January 24, 2019, Australia—Entitled general managers no longer willing to work for free, say frustrated interns at Muffin Crack, an Australian company that relies on volunteer work from its CEO and management executives.
“It’s just so frustrating,” says Blueberry Skohn, an intern at Muffin Crack who supervises hiring the C-suite executives. “Every time the company doesn’t go bankrupt, they expect a bonus! Sometimes even when the company loses money or files for bankruptcy, they still expect to get bonuses. Just because they heard on social media that Sears did it, now they want to get $25 million in bonuses for flushing their company down the toilet too.”
Fortunately, putting unpaid interns in charge of real-world problems like hiring and firing top executives has helped Muffin Crack avoid these types of PR disasters.
“When CEOs or general managers or top executives come to an interview and demand to know how much they’ll be paid, I just laugh,” says Skohn. “Like, they’re gaining valuable experience running a company. I don’t understand why people who sit behind a desk and embezzle from the company all day think they should be paid too, when those of us who actually serve customers and bake and sell the muffins are working for free experience. Like, social media has taught executives to have this inflated sense of self-importance.”
Self-Important Millennials Expect to be Paid for Work?
The above was a piece of satire. But the reality is that general managers of businesses like the currently controversial Muffin Break do, in fact, feel that today’s generation of workers has an inflated sense of self-importance because they—gasp!—expect to be paid for their work. Yes, some executives seriously believe Millennials have an “inflated sense of self-importance,” just because they don’t want to work forty hours a week for free.
Yes, some people do seek out unpaid internships. Usually these people have rich parents who can support them while they work for free. I remember interviewing for an internship when I was in college. It was at a company I would have loved to work for. They were located in another city far from where I lived with my parents while working two jobs to pay my way through school. The internship was forty hours a week, just like a real job, and lasted for three months in the summer. I hated having to ask at the end of the interview, because I know you’re not supposed to bring up pay, but I really did need to know if it paid. I truly couldn’t afford to quit both my jobs, move to another city, pay rent on an apartment, put gas in my car and drive to work, and eat, all while working forty hours a week for free. No, the internship was not paid and the company did not provide room and board. I was relieved when they sent me a rejection letter, because there was no way I could have afforded to take that three-month internship anyway.
I was reminded of that experience this weekend when reading about the #MuffinBreak mishap. In a much-discussed interview, Australian company Muffin Break’s general manager Natalie Brennan said it’s unfortunate Millennials are no longer willing to do unpaid work for experience. She also bemoans that those she deigns to pay for their hours of effort sometimes ask how soon they’ll get a raise.
Apparently, Brennan was never a recent graduate with student loans to pay back on top of necessities like food, gas, and rent. Not to mention luxuries like health insurance! A friend of mine recently told me about her younger relative, who recently started work in a competitive field after graduating with student loans. We’ll call this person Claire (not her real name). Claire went to a relatively inexpensive school, but even with federal loans and a job, she couldn’t pay for her tuition, forcing her to add loans from Sallie Mae. Now that she’s graduated and is struggling to build a client list, Sallie Mae wants a thousand dollars a month in loan repayments. When business is slow, Claire does odd jobs and sells on Etsy, but all her sources of income only add up to a little more than $22,000 a year. Rent, food, gas, insurance, and other expenses eat up most of that in a hurry, yet Sallie Mae still wants their money. Keep in mind, Claire is the rule, not the exception—about seventy percent of students graduate in debt. The average student borrower finishes school owing more than $37,000.
So no, #Millennials don’t expect to make a huge salary the second they start work, and they don’t have an “inflated sense of self-importance because social media.” They have massive bills to pay and we all know minimum wage (in the US, at least) doesn’t begin to cover even the most basic necessities. (An Australian friend tells me college and living expenses aren’t cheap there either.) Do we want to work hard and learn on the job? Of course, we went to college and seventy percent of us got in debt so we could learn. We always planned to work hard. And while it’s great to love your job more than you love money, it is sometimes necessary to ask about the damn money because we fucking need it to pay our bills. You don’t want us asking for free stuff, do you? There’s another complaint I hear about Millennials all the time, that we “want everything free.” Whoops, that’s actually the older generation demanding free labor in its retail stores—sorry, I got confused about who wants free stuff!
Brennan herself certainly worries about money, despite whatever salary she makes as general manager and all that unpaid labor her company has benefited from. One Muffin Break franchisee claims he was
told “to consider underpaying staff that I can trust”. The franchisee went on to say, “The key message was that as migrants, I must be aware of other migrants or students who would gladly accept underpayments in lure of their first job and hence not report or complain.”(Muffin Break denies the allegation but is still under investigation by a parliamentary inquiry.)
But hey, why should franchisees worry about saving money when they should just be glad they’re getting experience running a business? They don’t expect to be paid, right? If their employees aren’t being paid fairly, why should they be? Why should the Muffin Break executives?
What are your thoughts?
V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, a science fiction book series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans abandoned Earth—and we’re what’s left? She is also the author of the political satire, Fail to the Chief, in which she envisioned the presidential election as a reality show… more of a reality show?