The Ethics of Free Labor

About a year ago, Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel, president of the AIGA Philadelphia chapter, posted an article about fair treatment of students and designers in the workplace titled “The Cost of Free Labor”.

Kradel-Weitzel asks, “Is our industry satisfied with our degree-bearing professionals earning the wage of an average intern?” After all, “Unpaid internship positions can harm the worth a young designer might place on his or her skills, which will ultimately have far-reaching affects on salary expectations for members of an already-underpaid industry.”

Last week, Thomas Wilder opined on

An intern is a student, who is not qualified or regarded as a professional until acquiring a design degree. A student or intern is an apprentice. An internship is not a job, and although it does not occur in a university setting, it is still a form of education. A company has agreed to give an individual free knowledge about their prospective professional industry—an opportunity to learn practical information free of cost. Internships are like practical exams, study abroad, or any other out of class assignment.

It’s all very good food for thought when considering internships. As the Wilder article asks, are unpaid internships evil, or is education payment enough? What are your thoughts?

By Michael Buchino
Published February 16, 2012
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