“Freelance Isn’t Free” Advances in the NY City Council

Brad Lander

New York City – February 29: “The company closed, the owners took the furniture and equipment out of the office and disappeared. There was no bankruptcy, no one was notified—they simply closed…Freelancers got nothing! The total loss to 40 workers exceeds $300,000. I was owed more than $20,000.”

That was a part of NWU VP Mauricio Niebla’s testimony today as about 100 freelancers of all types filled the City Council chamber to support passage of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The bill was initiated by the Freelancers Union and has won the support of many groups and unions, including SEIU 32-BJ, the Domestic Workers Alliance, Make the Road NY, NY Tech Meet Up and NWU.

The freelancers in attendance ranged from writers, photographers, graphic artists and editors to fashion models and manufacturers, tech workers and theater artists.

The bill was introduced last December, and now has the support of 27 Council members. The proposed law would require that every freelancer receive a written contract, with payment due 30 days after completion of the contracted work. Failure to comply would lead to a series of fines, double damages and possible criminal charges.

There are an estimated 1.3 million freelance, independent contract workers in NY and as many as 54 million nationwide. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act reflects the massive shifts taking place in the economy and sets a standard of protection that many other workers already enjoy. Today, it may have moved an important step closer to becoming the first such law in the country.

You can read Mauricio’s testimony and NWU VP David Hill’s submitted testimony here.

The NWU statement is here.