Making connections on LinkedIn is no substitute for solidarity in a precarious labour economy. In a job market where we skip from project to project, contract to contract, employer to employer, we adjust our collective behaviour to unstable work. Interns, often working without pay and social protections, are among the crowded frontlines of precarious employment. The intern slogan, “getting a foot in the door,” is a wager. Cynical resignation to unpaid work is widespread. And reluctance to speak out is understandable in a hyper-competitive labour market regulated by reputation.
And yet, interns and their allies resist. They challenge employers, pursue lawsuits, take direct action, propose policy, and use social media to expose exploitation. But the state of the intern economy is mixed. The Ontario Ministry of Labour recently launched a new “blitz” to crack down on illegal internships—but this is a short-term effort. The momentous legal victory of interns against the media giant Fox Searchlight was stalled in 2015. Intern activist groups are spreading, but connecting interns who are dispersed is a major challenge.
What’s the state of the intern issue? How do internships connect to the wider precarious labour economy? Are colleges and universities part of the problem or the solution? While internships have grabbed headlines, whose experiences of unpaid work aren’t being talked about enough? How does the informal economy of “connections” reproduce social inequality in the world of work? What strategies for connecting interns and improving internships are effective? How might unions connect with interns?
Join us to explore these questions with interns, activists, lawyers, and researchers. Brief presentations will be followed by a Q & A and discussion.