The unpaid Black Swan interns who sued Fox Searchlight over having to perform menial tasks like making coffee won their case last week: A federal judge ruled that not paying the interns was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It's about time, writes Cullen Seltzer on Slate. In order to fairly go without pay, interns must receive training on the job, so this ruling is fair to all the coffee-making interns of the world. But, though it was decreed in a district court and thus only applies in that district, let's hope it spreads to the rest of the country—because unpaid internships hurt paid workers, too.
Employers want cheap labor, and interns provide free labor. That means entry-level positions that would otherwise be available to workers who actually need money are eliminated. So, even if you think the interns in this case are whining and should have known what they were getting into, consider all the consequences of unpaid internships: "distorted wages, exploitation of interns, a race to the bottom of the wage scale, and an erosion of the law's protections for workers." The judge's ruling is exactly "the sort of intrusion in the marketplace" the government should be making in order to "regulate commerce." Click for Seltzer's full column.