Freelance Isn’t Free Bill Introduced at the City Council
By Roy Murphy
NEW YORK — About 80 freelancers gathered on the City Hall steps on December 9 in support of a bill introduced in the New York City Council that would protect freelancers against non-payment. The #FreelanceIsn’tfree Act would penalize clients who refuse to pay freelancers within 30 days, and would subject them to double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties.
The Act requires every freelancer receive a written contract that describes the work to be completed, the rate and method of payment, and the date payment is to be made.
The Freelancers Union (TFL), which authored the bill, says a freelancer loses, on average, $6,390 every year. As one speaker said, “It’s time to end this economy of exploitation.”
A 2010 study by Rutgers economist William Rodgers estimated that New York State’s self-employed lost $4.7 billion in 2009 due to client nonpayment. This includes $323 million in lost tax revenue.
Sara Horowitz, executive director of TFL, said, “A good and well-run business does not have to stiff its workers to make a profit.”
The bill was introduced by Councilman Brad Lander, with several council member co-sponsors, and is supported by two dozen workers organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, United Federation of Teachers, the National Writers Union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, Kickstarter, Make the Road, New York Tech Meetup, Graphic Artists Guild, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
“New York City is the freelance capital of the world,” said Lander. “I’m proud to work with the Freelancers Union to submit the first-of-its-kind legislation today, to make sure all New Yorkers actually get the money they’ve earned, on time, and in full.”
Such freelancers include solopreneurs, independent contractors, moonlighters, self-employed workers, day laborers, drivers, designers, nannies, graphic designers, writers and temps.
“Whether you’re a day laborer, a freelance journalist or a self-employed CP—if you work on your own—you’ve probably been a victim of wage theft,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “The union movement was built on solidarity and strength in numbers, and that’s how we’ll win independent workers the equal protection they deserve.”
Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union said: “The publishing industry is notorious for not paying. We hope this is the first step of many. Freelancers also need health care, unemployment benefits and workers compensation.”