Former Interns Say New Yorker, Condé Nast Paid Less Than $1 Per Hour Wage

Judging from a recent lawsuit filing, it would appear that Condé Nast Publications, owner of many well-known magazines, has a serious case of Algoreitis: preaching liberalism as a philosophy for everyone else but not living it themselves.

Earlier today, two former interns, one of whom worked at the New Yorker and another who worked at W Magazine, filed a lawsuit against the big media publisher claiming that they were paid less than $1 per hour during their time with the magazines--not exactly a "living wage" in any city, particularly New York.

In the filing, Matthew Leib said he was paid between $300 and $500 while interning at The New Yorker in 2009 and 2010 for an entire summer, three days a week.

According to the New York Times, this is hardly the first lawsuit that a big media company has faced for allegedly exploiting interns:

The case is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed by interns for media companies who have sued for lack of payment. Juno Turner, the lawyer representing Ms. Ballinger and Mr. Leib, said her law firm, Outten & Golden, settled a case against the “Charlie Rose” show last year. In February 2012, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern sued Hearst Magazines, asserting that she regularly worked 40 to 55 hours a week without being paid. Last July, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the plaintiff could move forward with her lawsuit as collective action that others could join voluntarily. But in May, that same judge ruled that the intern’s parallel claims under New York State’s wage laws could not proceed as a class action.

On Tuesday, a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying two interns who worked on the film “Black Swan.”

Thursday’s lawsuit cited United States Labor Department guidelines, which consider unpaid internships lawful if they are part of an educational training program and do not replace employees and if the company does not gain immediate advantage from an intern’s work. The work experience also must benefit the intern.


Ms. Ballinger, a graduate of the American University of Paris, said in a phone interview that she saved one credit before graduating to use toward an internship at W. Ms. Ballinger was paid $12 a day to work in W’s accessories department. [...]

She said that even one of the editors at W marveled how poor their work conditions were.

The editor said the job was reminiscent of Anne Hathaway’s job in “The Devil Wears Prada,” but worse, “because we don’t get any makeover in the end,” Ms. Ballinger said in the interview.

Besides Al Gore, who famously sold his television channel Current TV to an oil-producing monarchy despite his decades-long rants about democracy and the environment, porcine film director Michael Moore is also another prominent lefty who has compromised his principles when it was financially convenient. In 2009, he admitted to hiring non-union workers when he very easily could have gone union while filming his anti-capitalism movie, Capitalism: A Love Story:

"For all of the different jobs on the movie that could have used union labor, he used union labor, except for one job, the stagehands, represented by IATSE," said a labor source unauthorized to talk about Moore's decision not to hire members of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

In a statement issued to ABCNews.com, Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said the filmmaker wished the union included more documentary crew people -- but he did not deny that IATSE members were snubbed in favor of non-union employees.

"The sad fact is that documentary/verite theatrical films and the talented people who work on them are too often treated as second-class filmmakers, when they are among the most creative, talented and hardworking, and often produce our finest films," said Emanuel.

"Nothing would make Michael happier than for documentary filmmaking to get its due respect, and to have unions pursue the documentary film crews with the same energy they give to bringing feature crews into their membership and making it a viable option for them," he said. [...]

As a result of Moore's decision not to use IATSE workers, at least one other national union, the American Federation of Teachers has refused free tickets offered to them from Moore.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013