Charlie Rose, the TV interview-show host, last month settled a class-action lawsuit against his production company for failing to pay college interns a minimum wage. The settlement will cost Mr. Rose’s company about $250,000—not including legal fees—and will pay 189 former interns $1,100 apiece (calculated at $110 a week for a 10-week semester). Based on New York’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, that reflects a 15-hour workweek.
The lawsuit was dumb and the settlement worse.
Companies will now be less likely to bring on interns. That isn’t because of the incremental cost, but because it opens the door to increased regulation and meddling from labor activists. College students will lose out on important benefits, from seeing how companies really work to building important skills and gaining exposure to people who might hire them.
My boss, a junior attorney, didn’t give me the photocopying assignments because he wanted me to figure out how to improve the work flow. He wanted the documents copied. My son’s boss didn’t ask for his creative input. And when I was a business executive who brought on interns, I can’t recall giving any of them a truly substantive—”educational”—project. However bright our interns might have been, they didn’t have sufficient understanding of the business to really add value. My colleagues and I didn’t have the time to hold their hands until they gained it.
But that is not the purpose of an internship. The most valuable purpose is exposure. Interns get to see the real work that real people do, and to see how disparate pieces come together to make an organization function.
Internships are about self-discipline, showing up on time, dressing and comporting oneself properly—conforming to the norms of the organization, not merely to the fashion of the classroom. They are about learning how to listen and observe, to be responsive and responsible. (Read More)
I seem to remember President Obama trying to outlaw private sector internships, so that kind of makes him part of the problem.