Tag Archives: Freelancers Union

Sign the Freelance Isn’t Free Petition!

31 Aug

Legislation has been introduced to the New York City Council that would make it easier for independent contractors to collect from deadbeat clients. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, (NYC Council Bill 1017-A) was introduced by Councilmember Brad Lander,  who represents Brooklyn’s 39th District. This first of its kind legislation is endorsed by The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Freshbooks, The Graphic Artists Guild, and others, and it would protect independent workers against nonpayment and late payment. It’s poised to pass, but Freelancers Union needs one final push to hold deadbeat clients accountable for bad business practices in the City of New York. Sign the petition and join Freelancers Union in a Labor Day Thunderclap campaign to let the world know that #FreelanceIsntFree!



Get Paid Not Played: Squeaky Wheels Roll into Albany

24 May

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Did you know that NY is the first State to pass a bill to help freelancers get paid? It happened last year, when the Assembly voted in favor of the Payment Protection Act (S4129/A6698). The bill never made it to the Senate, but this year we’re determined to get it into law. That’s why a busload of Freelancers Union members got up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, May 22, and traveled to the Capitol with The World’s Longest Invoice, detailing $16 million in unpaid wages being picked from the pockets of indy workers.

Sure, that’s a big number, but it gets worse. Deadbeat clients stiffed NY freelancers to the tune of $3.7 billion in 2010, and in turn cheated the Empire State out of $323 million in tax revenue. Those funds were badly needed to keep roads safe, schools running, and libraries open, to name just a few necessities that go beyond the independent workforce.

Why else should you care about this? Freelancers now make up one third of the American workforce, and that number is rising. In this tough economy, today’s staffer (you, your relative, your neighbor) can very easily be tomorrow’s freelancer. You have the power to say, “This isn’t right. The work was done, you’re using it without paying for it, and the people of New York State won’t let you get away with that.”

This bill lays the groundwork for bringing change to the outdated labor laws of the US, which were enacted to protect our grandparents, and great-grandparents. When NY passes it, we will be the first state—but surely not the last—to give freelancers the same protections under the law that traditional employees have if they don’t get paid. We will be able to report non-payment of wages to the State Department of Labor, which will make deadbeats pay two things: our invoices and penalties for not paying in the first place.

Convinced? Great! Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask your NY State Member of Assembly and Senator to support the Payment Protection Act (S4129/A6698). If you or someone you know have faced non- or late-payment, share the story. Be sure to mention that this is bipartisan legislation, and if you’re in a Republican district, say that it’s sponsored by Sen. Golden (R), and has 6 Republican co-sponsors: Robach, Lanza, McDonald, Grisanti, Zeldin, and Ball.
  • If your representatives support the bill, thank them! Be sure to ask your State Senator to get Speaker Skelos on board. His support is crucial to get it passed.
  • Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to do the same.

I’m working to get this landmark bill into law with Freelancers Union, where I’m the Member Representative on the Board of Directors, because it’s an exciting and important opportunity to expand crucial protections to American workers. Join us in our fight to pass the Payment Protection Act and bring fairness to Empire State workers. Help us make history in Albany.

Advantage: Freelancers

2 May

Freelancers’ Stock Rises on Madison Avenue, by Rupal Parekh, Agency Editor of Advertising Age, affirms a trend that I’ve been seeing as the economy improves: if you’re a good freelancer, you’re in demand. She observes, “With clients’ marketing budgets rallying after a recession that led to the layoff of thousands of full-time staffers, freelancers are shouldering much of the workload.” I have two pieces of advice for anyone freelancing right now: don’t be afraid to let your capitalist flag fly, and ride the wave while it lasts.

After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, [a colleague] told me, ‘it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.'”

Freelancers are valuable right now. Many businesses that let staff go during the recession aren’t re-hiring workers as we emerge from it. Instead, they’re using a rotating pool of temps who are almost always sent packing and replaced before they work enough hours to earn benefits and overtime pay. Sure, this gives the freelance market a nice shot in the arm, but it also gives companies a source of labor that doesn’t come with the overhead of having a full-time staff.

As the recovery builds, corporations are facing the reality that they can no longer have their cake and eat it, too, and are conceding that talent costs money. This is certainly true in my industry, publishing. During the recession, freelance rates were low because work was scarce and employers had the upper hand in terms of compensation. Salaries were slashed for the staff jobs that still existed, and independent workers were accepting rates that people turned down when I first began my career, twenty years ago. Now, with tablet publishing creating a market that needs a new set of skills, supply and demand are giving independents much more leverage. One manager at a major national consumer magazine pays good freelancers $60-$75/hour to work on the iPad and tablet editions. After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, another told me, “it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.”

Mind you, what goes up must come down, and the recent economic crisis certainly won’t be the last. So, while the going is good, smart freelancers will work on paying down debt, and stashing some cash for the next rainy day. Some options for doing this are a business savings account and a retirement plan. ING Direct, which pays higher interest rates than many other institutions, offers business and retirement products, and Freelancers Union, where I sit on the Board of Directors, has a 401k plan for qualified members.

Indy workers always have value, but the high demand for freelancers in the current economy empowers us to earn more and invest in our futures. It’s a perfect time to proudly take a seat at the table as a skilled professional, and avoid the “I’m just a freelancer” trap.

NYC Wants You to Spend $6 Million

16 Mar

The City of New York is about to spend $6 million of taxpayers’ money, but this time, there’s a twist: taxpayers get to tell them how. If you’re a member of Freelancers Union (I’m on the Board of Directors) and came to the October and March Monthly Member Meetings, you heard me speak about Participatory Budgeting, an experiment that only one other US city (Chicago) has tried. In a nutshell, it gives people the power to decide how a certain amount of public funds will be spent. This month, voters in four New York City Council Districts will vote on which capital projects will be funded from a total budget of about $6 million, and by doing so will provide support for their neighbors and communities, an idea that Freelancers Union Members call New Mutualism.

Participatory Budgeting in New York City started last fall, when several assemblies were held for people who lived and worked in each of the Districts involved. Attendees broke into groups, brainstormed ideas, chose their top 3, and presented them to everyone. Over the following few months, volunteers and Council Members’ staffs researched the suggestions, determined their feasibility, and developed a selection to be put on the ballot. Now, the chance to choose which projects get funded is here.

Voting will take place from March 25 through April 1 in each Borough except Staten Island (click for specific dates, times, and locations):

While Participatory Budgeting isn’t limited to Freelancers Union Members, it’s an important chance for independent workers to interact with the New York City Council, which is taking notice of us. Last month, Speaker Christine Quinn mentioned Freelancers Union and Sara Horowitz in her 2012 State of the City Address, and the Council has pledged to contribute $100,000 in funding for a health clinic that will bring low-cost care to Freelancers Union Members.

On the Ballot in the 39th District are freelancer-friendly projects like a Carroll Gardens Library community space, where your networking group can meet, body weight fitness equipment in Prospect Park, so you can work off some stress caused by that big looming project, and bus countdown clocks to help get you to your next meeting on time.

So, practice a little New Mutualism this month by spending your own money: cast your ballot in the Participatory Budget Vote. Your community, your neighbors, and you will all be better off.

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