What does the challenge against unpaid intern labor mean for Washington, D.C.?
The unpaid intern labor market in Washington, D.C., is distinct. Unpaid interns here likely represent a greater share of the labor force than in any other American city. They are also disproportionally situated in not-for-profit organizations and government agencies, in keeping with the D.C. economy as a whole. Combined, these two characteristics have the effect of institutionalizing a practice that is fundamentally flawed.
While some here are aware of the internship lawsuits alleging wage theft in the for-profit sector, the common perception in D.C. seems to be that unpaid internships in the public or not-for-profit sectors are unproblematic, that “volunteering” in either is inherently both legally permissible and socially laudable. Eric Glatt, plaintiff in the landmark Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. case contends that labor law is not as forgiving as many assume, and that the negative effects of normalizing this form of wage theft—including perpetuating gender, race, and class inequities—are no less real in public service sectors than in the private sector.
If you are in the DC area, please join Eric, and other allies of the intern labor rights movement, for a lively discussion from 6:00 – 8:00pm on September 2nd, 2014 as part of the Bread and Roses series at the Busboys and Poets on 5th & K.