Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Obama Campaign hops on the "Great opportunity for exposure!" Bandwagon

The local Obama campaign office posted this on craigslist:

The East Henrico OFA office is in need of a local artist willing to come and paint some of our campaign office walls for the election. 
We have the supplies and permission to paint some of our blank walls and need someone talented and willing to come help out the OFA team and get President Obama re-elected. This is a great opportunity for an artist to gain exposure as many people are going to be coming into the office and seeing their work between now and the election. 
If you or someone you know would be right for this please contact us! Our Office is located at 4719 Nine Mile Rd in the Basement of the McEachin & Gee Law Firm. Please email or call us at 937-4725.  

Here is my response to them:

I am writing to you in response to your posting on craiglist seeking an artist for the campaign office.

I am an Obama supporter, voted for him in the first election, and intend to vote for him again, without hesitation.

However, I am terribly disappointed in your post. The Obama campaign has raised $690 million dollars as of August according to the NY Times. That money is being spent on high end advertising firms, network advertising time, youtube ads, Hulu ads, and just about every other place it is possible to squeeze and ad before a viewer.

Here is an opportunity to hire someone locally... a member of the 47%, to create original artwork for your campaign office. The good will generated in the artist community in Richmond would go a long way to generating support. Instead, you are repeating the tired phrase of "great opportunity for exposure". Here's a newsflash... the entire world is selling the same thing you are... opportunity for exposure. Artists are dying of exposure.

When considering commissioning an artist, one should use a variation on Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative; assume everyone else is asking for the same thing you are asking for. An artist who is exposed as "working for free" will certainly generate more opportunities... to work for free. If this is the economy the Obama administration is promoting, perhaps my unquestioning vote needs to be reviewed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Paying for Internships

Well, it has obviously been a while since I posted here. After daily blogging for almost three months, I decided to take a bit of a breather. I'm hoping to settle down into a weekly posting schedule.

(Side thought... if I saved up all my posts, and scheduled them to automatically post once a week, I would have had almost two years of posts!)

Ok, now that I've justified my slacking off, I thought I would talk about internships. I've posted before about my frustration with how arts organizations use interns. For-profit businesses have jumped on the bandwagon as well, trying to get away with using low or non paid interns instead of actually hiring bona-fide employees.

Well, there's a new wrinkle in the formula. Businesses actually CHARGING folks for the "privilege" of interning.

I first came across this in an arts discussion forum I participate in. Someone was hawking their gallery, and proudly announcing that opportunities were limited for people to pay for internships! Apparently, this is not limited to the arts. Here's an article from the Washington Post from 2010,

More would-be interns paying thousands to land a coveted spot

The article reads:

The Washington Center is the city's largest program, and for the past three years it has placed about 1,500 interns annually, up from about 1,300 in 2007. It charges nearly $9,000 for a summer, including housing.


The National Internship Program, formerly the Washington Internship Program. It charges an enrollment fee of $3,400 without housing and has seen its numbers increase from 166 students last year to an expected 250 to 300 this year. The for-profit company has doubled its staff in that time and is beginning to expand into other major cities.
"There has never been a harder time to get hired," said chief executive Lev Bayer, whose mother started the company nearly 30 years ago. "There is such a need for internships. We have more students than we can ever deal with."

From the U.S. Dept of Labor 

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination: 

The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, 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 that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded; 

The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; 

The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

On the flip side, people art starting to wake up. This from the New York Times:

A former unpaid intern for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing its parent company, the Hearst Corporation, of violating federal and state wage and hour laws by not paying her even though she often worked there full time.


The lawsuit against Hearst states, “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.

“Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work,” said Adam Klein, one of the lawyers for Ms. Wang. “The practice of classifying employees as ‘interns’ to avoid paying wages runs afoul of federal and state wage and hour laws.”


Last September, Mr. Klein’s Manhattan-based law firm, Outten & Golden, filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures, accusing it of violating wage laws by using unpaid interns to work on “Black Swan” and other films. Fox Searchlight has denied any wrongdoing.

It is about time. This foolishness of people working at unpaid interns so companies can avoid hiring actual employees has to end!

Ah... and  the latest update. From July 23, 2012

A federal judge has conditionally certified a class action lawsuit covering unpaid Hearst Corp. interns who worked at 19 of the company’s magazines, including Harper’s BazaarCosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, since February 2009.