Public Hearing on Freelance Isnt Free Bill at
City Council Chambers on February 29
By Stephanie Phelan
Our economy has changed a lot of the past several years, and because of that, the United States now has nearly 54 million freelancers and New York City is home to approximately 1.3 million of them. These include people in all fields ranging from those in the creative fields to carpenters, financial advisers, consultants—anyone who is an independent contractor.
In the mid 1990’s, Sara Horowitz was practicing as a lawyer when she saw that the workforce was changing dramatically, and, following in the footsteps of both of her parents who were labor organizers, she decided to start organizing the freelance workforce, which is now Freelancers Union. The importance of the union was publicly established when, in 2009 Mayor Bloomberg announced a partnership between the city and the union. The union now has approximately 300,000 members nationwide.
Sara Horowitz’s first priority, when she started the union, was to use the union’s bargaining power to get affordable health insurance for its members, which she did, and today her goal is to push for new laws to help freelancers get paid, and get paid on time.
Late and nonpayment for freelance work is one of the major problems that freelancers face, and labor laws, as they now stand, offer little or no protection against clients who don’t pay.
According to a survey done by Freelancers Union in 2015, The average unpaid freelance worker loses almost $6000 annually – and 81% of those who had payment trouble in 2014 said they were paid late; 34% cited instances of not being paid at all. Late payments averaged $5,735.
The Freelancers Union now has a bill before the City Council, introduced by Councilman Brad Lander. The Freelance Isn’t Free bill, according to The Washington Post, would “impose civil and criminal penalties for taking longer than 30 days to deliver payments, and award double damages plus attorneys fees to contractors who’ve been stiffed”.
A majority of City Council members support the bill, including our Councilman Corey Johnson, who is strongly behind it.
REPORT ON HEARING THAT WAS HELD FEBRUARY 29
The City Council Chambers had a packed crowd, and a number of freelancers spoke about the different a horrifying ways in which they’d been stiffed by clients. The most impressive speakers, however, were representatives of major unions and professional groups, representing several million freelancers and independent workers, all in favor of the bill.
City Councilman Brad Lander, who introduced the bill, had intelligent comments and questions for the speakers, and he is certainly a great champion of the cause.
There are many hurdles to face before the bill passes and goes into effect, but if you’re a freelancer or independent worker, it’s important for you to join the Freelancers Union or any union or professional organization that represents you, and write to your City Council member, the Mayor, and the Governor about how important Freelance Isn’t Free is. The current amount of wage theft affects not only our lives, but the local and national economy.