Showing posts tagged: practice
Architecture firms have often relied on unpaid interns, even if some firms don’t exactly advertise the tradition. But after recent lawsuits brought by former interns in other industries, the custom is starting to come under fire in the design world.
“You’re expected to intern under an architect, so it’s very important that architects compensate interns fairly,” says Kelly McAlonie, president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York State chapter. To drive home her point, McAlonie, an architect for the University of Buffalo, emailed a letter to members this fall reminding them that it’s unethical, and possibly illegal, to “exploit workers not only in times of financial boom, but also in times of economic hardship.” Downturns are thought to make employers less likely to pay interns.
McAlonie’s letter is believed to be one of the first organized attempts to address an issue that has bedeviled the industry for decades. Still, complaints by interns are rarely publicly leveled. One 26-year-old architecture student who had an unpaid internship in the summer of 2011 agreed to comment for this story, but only if his name wasn’t used. “I don’t want to blacklist myself,” he says. “It’s a very small community, and I don’t want to be known as someone who tattled on these people.”
The student worked at a boutique New York firm, and on several occasions, he pulled all-nighters. He was told he might get paid once projects got off the ground, but he was never compensated. “I will never work for free again,” he says.