News & Commentary

August 14, 2015

According to the New York Times, an intern at the United Nations in Geneva, David Hyde, quit after it was revealed that he had been sleeping in a tent, unable to afford rent because his internship was unpaid. Geneva is a notoriously expensive city, and the intern knew the UN wouldn’t pay him when he committed to the position, but Hyde is hoping that if the world pays enough attention, the UN will have to make a change.  As the Times explains, while Hyde is not the first former intern to speak out about the injustice of the unpaid internship, he is the first to do so at an organization “that declares in one of its founding treatises that, ‘everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.’”  Hyde hopes the UN will live up to its statement and become a role model for organizations worldwide who have unpaid internship programs.

The World Bank is also facing scrutiny for its labor policies. Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post reports that the World Bank has been increasingly relying on independent contractors, rather than employees, bringing them on for fixed contracts that get renewed over and over again.  The result is a two-tiered system, or what DePillis calls a “class divide,” among the workers there. At the World Bank, “professionals” and “senior professionals” make $101,806 and $139,957 respectively, on average, plus benefits, whereas consultants reportedly make $44.29/hour, which comes to $53,148 for a 150-day contract, no job security, and no benefits. The World Bank is hoping to address the problem. For the first time since the recession, the bank is starting to budget in three-year cycles, rather than one, which the bank hopes will bring stability to its workforce as well.

Earlier this week, we mentioned that several tech companies have begun to address to their lack of employee diversity is by increasing their parental leave policies. Intel is taking another approach: diverse hiring. According to the Huffington Post and Intel’s internal report, 43% of the company’s new hires this year have been “diverse,” which the company defines as women, blacks, Hispanics, or Native Americans. Intel has an official goal of 40% diversity in hires, and earlier this year, the company that it would spend $300 million on the diversity effort. Among other strategies, Intel is implementing the Rooney Rule, interviewing at least one woman and one underrepresented minority for every job opening in the company. Right now, men make up 75% of the workforce overall and 83% of leadership, and only 3.5% of employees are black. The company’s response to its numbers this year: “This was good progress, but not enough.”

At New York Times, Antonia Crane, an op-ed contributor, writes about her experience working as a stripper, or dancer, in clubs in California. In the US, clubs generally consider their dancers independent contractors, and the dancers get no benefits or job security. Dancers have seen some success changing their working conditions; in California, for instance, Judge Phillips awarded a class of plaintiff dancers $13 million in lost wages and ordered the club to classify the dancers as employees. In 1997, Crane herself played a part of a successful union organization drive at her previous job, where the dancers were employees, and as Service Employees International Union Local 790: The Exotic Dancers Union, they fought for a pay-raise system, sick leave, vacation, and other policies, and they won.  Still, those successes are the exception, not the rule.  Crane writes that at the club where she works in California’s Coachella Valley, she is an independent contractor, and has to pay the doorman, DJ, and manager flat fees as well as hand over a percentage from every dance, which may be intentionally miscalculated by management.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.