The Canadian Freelance Union stands in solidarity with journalism students at Concordia in their struggle to end unpaid internships. Their decision to join students across Quebec and take a one-week strike is courageous and an important action to demonstrate that unpaid internships are unacceptable, and a relic of a past.
Journalism is a difficult industry. As industry bosses find increasingly clever ways to cut costs, under-pay journalists and attack job security, unpaid internships have risen in prominence as a solution to generating more profits. From the days where one could argue that a journalism internship part of the educational costs that one might pay to attend university, unpaid interns are used more and more to fill employment gaps that bad decisions have created. Unpaid internships look far more like unpaid work than educational opportunities.
To be able to work for free requires that students have a certain level of financial freedom. Unpaid internships squeeze out poor students, who are more likely to be racialized, Indigenous, women, disabled, trans* and/or queer. This forces a new class of homogeneous reporters into an industry already plagued by systemic inequalities. Poorer students who want to become journalists find themselves at a disadvantage as they lack the volunteer service that their wealthier peers could afford to take on, thereby boosting their resumes and potential hiring possibilities.
Indeed, there is a straight line between who is rewarded by the industry based on their personal wealth, and who is denied entry.
As freelancers, we are well aware of these barriers. We fight for better job conditions for freelance media workers in Quebec and across Canada. We encourage our members to refuse to volunteer when they should be paid. As such, we naturally are in solidarity with Concordia journalism students as they embark on their strike.
It is actions such as these that will change our industry for the better