Event: Interns, Connect! A Forum on Upsetting Unpaid Work (Toronto)

Making connections on LinkedIn is no substitute for solidarity in a precarious labour economy. In a job market where we skip from project to project, contract to contract, employer to employer, we adjust our collective behaviour to unstable work. Interns, often working without pay and social protections, are among the crowded frontlines of precarious employment. The intern slogan, “getting a foot in the door,” is a wager. Cynical resignation to unpaid work is widespread. And reluctance to speak out is understandable in a hyper-competitive labour market regulated by reputation.

And yet, interns and their allies resist. They challenge employers, pursue lawsuits, take direct action, propose policy, and use social media to expose exploitation. But the state of the intern economy is mixed. The Ontario Ministry of Labour recently launched a new “blitz” to crack down on illegal internships—but this is a short-term effort. The momentous legal victory of interns against the media giant Fox Searchlight was stalled in 2015. Intern activist groups are spreading, but connecting interns who are dispersed is a major challenge.

What’s the state of the intern issue? How do internships connect to the wider precarious labour economy? Are colleges and universities part of the problem or the solution? While internships have grabbed headlines, whose experiences of unpaid work aren’t being talked about enough? How does the informal economy of “connections” reproduce social inequality in the world of work? What strategies for connecting interns and improving internships are effective? How might unions connect with interns?

Join us to explore these questions with interns, activists, lawyers, and researchers. Brief presentations will be followed by a Q & A and discussion.

Moderated by Sara Mojtehedzadeh

Celebrating the publication of Interrogating Internships: Unpaid Work, Creative Industries, and Higher Education, a special issue of tripleC

Presented by Cultural Workers Organize in partnership with the Canadian Intern Association and the CWA Canada Associate Member Program

Thurs. Sept. 24, 2015
7:00-9:00pm

The Garage at the Centre for Social Innovation Annex
720 Bathurst St.
Toronto

Please RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/interns-connect-a-forum-on-upsetting-unpaid-work-tickets-18480286033

Free and open to the public
Snacks and refreshments will be served

GUESTS

Carlo Fanelli is Visiting Professor at the Department of Politics at Ryerson University. His research focuses on work and labour market restructuring, urban governance, and public sector austerity. Carlo serves as editor of Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research, and his book, Megacity Malaise: Labour and the Struggle for Public Services, will be out in the new year.

Ella Henry has been involved in activism around unpaid internships as Co-Chair of Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams. She has a Bachelor of Arts from St. Thomas University and a law degree from the University of Toronto—although as a student she likely spent more time on student activism and union organizing than being a student. She is currently articling at a union-side labour law firm.

Deena Ladd is one of the founders and a coordinator at the Workers’ Action Centre. WAC organizes to improve wages and working conditions with women, racialized, immigrant, and low-waged workers in precarious jobs that face discrimination, violations of rights, and no benefits in the workplace.

Andrew Langille is a Toronto-based labour lawyer and acts as the General Counsel for the Canadian Intern Association. His graduate work at Osgoode Hall Law School focused on the regulation of work during the school-to-labour market transition and formed the theoretical basis for law reform initiatives to increase workplace rights for interns. He has lectured extensively, both domestically and internationally, on intern rights, the impact of precarious work on young workers, and intergenerational equity. He blogs at youthandwork.ca.

Katherine Lapointe is an organizer with CWA Canada, an all-media labour union. Katherine coordinates associate memberships in the union for student, volunteer, and precarious media workers. Her work focuses on setting up training and networking opportunities, raising awareness of worker rights, and doing advocacy work on issues that impact emerging media workers.

Josh Mandryk is the Executive Director of the Canadian Intern Association. Prior to this, Josh was Co-Chair of Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams, a coalition of students and youth who urged the Ontario government to take action on unpaid internship scams. In these roles, Josh has mobilized students through demonstrations, petitions, and public legal education, written op-eds in the Toronto Star, presented before legislative committees, and worked with elected officials to promote interns’ rights.

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is the Toronto Star’s Work and Wealth reporter.

Jainna Patel took part in a highly exploitative internship program with Bell Mobility in 2012. She left and fought her employer, claiming it was an illegal internship. Despite much hesitation, she decided to go public and hoped to educate and empower others in similar situations to be strong enough to walk away. In 2014, justice was served when the program was shut down.

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Our Panel at the 2015 Law Union of Ontario Conference

This Saturday  we are participating in a panel on legal education, inequality and jobs at the annual Law Union of Ontario conference  in Toronto.

Students can attend for free and for community members its $50. The speakers are Andrea Demchuk, Josh Mandryk, Claire Seaborn, Omar Ha-Redeye and Andrew Langille. We look forward to seeing you there!

CONFERENCE DETAILS

TIME: 10:45 AM -12:15 PM

A. Legal Education, Inequality, and Jobs

Location: Thomas Lounge

This panel will be taking a candid and broad look at the state of legal education and the legal services industry labour market. The panel will be tackling some of the systemic and structural problems facing the legal profession and will be discussing what can be done. The LPP, articling crisis, privatized legal education, unpaid labour, and the problems facing equity seeking groups will be discussed.

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A sponsored trip to the 2015 CCCE Conference in Ottawa

On Monday, April 13, 2015 I took part in an exciting opportunity to attend the Canadian Council for Chief Executive‘s (“CCCE”) annual conference in Ottawa on behalf of the Canadian Intern Association.

This year the conference theme was “Creating Opportunities: Jobs and Skills for the 21st Century” and TalentEgg partnered in sponsoring the attendance of several young Canadians through a contest. Check out the conference agenda here and the contest information here. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who made by attendance and participation at the conference possible.

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The following is a summary of my experience at the 2015 CCCE conference.

1) The Contest

The CCCE and TalentEgg contest required me to film a 30 second video asking the CCCE a question about the issues facing young people entering the workforce. On a blistering cold Sunday afternoon I filmed my submission; posing the question, “With upwards of 300,000 unpaid internships occurring across the country this is an issue that must be addressed. What changes and improvements do you believe the private and educational sectors can make towards improving the situation of unpaid internships?” You can view the full video here.

2) An Optimistic Outlook?

The conference opened with the presentation of a study conducted by Abacus Data. The study is titled, “Life, work and the emerging workforce: a study of the perceptions and attitudes of Canada’s emerging millennial generation” and it can be found here. The survey conducted by Abacus of 1,700 Canadians aged 18 to 35 states that, “the so-called millennial generation are confident in their abilities, surprisingly optimistic and hopeful about their long-term prospects, but insecure about the availability of good-paying jobs for people their age.” Take a look at the study, it offers some interesting insights, however I’m surprised at some of the findings, including, “Young Canadians are more optimistic than pessimistic about the job market.”

3) Generational Lines

Throughout the conference I noticed a few comments that were a little off-putting – to put it lightly. Points were made about how the younger generations are ‘lazy’, ‘entitled’ and ‘out-of-touch with the events of the world’. Here is the issue with those statements. Every generation since the beginning of time has viewed the generation that follows it in a critical manner. Generation Y and the Millennials are not the first generation, nor will they be the last, to receive criticism from an elder generation. However, at times it seems this generation is being singled out as being unique in its problems. We have our faults, but so do all generations – there’s no need to repeatedly take a swipe at a generation that is emerging into one of the toughest job markets in recent memory. Let’s move past these generalizations and work on developing opportunities that provide benefits for all age groups.

4) Developments between the private sector and educational institutions

A common theme throughout the conference was the discussion on the role of post-secondary education. Employers are viewing the emerging young workforce as ill-prepared and lacking the skills for supposed ‘entry-level’ positions. To solve this problem, internships, generally unpaid, are being established to train recent graduates to a level deemed entry-level worthy. Increasing the number of unpaid internships is not a solution. The solution needs to come from discussions between all parties, post-secondary institutions, companies and students themselves. Post-secondary education must evolve to meet the demands of the rapidly changing market.

 5) A seat at the table.

As a follow up to the previous point the CCCE has taken a positive step by creating a roundtable group that will feature leaders from higher education and business. The roundtable will focus on improving school-to-work transitions. This is a step in the right direction; however, there is no current representation at the table by the affected generation(s). Let us have a say. Engage young people and give them a seat at the table.

There was a lot of talk of how there needs to be change, but it will be interesting to see what action will be taken. What company will step up and set a positive example?

Thank you for the discussion, CCCE. Now, let’s get down to business.

Toronto Spur Festival

This weekend (April 9-12) Toronto hosted the Spur Festival at University of Toronto’s campus. Spur is a national festival of politics, art and ideas and is a catalyst for change in Canada. Founded in 2013, the festival has grown from three to five Canadian cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver), with plans for further expansion across the country. The Festival is produced by the Literary Review of Canada in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues.

We were able to stop in to Spur this weekend to check out Sunday’s The Future of Work session, which was moderated by Jacquie McNish and included three participants: Ross Perlin (author of Intern Nation), Carl Cederstrom and Bhaskar Sunkara. Topics of interest included worker misclassification, unpaid internships and precarious employment.

Each participant brought a unique perspective to the discussion and as always, it was a pleasure to hear Ross speak about his more recent research on youth unemployment and unpaid internships. Well done!

CIA Executives: Claire Seaborn and Barbara Ciochon

CIA Executives: Claire Seaborn and Barbara Ciochon

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Left to Right: Andrew Langille, Ross Perlin, Joshua Mandryk and Claire Seaborn

Minutes from our Executive Team meeting

I would like to thank everyone for coming out to our Executive Team meeting yesterday at the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre!

In attendance:

  • Barbara Ciochon
  • Tom Haxell
  • Joshua Mandryk
  • Andrew Langille
  • Lissie Jongsma
  • Krista Brown
  • James Hunter
  • Yana Nedyalkova
  • Claire Seaborn

Items discussed:

  • Collaborations with Career Edge and Generation Squeeze
  • Wall of Shame and Wall of Fame
  • Website improvements
  • Business cards
  • Tom’s attendance at the Canadian Council for Chief Executives Conference
  • Spur Festival Panel with Ross Perlin
  • Brainstorming re a worker’s action center

Stay tuned for the next meeting in Toronto!