Natascha Morris, an intern at Publishers Weekly, blogged about meeting Intern Nation author Ross Perlin at the launch event for the paperback edition of the book.
As one of the interns at PW, I was super excited to meet Ross Perlin. With the newest intern lawsuit, I was excited to hear his views. We spent fifteen minutes talking about how interns are being used in today's workplace. It used to be that interns only worked one or two internships, but now it is more common to see several internships on a resume.
Visit the Publishers Weekly blog to read more.
In a recent op-ed piece for the New Left Project, Ross Perlin traced the recent rise and evolution of the now all-too-familiar figure of the precariously employed worker. Beginning with the transformations of labour in the West over the last fifteen years, he offers a clear-sighted look at the "coming undone" and, by now, virtual disappearance of the traditional entry-level office employee and his career trajectory. In its place, he notes, employers have come to increasingly substitute various and varying forms of temporary pseudo-employment, all of which have become normalized over the years and quietly accepted both by workers as the norm, and by many recent grads as what to expect upon entering the workplace.
The 9-to-5 caricature-commuting, punching a time card, occupying a cubicle, navigating the office hierarchy, playing out a whole career in a single line of work at one or just a few firms-has been coming undone for years. The Baby Boomers, our parents, could afford to revolt against work. Many of them reacted, rightly, against the deep undercurrents of racism, sexism, environmental destruction, and conformism they associated with "standard employment". They could turn on, tune in, and drop out with reasonable certainty that jobs and careers would still be waiting for them.
"Why do we spend our lives living through them?" The words of the intelligent and frustrated housemaid, Elsie, in the Robert Altman film Gosford Park, remind us of the human potential locked away in the relationship between the British aristocracy and those who served them. Chained by poverty to a social class who both despised and resented them, generations of intelligent working people had their lives moulded by the comings-and-goings of their employers, with the personal lives of both becoming dangerously and unhappily intertwined.
As youth unemployment raises to well over 1 million, with little sign of a crest to that wave of misery, Tesco offer a chink of light. A dream job: a permanent placement (no pension) working nights (no sick pay) with training (30 hours per week). The wage? Nothing. But, if you don't take it, you're liable to have your benefits and job seekers allowance removed for up to 6 months.
Effectively, working 30 hours a week for your JSA will give you an hourly wage of £2.25 (or £1.78 p/h if you're one of the 1.04 million unemployed youth). Welcome to Workfare Britain.
From May to November last year over 24,000 jobseekers were forced to engage in Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), for 30 hours per week, providing participating corporations with hundreds of thousands of hours of free labour each week, according to the Guardian. There was also a high variance in ethnic minorities forced into unpaid labour, with 24% of those involved coming from ethnic minorities, as opposed to 13% on voluntary "work experience" schemes. Under MWA any recipient of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) faces having their JSA stripped for 3 months for refusing the take part in the scheme, with a 6 month sanction for a second offence. Plans are currently underway to introduce a sanction for a third offence, meaning those who refuse to offer their labour for free will face being banned from claiming JSA for three years. There are plans afoot to implement a similar system for the long-term sick and disabled.
In a new investigation of the deplorable labor conditions at the Foxconn factories in China, Arun Gupta reveals that the exploitation of workers runs deeper than anyone had imagined: astonishingly, thousands of teenagers, some as young as sixteen, are being forced to work as "interns" at Foxconn as a requirement for graduation from vocational schools and universities. Intern Nation author Ross Perlin spoke to Gupta about the ways in which government and university officials have collaborated to provide a flowing supply of employees to the electronics manufacturer:
Foxconn is conspiring with government officials and universities in China to run what may be the world's single largest internship program – and one of the most exploitative. Students at vocational schools – including those whose studies have nothing to do with consumer electronics – are literally forced to move far from home to work for Foxconn, threatened that otherwise they won't be allowed to graduate. Assembling our iPhones and Kindles for meager wages, they work under the same conditions, or worse, as other workers in the Foxconn sweatshops.
Visit AlterNet to read the story in full.
Ross Perlin will be participating in a panel co-sponsored by Dissent on internships and precarious work at Left Forum.