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Laboring for Interns

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Editor:

In regards to the story about unpaid internships ("Intern Unrest," May 30), I wanted to make very clear what my understanding of the law is. Please note, I am not a lawyer but I have studied the details of the law. Unpaid internships are legal for nonprofit and government employers as well as schools. Also, it is legal for a for-profit employer to offer an unpaid internship for which the employee is getting credit. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Labor has put out Fact Sheet No. 71, entitled "Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act." This fact sheet outlines six criteria that for-profit employers must meet in order to not pay wages to their interns. The criteria basically ensure that the position is more like a training or job shadowing experience than a job. The only kind of unpaid internship that is punishable by law would be with a for-profit (private sector) employer if the student is not getting credit and the above criteria are not met. The example written about in the article of the internship through Power Save Green Campus is a legal unpaid internship. I am grateful to our many local businesses who offer unpaid and paid internships to students. These experiences are great opportunities for students to gain transferable skills for their professional portfolios. 

Joy Soll, Westhaven

Editor:

In "Intern Unrest" Grant Scott-Goforth paraphrases Annie Bolick-Floss that " ... the national agency that accredits HSU's school of social work doesn't allow paid internships for credit, so the department only arranges unpaid internships." I wanted to clarify that indeed the accrediting agency, Council on Social Work Education, does support paid internships and has for as long as I can remember. HSU's Department of Social Work faculty have worked hard to develop these when possible. However, most nonprofit agencies' budgets have been decimated in the last decade, so program budgets most often cannot accommodate paid internships. In spite of this, we have over the years had some internships that are paid or come with a stipend. CSWE requires that these internships, like unpaid ones, be focused on the student's learning and professional development. Detailed assessments are completed by the student's program supervisors accompanied by frequent faculty visits to support the student and supervisor in assuring that the experience facilitates a student's learning process related to the knowledge, skills and ethics of the profession. As noted in the NCJ article, this requires considerable time and effort on the part of agency staff, and the department is eternally grateful to all the social workers who devote their energy to supporting the students. In the 1970s when I was in graduate school, many of us had paid internships. "It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our Air Force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber," (Robert Fulghum). ... Likewise, when our social services have all the funds they need to effectively serve disenfranchised communities.

Pamela Brown, Professor Emerita, HSU Department of Social Work, Arcata

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