What’s better than free labor? The private sector has been scrutinized more closely in the last year or two as it uses “interns” or “volunteers” for work that should be given to paid employees. In some cases, companies use interns for their work, without complying with the requirements that the internships benefit the worker.
The New York law firm of Outten and Golden has been filing class actions against private, for profit, entities that have been using interns for menial tasks. For example, the Outten and Golden case against Fox Searchlight successfully challenged a movie studio’s use of interns to perform menial tasks for free. If the studio had provided meaningful educational experience to the interns, furthering their careers, the lack of pay would have been acceptable.
The latest suit is against Major League Baseball, which holds highly profitable “Fan Fests” using volunteers as opposed to people working for minimum wage.
Nonprofit organizations are allowed to use volunteers, and the rules for internships are somewhat more relaxed for them. The idea is volunteers share the goals of the nonprofit, such as to improve society, help the indigent, or save the environment, for example. But the use of volunteers by for-profit organizations can be easily abused. Some of the organizations, like Major League Baseball, appeal to fans’ interest in hobnobbing with their favorite players. Some people cannot afford to work for free, of course, and there is no reason why baseball, not the workers, should gain all the benefit of their labor.