“Clearly, it is wrong of the New Press to ask its interns to do menial labor, grunt work, and secretarial duties for free while the staff has health care, earns a living wage, and enjoys the security of a job.”
from The Socialist Webzine
Dear Tara and New Press Staff,
Thank you for the opportunity to work at the New Press. However, I am regrettably unable to continue to work full time as a piece of exploited free labor for you and the rest of the insensitive, bourgeois staff. I want you to know that I’ve reflected at length on my situation and that of other interns at your organization, as well as the work we are asked to do. I am quitting out of protest on behalf of myself and the other New Press interns, who deserve the basic human dignity of being paid for their labor.
It was difficult for me to reach to this decision, and I do not make it lightly. I like many other interns at the New Press accepted the internship with the hope and promise that it would lead to a real job. But I soon realized that this is an illusion. You cycle dozens and dozens of interns through your doors each year not to help them find work, but rather to exploit them for their free labor, help your company’s bottom line, and avoid hiring paid secretarial staff.
For my part, I was asked not to do meaningful work, like writing press releases or helping organize events, but rather to file piles of contracts, make copies, do mailings, and lug 50 plus pounds of mail to the post office on a daily basis. I noticed that some of my tasks mirrored those of paid staff. For example, the interns and the paid staff trade turns manning the front desk, highlighting how unfair it is to not pay interns even a modest stipend for their work.
Clearly, it is wrong of the New Press to ask its interns to do menial labor, grunt work, and secretarial duties for free while the staff has health care, earns a living wage, and enjoys the security of a job. On the front of your intern packet you brag that the New Press makes over $3 million in sales a year, yet you pay interns nothing and expect us to work a full-time schedule for free, placing our job search and personal lives on hold. This insensitive policy of work for no pay has caused hardship for many of your interns. For example, Michelle, a former intern, was surviving month to month on unemployment checks and the goodwill of her friends, who kindly let her sleep on their couches, as she had no place of her own. Katie, who currently interns for you, commutes several hours by train from her home in Westchester County, paying hundreds out of her own pocket for the train fare. Katie recently ran a table for the New Press at a speaking event in Manhattan. She sold all her books, netting the New Press over $200. Katie was not given a dime for her labor.
The New Press prides itself as an institution that stands up for the values of “democracy and an equitable world.” However, its internship program is anything but equitable. It exploits college students and recent college grads with the promise that their free labor will, eventually, lead to work. I hope you consider revising your internship program and find a way to afford interns the dignity that they deserve.
All the best,