ASMSU moves to advocate for intern protection billl
ASMSU will officially advocate for a bill in the Michigan legislature that would offer protection to unpaid interns from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, following a vote in the general assembly on Oct. 8.
The Director of the Michigan Equal Protections for Interns Coalition, Matt Marks has been working closely with leaders of the student government to gain support for the cause. The Coalition is working to amend the definition of ‘employee’ in the Michigan Health and Safety Act to include all interns, regardless of compensation.
There are currently no protections for unpaid workers from either sexual harassment or hiring and firing discrimination in Michigan and 46 other states. In order to change this, Marks and the Michigan Equal Protections for Interns Coalition are asking for letters of support from student organizations across the state.
“I think it’s common-sense legislature,” Marks said. “I am not expecting any opposition when we try to pass this bill, but we need letters of support from students to prove that this a serious issue affecting college students.”
Marks, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior at MSU, believes the fact that unpaid interns are not legally protected from sexual harassment in the workplace is a “shocking loophole” that should be of utmost importance to the student population.
Teresa Bitner, ASMSU’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, encouraged members of the general assembly to vote in support of the bill at ASMSU's meeting and said it “affects everyone in this room.”
Because most interns are predominantly college students or recent graduates, Marks believes the most support for the bill should come from universities statewide.
“Who better than student governments to advocate for students?” Marks said.
With ASMSU’s support, Marks hopes MSU students in particular will be active in advocating for the bill.
On Nov. 12, a Lobby Day will be held in Case Hall to give students the chance to speak directly to legislators about supporting the bill. From 9 a.m. to noon, students will be taught the process to meet with legislators and get the word out about the bill.
At the event, students will also be carpooling to the capital to begin directly asking legislators for their support. Representatives from the offices of David Knezek, a supporter of HB 5691, will be present at Case Hall to instruct students on the process.
Marks encouraged all students to attend, as it “is an excellent instant resume builder and helps us directly gauge support of the bill”.
Since the issue of equal rights for interns began garnering national attention, only four state have passed legislature offering protection. Unpaid workers are also given equal protection in Washington D.C., as well as California, Illinois, New York, and Oregon.
Matt Marks is hoping that Michigan can be the next state to offer interns equal protection rights, aiming for the bill to pass in December.