Monday, March 28, 2011

Serfdom America: Unemployed Seek Unpaid Jobs!

By Reginald Kaigler (DEMCAD)

Yesterday, I came across one of the most disgusting articles that I’ve seen in months. Keep in mind, I spend hours a day reading news articles as part of my research for my current events blog. The article entitled “Unpaid jobs: The new normal?” provided an interview with an employer who has used 50 unpaid interns his small business’ in marketing, editorial, advertising, sales, account management and public relations.

In recent years, the nation has experienced the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression and over 14 million workers are unemployed, many of them for over 6 months. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of weeks for the unemployed is 37.1 (as of Feb 2011.)

To put this into perspective, this number remained in the teens for most of the last decade. The average number of weeks for the unemployed ranged from 12.7 in 2001 to 19.9 in 2004 and 17.5 in 2008. But since the economy has taken a downturn, millions of people have lost their jobs, the middle class has contracted and food stamp participation has soared (to 44 million as of Jan 2011.) Simply put, many people are becoming poorer and desperately need of job. SO when I hear about Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist (a Toronto and New York-based Web-based interior design services company), boast about the advantage of using unpaid workers to start her business, I can’t help be ask myself if this is the beginning of a modern day serfdom.

Traditionally, unpaid interns have been good for compliment college students who were looking for a way to gain experience and build a network within their field. But now, we’re seeing unemployed and experienced professionals offer their services for free to keep their resume fresh and maintain connections with the hope that this will give them an edge in this brutal job market. I’ve heard all of the arguments.

Let’s start with the “work ethic will get you a job argument”. The belief is that an unpaid internships allow workers to show potential employers that they are hard workers and will increase the likelihood that they will get hired. In reality, virtually no one is hiring. If you can get 3 experienced professionals (former managers, computer technicians and accountants) to work 20 hours for free in a horrible economy, why hire a full-time worker to do the same job? After all, an employer can simply replace the interns and avoid paying for health insurance.

What about networking? Networking is important, but I doubt an unpaid internship or volunteering will help. The problem with working for free is that it lowers your social value and makes you look desperate.

“…it can also give employees needed experience, a reference letter or even a self-esteem boost in a depressing economy,” proclaims Katherine Reynolds Lewis of

A self-esteem boost? How does working for free provide you with a self esteem boost when you have bills to pay? And how low must your self-esteem be to take pride in believing that your labor is worth ZERO dollars? Can someone show me any proof that a significant amount of people are getting hired because of volunteering and working as interns for free? I seriously doubt it. I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but I strongly believe that this will not help most people.

Here’s what I’m doing. I have a youtube channel with over 16,000 subscribers and a steady viewership. I have monetize my online work and have turned it into an important source of income. Frankly, this is how I pay my bills. My 47 year old sister has been out of work for 3 years and my 67 year old mom is too sick to work. So the energy bill must be paid. The water bill also needs to be paid. I can’t afford to waste 6 months working for free and I think employers will respect you more if you show that you were able to get paid.

One of the most important things you’ll learn about America is that, the more you need something, the less people want to give it to you. If you look desperate, women won’t sleep with you, employers won’t hire you and professionals will not want to have a drink with you. Have you ever wondered why people are so quick to give gifts to celebrities, but we have millions of homeless people leaving in the streets of America's metropolis?

Everybody wants to be around a winner. They don't want to be around someone who needs help. I know how mean that sounds, but this is why you need to give people the impression that you don't need them and that you are not desperate. So I think people need to network through friends and college contacts while creating an income. Working for free doesn't raise your social profile and I think that will affect your ability to get the job you want. Personally, I'm going to see if I can create a new career all together. Wish me luck!

Kelly Fallis was convinced that businesses using unpaid workers as a part of their strategy was the wave of the future. "Ten years from now, this is going to be the norm," she explained. If that is true, it will be traffic to watch American descend into a modern day serfdom.

So what do you think? Is it a good idea to use an unpaid internship to get back into the workforce?

Unpaid jobs: The new normal?

SNAP Participants 44 Million

Average length of unemployment creeps up to 37 weeks in February

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  1. I agree with you. It all sounds like propaganda put out by big business to get something for nothing in this suck-hole of an economy.

    I had to file for disability a while back, still going through the stresses of waiting, watching, and waiting some more, thank GOD I'm still able to do a bit of gardening and taking care of the chickens we keep. I may not be at a 9 to 5, but I'm providing for my family the best I can right now...hopefully, if need be, after/if things start looking up, the fact that I worked my butt off in spite of my screwed up leg and back will mean something to an employer that has some position I can fill.

    if all else fails, I guess I'll have to figure out a way to sell my art...LoL

  2. Hawtwired, I hear disability can be a real long process.

    Regarding the unpaid jobs, it seems like an oxymoron. If someone can prove that this works, I'll listen. But it seems dumb to me.

  3. It is not the fact you work for free!!!, But the unemployment or welfare rules about working....
    do you loose your benefits ?? or reduced....
    I don't mine working for free .... we all do it at times in our lives.The other thing you have to look at is ? what happens if get injured or cause an injury how are you covered legally......,If a person does work for free they should try to have their person (ass) covered legally . Employers will always glad to take work for FREE, but when there is a problem that is a different matter,,,BE CAREFUL !!!!.
    Not all industry (work) is safe office work..

  4. You are 100% on the money--or lack thereof. Earlier this evening I sent this message to the White House: "The job situation in our country is dire. My son struggled for years to support himself and put himself through college and law school, was recently sworn in as a NY State attorney and, at 42, has NO minimally decent job prospects. He is deep in school debt and sees no way out of it. I am beside myself with grief for him."

    I should never have had to send a message like that. How could he possibly afford to work for free? Yet, he's been offered such "jobs."

    As it is, at 70, I now hold three part time jobs myself to make ends meet, and I'm looking for a fourth opportunity to earn a stipend this summer. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to hold up under the strain as college budgets in New York continue to be cut and cut again, resulting in still more cuts to the hours you can work.

    I have been dismayed. Now I’m angry. One thing I may do is start sending to the Labor Department every ad I see for an unpaid job. If I can, I may join an Obama group and start raising hell there from the inside. We’re spending billions on foreign wars and virtually nothing for job creation. I’ve seen plenty of evidence of dead bodies coming back from those foreign wars, but I don’t know of a single person who has recently landed a job of any kind, let alone a decently paid one.