It's tough, I know. But it's no different from other artsy endeavours. People bust their ass for free playing music, and very few of them actually make a living. It may sound harsh, but it's not a human right to make a living doing music, painting, or anything really.
If someone is profiting directly from your labor, you deserve to be paid. It's not okay to have an industry structured to exploit your labor. You shouldn't be forced into a choice between "work, don't eat" and "don't work, don't eat".
There's a vast chasm of difference between "right to work" and "right to be paid for your work".
Just because it's "artsy" doesn't make it more okay.
How are we to define exploitation anyway? Because to involve government is a pretty big deal. Government operates with violence or the promise of violence if you don't comply, and that is a very big deal in my opinion. Of course, if someone is being tricked or coerced, the government should absolutely step in. But when we are talking about informed consent between adults? I don't think so. I'm sure there are people out there who think writing open source is exploitation, and that people who write open source are being exploited (since they are working for free most of the time) by companies who don't contribute back. But should we enact laws to "protect" people in open source? I don't think so.
Because after all, open source gives us software for "free". Much of this software would otherwise have to be written commercially, so one can make the case that people who write software for a living deserve to be protected from this open source nonsense.