Category Archives: Politics/Law

Unpaid Internships: A Class Divide?

Internships are practically a requirement of many industries, and an only way into the industry for many undergraduates. An internship can give you connections in your chosen industry, experience in the field you want to spend your life in, and help you figure out what you really want to commit yourself to. On the other hand, internships can be stressful and unpleasant, especially if an intern feels like they are doing all the grunt work for none (or very little) pay.

Many internships now are unpaid, which creates a barrier of accessibility to many people who need an internship for experience in order to get a future job. For students who come from lower income families, they often have a summer job (or two) to help pay for college and sometimes even support their family. These people cannot afford to quit these jobs for three months to take an unpaid internship. Basically, if you do not have financial stability from someone else, an unpaid internship probably isn’t a realistic option. This was my situation during my undergraduate education. Both of my parents were disabled, so during summers I worked to earn money for my schoolbooks and to take care of them. There would have been no way for me to take an unpaid internship.

There are many opinion articles about how unpaid internships create inequality, and only allows those who are already privileged to succeed. But there is still hope for those of us who do not come from privileged backgrounds, as their are paid internship options out there (though they may be harder to find).

But is an unpaid internship legal, let alone worthwhile? Well, it turns out that an unpaid internship should function very differently from a paid one, according to the US Department of Labor. They have 6 requirements for an internship to be unpaid, but the most important ones are:

  1. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff
  2. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded

In nonlegal jargon, this means that if you are doing work an employee would do, you MUST be paid for it. If you are being an asset to the company by the use of your skills, they need to pay you for it. Keep this in mind the next time you consider an internship. An unpaid internship should be observation and shadowing, not work.

Before you resign yourself to an unpaid internship (or the inability to take one), know that unpaid internships are not as helpful as they are cracked up to be. According to Fortune magazine, a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that paid interns were both more likely to land a full-time job after graduation and make more money than their unpaid counterparts.

Unpaid internships are an international problem, and they shouldn’t become the standard. Yes, it is easier for a business to take on an intern without paying them, but this means that so many students won’t have the option to learn with that company. I don’t have a immediate solution to this problem, except to stand up for those who are marginalized by this issue to the best abilities, and to keep fighting for economic opportunities for all.

Have you had an unpaid internship? Did it feel worthwhile? Have you ever felt disadvantaged by not having an internship? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarian Socialism: An Intersection of Political Values

So it has been a discussion among my internet friends lately that we are often talking into an echo chamber of people who share our exact political beliefs. So this quiz was posted and many of us discussed our results (mine is shown below, and I’ll break it down in a minute), most of which were variations on a theme. This really made me think about my political beliefs. Personally, I am much more passionate about individual issues than parties or schools of political thought, which in reality means I haven’t ever really done  my research about what these various schools of thought represent. As I (and many others) become more politically active in the current cultural climate, it is ever more important to know what we stand for.

Results of a political values quiz, result: Libertarian Socialism

The results from my quiz were interesting to me, and perhaps a little different than I was expecting. The website gives a pretty good breakdown of what it all means, but obviously this varies from person to person based on their values. My result surprised me, and almost made me feel repulsed for a moment, so I thought I would dive in further and find out what it all means.

First, let’s break down what the eight different values represent as a whole, and in relation to me:

Economic Axis: Social

The higher side of this axis for me is Equality (74.4%): “Those with higher Equality scores believe the economy should distribute value evenly among the populace.” As a person who spent much of her childhood only able to survive because of social programs like Medicare and Food Stamps, this makes sense. Even though I am now a self-sufficient adult who no longer needs this assistance, I want it to be available to those who need it. The other side of this axis is Markets (25.6%): “Those with higher Market scores believe the economy should be focused on rapid growth.” I support the growth of markets, but I also think that it isn’t the most important priority.

Diplomatic Axis: Peaceful

The higher end of this axis for me was World (72.3%): “[People with high World scores] often believe in a peaceful foreign policy, emphasizing diplomacy, cooperation, integration, and at high values, a world government.” As a person with international friends and a love of the world as a whole, it makes send that this percentage is high. I am a person who strongly opposes violence unless there is no other option, and I think that the world is a better place when countries work together. The other end of this axis is Nation (27.7%): “Those with higher Nation scores are patriotic and nationalist. They often believe in an aggressive foreign policy, valuing the military, strength, sovereignty, and at high values, territorial expansion.” This doesn’t fit me, because even though most days I am proud of my country, I don’t think they are the best (sorry!). I know there are always ways for countries to improve, including my own.

Civil Axis: Libertarian

The high end of this axis for me is Liberty (76.2%): “Those with higher Liberty scores believe in strong civil liberties.” I am definitely a strong and passionate proponent for equal rights for all people, and I believe that government interference in what we do with our bodies and the like should be minimal, but at the same time, I know that government and authority is necessary for a society to function. I’m not an anarchist, and I know that a decentralization of government just isn’t practical, and would do more harm than good. The other end of this axis is Authority (23.8%): “Those with higher Authority believe in strong state power.” This includes things like being in favor of censorship and government surveillance, both of which are things I do not support, so it makes sense that this percentage is low for me.

Societal Axis: Very Progressive

The highest percentage axis leaning of all of these for me was Progress (77.4%): “Those with higher Progress scores believe in social change and rationality.” The 8values website also goes on to say that these people are usually secular or atheist (I am United Methodist), but the rest of this fits me very well. I am deeply passionate about the environment and fighting climate change, as well as scientific innovation in medicine. This means that the other end of this axis was my lowest score, Tradition (22.6%): “Those with higher Tradition scores believe in traditional values and strict adherence to a moral code.” I like to think I have a strong moral code, and I do not necessarily think that these two side of the axis should have to be in direct opposition to one another. I believe the world needs change. which is most likely why this score is so low for me.

So what does this mean?

8values is honest that “This is a work in progress and is much less accurate than the values and axes, so don’t take it too seriously.” I’m gonna take this information with a grain of salt, because to be honest, the thought that I am a libertarian socialist freaks me out a bit (just look at this Wikipedia page, don’t you feel overwhelmed?). This quiz definitely made me think a lot more about what I believe in, and where I got those beliefs. I think on what my parents believe in (they don’t like socialism or government interference in life), what my religion tells me (progressive, but not as progressive as I am), and I have really gained more perspective on who I am. Am I a libertarian socialist as this quiz leads me to believe? I’m not so sure…

Did you take this quiz? Did this change the way you think about your political beliefs? Post your results below! 

Silence Does Not Mean Yes: Consent

Living in a city, I deal with being catcalled, inappropriately touched, and harassed on a weekly, if not more frequent, basis, and I know that I am not alone in this experience. It defies gender, race, and sexuality, though some are more affected than others.

Consent is often a hot topic these days, and is another one of those words where everybody has a different definition. The legal definition in the United States varies from state to state, and some states, such as Massachusetts or Iowa, do not specifically define it at all.
Continue reading Silence Does Not Mean Yes: Consent