Art Worker Survey 2014

This Thursday, January 30, 6 – 8 pm

THE HALF KING, 505 West 23rd Street, New York

Arts & Labor has joined forces with the students and faculty at CUNY’s Murphy Institute to gather data on the working conditions of art workers in New York City. Join us to unwind after a long day of work, and enjoy a free drink from filling in the survey.

For more information, visit
Feel free to email us with any questions:
RSVP is helpful but not required.

Action Against Unpaid Internships at Fashion Week

Intern Labor Rights (New York), SUARTS (the Student Union of the University of Arts London) and Intern Aware (London) have come together in mutual support and solidarity. We invite your attention and critical eye to the widespread use of illegally unpaid workers in the fashion industry. This rampant wage theft, international in scope, is now being met with an international response:

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In anticipation of our one-year anniversary, Intern Labor Rights is lovingly preparing hundreds of Intern Swag Bags to be given out at Fashion Week events over the February 8–10, 2013, weekend. To get your hands on an Intern Swag Bag, or to help us distribute, email us at and find out where we’ll be during the weekend. To track our progress follow #devilpaysnada and #payinterns on Twitter, or find us on Facebook.

For a peek into how this action is being covered in the press, check out this article on BuzzFeed: Occupy Movement To Protest Unpaid Internships At Fashion Week.

And to join in the fight for what’s right, to insist that those who profit from labor pay for its worth, to make your voice heard… email us and find out when and where our next weekly meeting will be, or join our group on Facebook.

Intern Labor Rights is supported in the New York Fashion Show “Pay Your Interns” initiative by SUARTS and Intern Aware, who are making London Fashion Week plans as part of the long-running and successful “Devil Pays Nada” campaign.

The following groups have committed to supporting each other in the global fight to end unpaid internships:pyi

  • Canadian Intern Association
  • Génération Précaire (Paris)
  • Geneva Interns Association
  • Hague Interns Association
  • Intern Aware (London)
  • Intern Labor Rights (New York City & Washington, DC)
  • Precarious Workers Brigade (London)
  • Students’ Union of University of the Arts London

Arts & Labor #OWS Releases Flyer “Interns! Know Your Rights” for Widespread Distribution

On April 25, 2012, Arts & Labor approved the release and distribution of the informational flyer “Interns! Know Your Rights.” The flyer was prepared to help curb and reverse an ongoing threat to the health, sustainability and vibrancy of the arts production economy: uncompensated labor in the form of unpaid internships. With the intention of spreading information and raising consciousness, Arts & Labor hopes it is read, reproduced and disseminated widely, whether on college campuses, at workplaces, or anywhere else that interested parties will encounter its message.

Download the “Interns! Know Your Rights” PDF
Spread the word on Facebook

Arts & Labor #OWS Expands Campaign Against Unpaid Internships at For-Profit Businesses

Six Major Arts Job Boards Served Letters Calling for an End to Exploitative Practice

On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, six major online job boards, including the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Jobs in the Arts, the Association of American Publishers’,,, and, were served letters calling for an end to the publishing of classified listings for unpaid internships at for-profit businesses.

Collectively the six job boards channel thousands of unpaid workers to for-profit businesses in a variety of creative industries including the visual arts, publishing, theater, film, television and electronic media, without regard for the ethics or legality of such arrangements, thereby undermining the overall health and sustainability of the labor market within those industries.

The letters expand ongoing Arts & Labor #OWS efforts against unpaid internships at for-profit businesses. The initiative began on February 1, 2012 with a call to the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) to end their practice of listing these illegal jobs.

Full Media Advisory
Letter to the New York Foundation for the Arts (Jobs in the Arts)
Letter to the Association of American Publishers (
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Arts & Labor #OWS Call to NYFA: Stop Publishing Classifieds for Unpaid Internships

Dear NYFA,

We are Arts & Labor, a working group founded in conjunction with the New York General Assembly for #occupywallstreet. We are artists and interns, writers and educators, art  handlers and designers, administrators, curators, assistants, and students dedicated to exposing and rectifying economic inequalities and exploitative working conditions in our fields through direct action and educational initiatives. We are writing to ask you to cease posting classified listings for unpaid interns at for-profit institutions on the NYFA website.

While we applaud the work that NYFA does in advocating for the arts and for artists, we feel that promoting the practice of unpaid internships is unjustifiable. While the internship finds its roots in the historical model of the apprenticeship and is premised on the value of education and experience in the workplace, unpaid internships in today’s job market often amount to nothing more than exploitation.

In April, the United States Department of Labor released a memo that included the following stipulations for unpaid internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer provides training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.

From our collective experience as interns and professionals working in arts institutions, we know these criteria are rarely met. Interns are often contracted to perform work that is not comparable with educational experience and their labor saves employers an estimated $600 million a year in wages.

Moreover, this system benefits people who already possess financial means and can afford to work for free, thus propagating social inequality in the art world. We are aware that these conditions exist in most fields. However, they reach a level of exploitation in the arts, where pursuing one’s passion and affiliating oneself with a culturally prestigious entity becomes a socially sanctioned rationalization for highly precarious working conditions.

We call upon NYFA to end its support of this exploitative practice by refusing to publish listings for unpaid internships at for-profit institutions, and to begin the fight against precarious labor conditions in the arts by promoting internships that comply with minimum wage laws, as well as all other state and federal employment laws including discrimination, sexual harassment, and health and safety protections.

Arts & Labor

What Does 100K Mean? Photos!

On December 20, 2011 members of OWS Arts & Labor returned to the High Line for a Photo General Assembly at the site of the commissioned billboard by John Baldessari The First $100,000 I Ever Made. We engaged High Line visitors regarding the history and meaning of the piece and what $100,000 means in our current economic crisis. Using “Baldessari dots,” we invited the public to add another level of meaning to this somewhat ambiguous artwork. Participants either selected a pre-made dot, or wrote their own messages before posing for a photo.
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Specific Object, John Baldessari

Example of Baldessari "dotting"

Mapping Cultural Philanthropy & Real Estate Development

We are creating a map that traces the relationships between cultural institutions in NYC and real estate developers. Many board members and donors at major cultural institutions are the 1% behind re-zoning and gentrification efforts, and Arts and Labor would like to make this visible. Entering donors and board members into Little Sis, a free database that tracks the power elite, we can see connections between culture, business, and government. We aim to create a map that artists and activists can use to put pressure on cultural institutions to act against the gentrification of our city.