Big rich dude tells young people to work for free; here’s why he’s wrong

4 Nov

As I tweeted, I find myself coming back to this question far too often:

How did we get to the point where we believe there should be positions where people shouldn’t be paid for their work?

There’s no denying that I’ve written some things for free. When I was first writing the rugby blog for The Province, I did it mostly for the experience.

But I wasn’t facing deadlines and there wasn’t any expectation of production – that was all on me, on what I felt like doing. I decided to approach it like a job because I could afford to – I was still working as a substitute teacher. That meant I could pay my bills.

It also opened doors for plenty of paid writing. I got the opportunity to do some freelancing for The Province. I wrote about hockey for Hockey Now. I also landed writing work for other places.

But the unpaid stuff was mostly just for practice – and because I liked writing about rugby.

The real issue is the premise posed in my question: you work, you get paid.

What the Governor of the Bank of Canada is suggesting is the horror show that exists in the US. Young people taking unpaid internships at major (and very profitable) firms to ‘get ahead.’ Of course, most of those people have mummy and daddy paying the bills. It’s a horrifically closed, classist shop. It’s not what Canada has prided itself on being. In so many ways, we’ve broken down the ideals of a classed society. Yes, inequality still exists. Yes there are people who are overpaid and who are underpaid – but there’s a common notion to both of those.

There’s a reason why Canadian labour law limits unpaid internships to those who are studying in post-secondary settings.

This is also one of those cases where blue collar folks really do have it right and the white collar folks have it wrong: ever heard of an apprenticeship? We pay young people while they are learning the practical aspects of a trade. Why? Because it’s pretty obvious they are working.

That must continue to apply to ever place of work in this country, despite what the rich old dudes at the top may want.

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