Narcissism and the Minimum Wage Are Destroying Opportunities
Religion & Liberty Online

Narcissism and the Minimum Wage Are Destroying Opportunities

Once upon a time, America was a country where a young adult would jump at an opportunity to learn new skills so that he or she could increase their options later. They were grateful. Those days are over thanks to a new ruling against unpaid internships. Thanks to an America that fertilizes Millennial narcissism in new ways, combined with the federal government undermining how employers develop their employees with minimum wage laws, everyone is worse off in the long run. Someone should have talked to Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman about this because these former interns sued Fox Searchlight Pictures for an unpaid internship where they “performed basic administrative work such as organizing filing cabinets, tracking purchase orders, making copies, drafting cover letters and running errands,” according to the Associated Press. A federal judge ruled in favor of Glatt and Footman.

Instead of these two young men being thankful for simply having an opportunity to have access to skills learned and the network of contacts they would make during their short stay, they decided to sue because they were not being paid for doing the same work as the hired employees. What Glatt and Footman seem to be unaware of is that if they had applied for those jobs outright they probably would not have been hired. So they should be thankful that they were given a spot to view operations from the inside at all. Where’s the rub? These young people believe that they are entitled to be compensated for work for an advertised “unpaid” internship.

From the AP story:

“Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works,” [U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III wrote in his ruling]. “But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them.”

Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, said the company believes the ruling was erroneous and plans to appeal. Fox had argued that the interns received a greater benefit than the company in the form of job references, resume listings and experience working at a production office.

Of course, these young men benefited. That’s the whole point of an “internship.” Pauley creates an arbitrary standard by asserting that the benefit has to be “intentionally structured” for short-term benefit from an outsider’s perspective. The logic that progressives use to think about the nature of opportunities and employment is becoming more and more absurd.

Juno Turner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was the first time a court had given employee status to young people doing the types of duties commonly associated with interns. The case is one of several that have been filed in recent years demanding that all interns deserve a salary.

“This is an incredibly important decision as far as establishing that interns have the same wage and hour rights as other employees,” Turner said. “You can’t just call something an internship and expect not to pay people when the interns are providing a direct benefit to the company.”

Actually, you can because, on balance, the benefit is slanted toward the unpaid intern. These men seem to have overvalued the work that they did for the company but this is consistent with a generation who believes that their mere presence should be celebrated instead of thinking in terms of real value added, according to the acclaimed book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living In The Age of Entitlement. If “interns” expect to be compensated for their opportunities to learn and network they should simply apply for a paid internship like everyone else. What is additionally nonsensical is that Glatt called his internship “wage theft,” which is so ironic now that Glatt holds an MBA from Case Western Reserve University and is currently a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. You have to wonder if it has ever occurred to Glatt that having his internship on his resume made him more attractive as candidate for graduate school and law school or that the contacts made during his internship could benefit him in years to come?

It turns out that this entire case is being driven by the minimum wage. This case, and others like it that are being filed in courts all over America, allege that all interns should at least be paid what the government says employees should be paid. But that would make it a “paid internship” instead of an “unpaid internship.”

If this lawsuit sticks, companies will logically be much less willing to take a risk and bring in unskilled students for an unpaid internship because the cost of potential litigation will be too high. In other words, the days of unpaid internships may be over, and the only people who lose are low-skilled workers who will be robbed of needed opportunities to learn and network so they have better opportunities later.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony B. Bradley, Ph.D., is distinguished research fellow at the Acton Institute and author of The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone on the Black Experience.