Do you employ unpaid student interns—college students who work in exchange for on-the-job training?
If so, President Obama's Labor Department says that you're an exploiter. The government says an internship is OK only if it meets six criteria, among them that the employer must get "no immediate advantage" from the intern's activities. In fact, the employer's work "may be impeded."
Impeded? No immediate advantage?
I'm in trouble, then. I have an intern at Fox Business News, and I'm getting immediate advantages from her work all the time. I've had interns my whole career and gotten lots of immediate advantage from them. Occasionally, I've been impeded—but the better interns did the research that made my work possible. I'd asked my TV bosses to pay for research help, but they said, "You think we're made of money?"
So I asked colleges if students wanted internships. Many did, and from then on I got much of my best help from unpaid college students.
Did I exploit them? Obama's Labor Department says it's hired 250 new investigators to catch exploiters like me. I tried to get the department to answer my questions on tonight's FBN show, but it declined.
So I invited Village Voice writer Anya Kamenetz, who wrote a column titled "Take This Internship and Shove It" in The New York Times.
"We have minimum wage laws in this country for a very good reason," she replied. "We had them to avoid exploitation like child labor.
But what's wrong with a free internship if a student learns something about the career he wants to pursue?
I was a little stunned by Kamenetz's answer: "Employers could say we cannot afford to pay anybody, so why should we be forced to pay the guy who cleans the floors?"
Because they wouldn't get people to clean floors if they didn't pay. But I guess I shouldn't expect a New York writer to understand markets.
"Interns are people that come in and work for below minimum wage," she said. "They pull the bottom out of the labor market, and it's less fair for everybody."
So it should be banned?
"There are a lot of ways to fill in the need for interns and the need for college students to get experience. One way is for colleges to pay stipends."
But they won't.