Who says labor activists can’t deliver a message with a stylish wink? At last week’s New York Fashion Week, members of Intern Labor Rights — an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street Arts & Labor group — distributed colorful swag bags to attendees. Tyler McCall, blogging for Fashionista, got one:
Frankly, I was expecting lame pantyhose or maybe chapstick or something when I opened the box. Instead, there was a pin that read “Pay Your Interns” and some folded up literature about why unpaid internships are wrong and how you can get involved in the movement.
Here’s what she found inside:
“The Devil Pays Nada”
The fashion industry, you see, is notorious for using unpaid interns (among other exploited workers) on an international scale. And Fashion Week is a great event for reaching a global audience. Here’s what Intern Labor Rights had to say in announcing their swag bag promotion:
We invite your attention and critical eye to the widespread use of illegally unpaid workers in the fashion industry. This rampant wage theft, international in scope, is now being met with an international response:
In anticipation of our one-year anniversary, Intern Labor Rights is lovingly preparing hundreds of Intern Swag Bags to be given out at Fashion Week events over the February 8–10, 2013, weekend. To get your hands on an Intern Swag Bag, or to help us distribute, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out where we’ll be during the weekend. To track our progress follow #devilpaysnada and #payinterns on Twitter, or find us on Facebook.
There’s still plenty of room for old-fashioned, hard-nosed labor advocacy. But sometimes a light touch can be very effective, and this idea did the job quite nicely.
Want to learn more?
Intern Labor Rights has compiled an excellent list of resources on unpaid internships.
The list includes my 2002 Connecticut Law Review article, “The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns,” freely downloadable here. And here’s a post I wrote last year on the emerging intern rights movement.