Hard Labor

Inside the mounting backlash against unpaid internships

Shipping thousand-dollar hats from New York City to London. Shuttling heavy bags around Manhattan. Skipping lunch. Working 55-hour weeks. And doing it all for free.

"It was disgusting," says Diana Wang, 28, of her unpaid labor at Harper's Bazaar magazine. It was also potentially illegal.

Today an estimated one-third to one-half of the U.S.'s 1.5 million internships are without pay, a trend that has only accelerated since the 2008 financial crisis. Employers contend that they're paying interns with experience, which can be more valuable than cash, especially in tough-to-break-into fields such as media, fashion and entertainment. But if unpaid interns are...

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