Specifically, we’ve heard from a few reliable sources--two of whom work at Condé Nast--that the the publishers of Vogue, W, GQ, etc. have recently implemented a series of new changes and regulations for interns. And from what we're hearing, it sounds like Condé internships are going to be some of the most tightly regulated in the fashion industry.
The following changes, we are told, went into effect for this semester:* • Interns aren’t allowed to stay at the company for more than one semester per calendar year unless granted special clearance by Human Resources. • Interns are required to do an orientation with HR where they are told to contact them if they are working unreasonably long hours or are mistreated. • Interns can only work until 7pm and their security badges will actually be modified so that they won’t work after 7pm--meaning they won’t be able to get back into the building after 7 (making any late-afternoon errands or pickups particularly stressful) • Interns are given stipends (around $550 for the semester) • Interns have to receive college credit to be eligible for an internship. • Interns will have to have official mentors • Interns are only allowed to work on tasks related to the job at hand and no personal errands
So why now? A source inside Condé said:
Rumour has it that the changes came because Conde was about to get in serious trouble with the Labour Department because the intern program really resembled free workers, and with the unemployment rate being so high, Condé should hire people to do what interns are doing.
While we thought these changes may have been in response to the Hearst lawsuit, it turns out they've been in effect since the beginning of the semester--though it's possible that someone at Condé found out about the suit before we did.
Regardless of whether or not Condé's overhaul was related to the suit being brought against Hearst, it is clearly a response to people questioning the legality of unpaid internship, which has been going on for a while. And the rules, for the most part, seem fair. Although the security badges shutting off at 7pm seems a little extreme, as does the rule that prohibits internships going on for longer than one semester. One of our sources weighed in:
I think it's a shame interns can no longer stay at Conde for more than one semester, since it's the real cream of the crop of places to intern for magazine experience. I'm still super grateful for my internships and the experience I've earned, and I know I've learned a lot. I do think the changes made everyone a bit more aware of the interns, which helped out a lot. Hopefully they don't lose steam with the changes.
Incidentally, unpaid internships were the subject of the Times’ Ethicist column this weekend. In addition to pointing out that even illegal internships can prove beneficial to the interns, Ariel Kaminir spoke to Elizabeth Wagoner, a lawyer who worked on Xuedan Wang’s case against Harper’s Bazaar, a Hearst publication. Wagoner had two suggestions for an unpaid intern distraught over the legality and ethicality of her job (this was the query posed to the ethicist): 1. File a lawsuit, or, 2. Call the Labor Department confidentially and tell them the position isn’t legal (Perhaps that's what a Condé intern did, prompting the aforementioned changes). Kaminir then concludes the piece with,
But don’t tell them it hasn’t been educational. After all, it has already taught you something about the values of the field you hope to enter. Does that make you wish for a better field? Or just a better internship?
Do you think Condé's new policies are a step in the right direction? And should interns start filing lawsuits, like Wagoner suggests?
*None of these policies have been officially confirmed by Condé Nast. They do not comment on company policy.