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I am an architect.

I have an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in my field. They are not degrees from any-old-university (they are, in fact, from oh-my-gawd-you-went-where-why-aren't-you-on-the-supreme-court universities [which can be very, very, depressing, by the way]).

My field is architecture, and unemployment by professionals in my field is estimated to be anywhere from 15 - 50% (that there are no specific figures is a travesty).

So I was particularly irked to see the following advertisement on Craigslist:

Architect & Design Internship

Looking for an Architect and Design Intern!

Are you an architect or design student?
Are you looking to build your portfolio and/or gain industry experience?
Do you want to work for a fun, laid back, local company?
If you answered yes to all of these questions then we want to talk to you!

[Redacted] Headquarters is looking for an architect and design intern to assist our in-house designer with a variety of projects that we are currently working on, contributing start to finish in the real build out process (we promise you won't get bored).

What we are:
-Very flexible with your schedule
-Able to hook you up with perks like free food, shirts and other sweet swag (and not to mention valuable real world experience!)
-A fun work environment that will help you grow your professional network
What you are:
-Friendly, detail oriented and hard working
-Experienced in AUTO-CAD, SketchUp, Trimble SketchUp, V-RAY/FPrime (or similar rendering programs)

Does that sound about right? Let's talk! Send your resume, cover letter and availability to [email redacted].com

Want to know more about us? Check us out online at

Compensation: Unpaid (with cool perks!)

    Location: [redacted]
   Compensation: unpaid (with cool perks) (editorial bolding)
    This is a part-time job.
    This is an internship job
    Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
    Please, no phone calls about this job!
    Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests

Here is the email I sent in reply to this advertisement:

Guess what?

The internship you are offering sounds like it is probably illegal.

The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

Employers who are taking advantage of the terrible current employment situation to subvert minimum wage requirements should be ashamed of themselves...especially for a company that emphasizes "making the world better" and seems to want to sell franchises.

Shame on you,

[signed, cranky person]

Here is the reply I received this morning:
[employee name redacted]

8:59 AM (2 hours ago)

to me

This internship has nothing to do with selling franchises, or taking advantage of students.

I’m sorry you feel this way,

[electronic signature redacted]

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Here is the email I sent in reply in reply this morning:
Dear [employee name redacted],

Having people perform unpaid labor is illegal.

It's not a "way" I "feel"; it's a US Department of Labor law. It's pretty basic, actually. If people work for you, you have to pay them. You have to pay them minimum wage. What you appear to be offering is not an internship, per US Department of Labor regulations, it is unpaid work for your company, which is illegal.

Here is a cite from the NY Times.

The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.

Will "[company redacted]" get away with illegally having an architect or architecture student work for free? Probably. Is it a good idea? No. Especially if it garners bad publicity (p.s. when attempting to subvert US Labor law it is not a good idea to link your response to Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress and Youtube).

[cranky person]

It is so irritating when there are so many of us unemployed, and companies try to get away with this garbage. Is this company truly in such dire straights that it cannot afford to pay some poor architecture student (or, hell, an actual licensed architect probably) minimum wage to do scut work?

Here's what my Significant Other said when I described the ad:

"Can we advertise on Craigslist for a slave? We could pay in cool perks like table scraps and used newspaper."

Originally posted to plumbobb on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 09:49 AM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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