stossel.jpgSomething happens to people when they become famous. Their heads get so big they lose all common sense.

John Stossel was featured in the most recent issue of New York magazine and he’s quoted as saying unpaid interns made him the man he is today. I’m sure there probably were a bunch of plantation owners who credited slaves for their success as well.

In his career, Stossel claims he’s exposed hucksters. Maybe he should look in the mirror.

I’ve always been a fan of Stossel, especially when he was at 20/20 where he made a name for himself advocating for the underdog.

But alas, how things change.

He’s apparently all up in arms because of recent reports that the government is going to crack down on unpaid internships.

Here’s his quote in New York magazine:

“Now the government says you can’t have unpaid interns, that it’s exploitation. Can you believe that? I built my career on unpaid interns! My staff is almost all former interns.”

Isn’t that nice of Stossel. He exploits his unpaid interns but then gives them jobs. Well, some of them at least.

He also goes on to say:

“What ever happened to two adults entering an agreement together?”

What if we had no labor laws Stossel? What if we allowed bias, sexual harassment, safety violations, etc.

According to Stossel, it was two adults entering into an agreement together. Here’s a job buddy. Now do what ever the hell I say.

I’ve been beating the unpaid-internships-suck horse for some time now, and it’s not just college kids working for zero cents an hour. Adults, desperate not to have gaps on their resumes are also opting to intern.

But the bottom line is, unpaid internships that are not truly educational or humanitarian are largely a legal no no. And most recently, the “big” media has gotten off its butt to cover this important issue.

Just in case you missed these, here are the six criteria that constitute legal unpaid internships from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division:

1. The training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students;
3. The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded; (No immediate advantage! Stossel says he built his career on interns.)
5. The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

The laws regarding unpaid internships were put into place for one reason — for people like John Stossel who have no problem exploiting workers to promote their own career. That’s pretty much why the laws exist. We can’t trust people to do the right thing by workers. They may want to deep down but greed seems to win out too often.

The Massey mine in West Virginia and the BP oil spill are stark recent examples of how even human life becomes unimportant in our quest for the almighty dollar.

Sorry Stossel. Even though you’re annoyed with the nation’s labor laws, you still have to follow them. I hope the Labor Department’s investigators read New York magazine and actually check into his use of unpaid interns. Come on guys, he’s thumbing his nose at you. Just like Gary Hart did to the media.

I don’t have a lot of faith in the labor department, I have to admit. When I brought up the issue of unpaid internships they acted like it wasn’t a big deal and only starting saying they were going to crack down after the New York Times finally wrote a piece on the issue.

Maybe Stossel can do an exposé on himself.

Time to give us all a break.

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