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Unpaid internships at issue

June 17, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

Down through the years, many Americans have gotten head starts on great careers through unpaid internships.

Such work, often during the summer months, gives them real-world experience. It also helps them build contacts that can be useful in landing jobs after they graduate from school.

Most interns seem grateful for the opportunity. The companies for which they work are willing to devote the additional training and supervision time needed to provide the help.

Now the government says unpaid internships have to go. President Barack Obama's administration has signaled that it may ban the practice.

Why? It certainly does not exploit young workers. The vast majority benefit, some greatly, from the internship experience.

No one forces them to accept internships; to the contrary, many companies are besieged by students who want them.

Requiring the private sector to pay at least minimum wage to interns will eliminate many of those opportunities.It already has had that effect, as some companies close internship programs they have had for decades because they fear running afoul of the law.

In typical fashion, the government insists it is not banning upaid internships.Companies can have unpaid interns if they receive "no immedate advantage" from the arrangement, maintain government officials. But how will that be defined?

Again, many companies simply don't want to take the chance of violating the law.

Obama should inject a note of common sense into the debate. He should order the Justice Department to back off on its anti-intern campaign-for the good of the young people bureaucrats claim they are trying to protect.



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