Call Me Intern: Modern Indentured Servitude

Call Me Intern

Directed by Lee David Hyde and Nathalle Berger (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about a young Kiwi who takes an unpaid internship with the UN because he can’t find paid work. The main qualification he needs is adequate finance to pay all his housing and food costs (for a year). He decides to make a documentary about his dilemma and moves to Geneva, where he lives in a tent and puts on a suit everyday to put in 8+ hours of unpaid work.

According to Hyde, there has been an explosion in unpaid internships in the past 40 years. At present, 2 1/2 million interns receive no pay for 40-60 hour a week jobs, in the hope that interning will improve their chances of getting paid employment. Research shows it offers little advantage in getting paid work.

Studies show that only 5% of 18-30 year-olds can afford (ie cover their own living costs for a year) to do unpaid internships. It’s a reality that only exacerbates growing wealth inequality.

After he leaks his story to the press, Hyde and the tent he lives in make the front page of the Geneva Tribune. When the story goes global, the UN cites a General Assembly resolution that prevents them from paying interns. This despite a clause in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing all workers “the right to just and favorable remuneration.”

The film also documents the equally deplorable experiences of two US interns. The first, a musician, works 12-hour days as an unpaid Warner Brothers intern until he loses his apartment. He fails to qualify for homeless accommodation because the internship makes him ineligible for public assistance. He eventually leads a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Warner Brothers interns.

The second works as an unpaid intern for the Obama campaign until she’s terminated for making a sexual harassment complaint.

The press coverage Hyde received in making his documentary would lead to the formation of the Global Intern Coalition and a Global Intern Strike they organized in February 2017.

Public library members can view the film free on Kanopy. Type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/call-me-intern