journal is calling for a “wider range” of voices indicates that the discourse has been narrow. By taking steps of paying interns today, the industry is starting to acknowledge that the art world is fueled by policies that exclude those who cannot afford to work for free. It is safe to state that this exclusion hits people of color disproportionately.

Budgeting is one of the main channel institutions communicate with their funders and signal their priorities. For example, Creative Time made sure to thank individual funders for bankrolling their new paid internship program. In order to start paying their interns, these institutions must initiate honest dialogues with their funders about the reality of this exclusion, and the benefits of paid internships to the cultural landscape at large.

Paying interns is only the first step in an issue where many crucial questions still remain. Will the interns be learning from their experience? How does the payment / stipend compare to the institutions’ operating budget, especially in a city like New York? How should an internship be valued in comparison to a job? Is it possible to establish an industry-wide practice where intentional decisions are made to create a workplace that is intersectionally aware on issues of race, class and gender?

#payinterns #internlabor #fairinternships #equalinternships