NEW YORK, N.Y., August 18..Leah Schldkraut has a rallying cry: "Interns of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your non-paying, exploitative jobs."
Schildkraut, youth labor specialist of the Anarcho-Feminist coalition, issued a call today for "all unpaid interns in all fields" to observe a general strike on August 21st. "Demand an end to this insidious form of bourgeois slavery," she urged. "Withhold your valuable labor until you are given a retroactive minimum wage and shorter hours."
In a press conference outside the Goldman Sachs headquarters on Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan, Schildkraut denounced the "pernicious culture of unpaid internship, which not only exploits eager young people but widens the divide between the classes and the races by reducing the dwindling opportunities for middle-class and minority workers."
Schildkraut harangued an indifferent lunchtime crowd of financial workers, who hurried by, immersed in their Blackberries. "Interns have been brainwashed into believing that the corporations are doing them a favor when in truth their labor is needed," she declared. "They are covering seven figure executives on their summer vacations. They are helping to grease the trillion dollar corporate wheels during the dog days, while their mentors"---she paused, then scornfully repeated---"their mentors--- are off on luxurious vacations paid for by the sweat and sorrow of bankrupted, dispossessed and demoralized workers."
"In the newest turn of the exploiter's screw you now have to pay for the privilege of working for nothing," Schildkraut charged. She cited a recent article in the New York Times which revealed the existence of companies that arrange unpaid summer internships for a fee. "Thousands of families have laid out $8,000 to a company called Universe of Dreams which promises to secure hard-to-get internships at prime employers," she said. "Many employers allow these companies to choose their interns, without even bothering to interview all the applicants themselves..."
The effect of this, Schildkraut said, is to exclude lower and middle class students from the intern market. "Even if they want to work for free their families cannot afford the extortionate fees of the recruiters."
Schildkraut paused, trembling with indignation, and gathered herself. "Amnesty International, which represents the rights of political prisoners and oppressed peoples all over the world uses these recruiters to find interns, who will work long hours for no compensation. Do they not see the contradiction in this? No, they do not!"
Schildkraut also decried the "phony furlough" tactics of employers and state governments in which they give employees a forced unpaid holiday ostensibly to save money, but really "to get free labor."
"So-called furloughed employees of the state government of California have come to work anyway to keep up with a punishing workload that will pile up and affect their productivity ratings. They know their supervisors are watching. If they don't work for free their chances for promotion and advancement will be compromised..."
A young Asian man carrying bags of takeout Chinese tried to sneak past Schildkraut into the Goldman Sachs building, but she jumped in front of him.
"Excuse me, are you an intern?"
The young Asian man ducked and covered his face. "No intern" he said..."Food delivery..."
Schildkraut pursued him. "But didn't I see you this morning in a suit carrying a laptop?"
A man at the curb called out. "Be careful, dude. Big Brother is watching..."
He pushed her away, muttering through clenched teeth. "Get outta my face, bitch. if the security cameras show me talking to you I'm done..."
The man at the curb laughed scornfully. "You won't sell your revolution on Wall Street, girl." He identified himself as Efraim Durg, a free ance lobbyist. "These people know they're being exploited and they don't care."
"They don't understand that corporations are using the downturn as an excuse to institutionalize free labor," Schildkraut said. She quoted a study that showed the disparity between is rich and poor is at its greatest since 1917. "The capitalist system is creating an atmosphere of fear in order to have a more pliable work force."
" They know that, baby," Durg said with a patronizing smile. "This is what they have to do in order to get the plum job that will allow them to support gouging landlords, eat in overpriced restaurants, become secretive and vindictive and plot against their fellow workers. It's either that or live with their parents, wait tables and sink into dissipation and despair..."
Schildkraut approached him with a suspicious look. "Who do you work for?" she asked.
"Nobody," Durg replied brightly. "I'm on the cutting edge of the New Economy--the unknown intern. I'm lobbying for Goldman, but they didn't hire me and don't even know I exist. I'm hoping Lloyd Blankfein will pass by and say: hey this kid's got originality and initiative. Let's give him a chance to work for nothing."
Causes Heywood Gould Supports
Leukemia and Lymphomia Association
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Children Research Hospital