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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, March 24, 2023
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No free work: unpaid internships are unjust, inequitable

To most people, servitude ended in the United States long ago. To others, this form of oppression and inequality is still present in daily life. Just because there are some laws that have banned traditional forms of bondage, it has not necessarily banned the forms of subjugation living right under our noses. One main form of modern-day servitude that persists are unpaid internships. 

Here at UW, students oftentimes turn to career fairs, different networking events, and online job engines to help them secure their next internship. As college students, previous internship experiences are often a large factor that can help you land your next job that may even be unpaid as well. At times, students are so desperate to find something that they will take those unpaid positions just to have something. Securing a position is hard enough as is, without even considering typical school-year tasks: sitting hours upon hours a week in lecture halls, and even more hours at the library,doing homework, and working other jobs to make quick and easy money. Students are left with very little free time to be involved on campus with other extracurriculars — how are we supposed to fill up our resumes if we rarely have free time? When we are applying for internships and submit our resumes, they can look a little empty if we do not have many other professional experiences to document. 

Aside from having trouble even getting offered a position, more times than not they are unpaid. It is still true to this day that with some companies and jobs, interns are just that — interns. They do not hold a powerful job title, and are treated as such. They are the ones filing stacks of papers away, uploading important data to Excel sheets, running for coffee, printing meeting agendas, and a bunch of other important tasks that may seem minimal but are actually important for… free. Interns are putting in hours of work that often goes unnoticed without being compensated.

Yes, the job experience does hold a lot of weight, and can teach a lot of different lessons such as how to interact with coworkers in a professional setting, or even how to conduct yourself on a conference call. Even though these are valuable lessons and experiences, interns are still performing hours of labor without getting paid. How does that work? You are working with no sort of pay in return — that is modern-day, oppressive servitude.

It may seem like a harsh statement, but that is essentially what it is. Interns are putting in countless hours of work that often goes unnoticed without being compensated. All internships should be paid. Interns are doing some of the same tasks that full-time employees are doing and when it boils down to it, it is just the job title that separates them. If interns weren’t expected to do this work, companies would have to hire another full-time employee to do those tasks. Just because they are not at the same level in a company, does not mean that their work is less valuable. 

Companies should value interns much more and take the work that they do more seriously. All internships should be paid, period. 

No more free work. Interns are important workers too. 

Chelsea is a junior studying journalism and Spanish. Do you think unpaid internships are unfair? Should companies be required to compensate interns? Send all comments to

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