Interns of the cultural industries, unite!

Greig de Peuter, Enda Brophy and I have published an article in the labour issue of Briarpatch, as part of our collaborative investigation into labour activism in the cultural industries. We are in excellent company: articles in the issue examine “right-to-work” legislation in Saskatchewanwomen working in trades in Newfoundland, and the healthcare crisis facing migrant workers.

Our piece, “Interns Unite! (You Have Nothing to Lose — Literally)” examines emergent forms of intern labour activism in cities around the globe, including the Canadian Intern Association, Intern Labor Rights, and the UK’s Trades Union Congress’s “Rights For Interns” app. We look at the challenges of organizing and resisting in this sector and the need for a larger coalition to address issues of unpaid work across cultural industries. The stakes, we argue, are high. As we write:

Unpaid internships are not an isolated issue. They’re one of many forms of free labour flourishing in the most celebrated quarters of the creative industries: citizen journalists contribute photographs, articles, and commentary to large, private news organizations; unpaid reality television participants replace paid actors on scripted programs; and professional writers work for free for large, profitable corporations. The cumulative effect of serial internships and zero-wages is the devaluation of labour, wage depression across the labour market, and the acclimatization of a generation of indebted workers to hustling from gig to gig with few expectations of their employers.