Media Advisory: Responds to OWS Letter Responds to OWS Letter
Revises Terms of Service for Postings of Internships
#OWS Arts& Labor Issues New Text for Job Board “Best Practices”

Click for PDF[New York, New York] June 19, 2012 –, the theater industry website, has responded to a call by Occupy Wall Street, Arts & Labor to end’s practice of posting classified ads for unpaid internships at for-profit companies by revising its Terms of Service. On April 19, 2012, declared its plans to “amend its terms of service informing all posters of all jobs of the NYS regulations that apply to internships.” Those changes have now been made and can be read here: Continue reading

To the Editor of the New York Times, re “Sunday Dialogue: The Value of Internships”

To the Editor:
Re “Sunday Dialogue: The Value of Internships” (pSR2, May 20):

An internship’s ability, as Ilene Starger states, to “greatly expand one’s knowledge, experience, contact base and chances of future career success” isn’t impeded when it comes with a paycheck, just as the law requires.

By focusing so narrowly on how an internship can serve as a transition from school to career for a privileged few, anecdote-based arguments such as Ms. Starger’s fail to take a full measure of the effect this practice is having on the working lives of tens of thousands of workers, including non-interns, all while employers reap the rewards of free labor (an estimated $2 billion in unpaid wages per year). Furthermore, with unpaid internships now firmly established in the labor market and unemployment soaring, the looming presence of this pool of free labor puts downward pressure on the wages of paid employees and freelancers. The effects spread up the career ladder and across the economy, benefiting few and harming many.

Ms. Starger claims to feel empathy for college students entering this job market but offers no solutions, only oversimplified excuses for a practice that compounds their plight. Similarly, she offers no succor to those who cannot afford to work for free but seek the same opportunities, to those who must compete with interns for what once were paid positions, nor to those feeling their wages squeezed by the presence of unpaid workers in the labor market. And for those who don’t happen to luck into a big break through an internship (or three or five…), that they’ve given away their labor to profit someone else appears to be equally of no concern.

We are artists and art workers who have experienced firsthand the detrimental effects of this culture of free labor. And in this era of historic inequality, class divide, skyrocketing student debt and intractable unemployment, we call for an end to this opportunistic and exploitative practice: Pay your interns.

OWS Arts & Labor
A working group founded in conjunction with the New York General Assembly for #occupywallstreet

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 (
Letter to
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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