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A new campaign to curb unpaid internships

The Fair Pay Campaign plans to target colleges and the White House over the issue of unpaid internships. Who benefits most, the intern or the company?

Unpaid internships under assault
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A nascent campaign against employers' use of unpaid interns is taking aim at what critics call some of the longstanding practice's biggest enablers: colleges that steer students into such programs in exchange for academic credit.

Organizers hope to have mobilizers raise the issue on campuses as students return to school this fall, with a particular emphasis on schools in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. They also want to join up with organized labor as part of a broader coalition focused on workplace issues.

The backlash against working for free — and sometimes paying tuition for the privilege— comes after a federal judge in New York recently ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on the 2010 movie "Black Swan." Angry interns have also sued record companies, magazine publishers, modeling agencies and TV talk show hosts.

Leaders of the Fair Pay Campaign, a group organized in 2012 to fight the internships, say they are taking their social media-driven effort right to the top: they plan to press the White House to end its use of unpaid interns.

Getting college credit "is a tangible benefit" of internships, said campaign organizer Mikey Franklin, a 23-year-old British ex-pat who now lives in Washington. "But I can't pay my rent with college credit."

Franklin said he founded the Fair Pay Campaign when he was unable to land a paid political job after working as a campaign organizer on Maryland's 2012 same-sex marriage ballot measure.

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