Posted by: bkivey | 8 September 2010

Indentured Servitude

Sometimes a post writes itself. While noodling around on Craigslist I came across this ad under Writing/Editing (reproduced in full):

Internship with a Professional Organizer (Downtown Portland, SW)

Date: 2010-09-04, 6:56PM PDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

I am looking for a few hard-working, dedicated individuals to fill the following internship positions. You will be working for Collected Spaces, a business created to help people feel good in their space and function at their best. To get more information, check out

Important: please read this full ad before you contact me.

This person will be my executive intern and will help manage the creative team of interns:
1 SEO/Web Design, 1 Graphic Designer, 2 Marketing/PR, and 1Writing. You will have to be very organized, responsible, and personable. You will help create timelines and launch new projects, problem-solve, update contacts, maintain relationships via cards and emails, do an occasional business errand, etc. There are many aspects of this job, but it will be up to you to delegate certain things to the other interns.

We will meet weekly, preferably on Mondays from 10am-4pm.

I am looking for someone who can update and make improvements to the website that already exists: optimize it, add Twitter/LinkedIn/You Tube links, add a way for people to subscribe to my weekly newsletter (via Mail Chimp), add new pictures, testimonials, press page, etc.

This person will help Collected Spaces grow its fan base and have a consistent presence on the web via: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube (help film short videos). You will also help set up and maintain Mail Chimp.

This person will help me organize events, research the target market and ways to reach them.

This person will help write weekly newsletters, blog, auto-responders, press kit.

Side notes to all who are interested:
Hours will vary depending on the position. We will have regular 1-2hr bi-weekly meetings with all interns present to share what is new, to discuss any issues or concerns that have come up, to brainstorm, and to give out the following week’s assignments. This would preferably be on Mondays.

I like working with people who are imaginative, collaborate well, take initiative, and who follow through.

This is an unpaid internship that starts mid September and goes until the beginning of December (fall semester) with the possibility of continuing through the spring.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Teresa Nicola


Now, in business school I was exposed to various business models and have developed a few of my own over the years, but I never considered starting a company and then staffing it with unpaid labor by calling all of the positions ‘internships’. Brilliant!

It looks like all the positions advertised involve a time committment of at least 10 – 15 hours per week. So this person is looking to get upwards of 100 hours of labor per week for up to six months free. Even the lowliest sweat shop workers in the bowels of the Garment District in Jiangmen City get paid for their labors. And she’s not looking for unskilled labor; she wants people that have specific administrative and technical skills.

If you go to the indicated website for Collected Spaces, it’s apparent that Ms. Nicola is the only principal. So it looks like just her and six unpaid ‘interns’. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has strict guidelines for determining whether an intern qualifies as an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). While I am not an employment law attorney, the positions as described don’t appear to quite meet the standards for non-paid internships.

I’m all for people starting businesses, and I think that government sticks it’s nose in a lot of places where it has no business, but this goes beyond any legal requirements. This is a question of basic fairness and dignity. If you want skilled people with the personal traits that Ms. Nicola is looking for, then you should be prepared to pay them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: