Albany, NY – Yesterday, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act (S5026) into law. The bill will protect contract and freelance workers by ensuring we receive appropriate contracts for our work, are paid within 30 days of the work being completed. As a result of negotiations between the legislature and Governor Hochul, we will have the authority of the Attorney General’s Office behind us if we are not paid in a timely manner.
We commend the Governor for signing the law, which makes New York the second state to enact statewide protections for freelance workers after Illinois. We are especially thankful to State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Harry Bronson for their persistence in seeing this legislation pass and working through all obstacles to champion the rights of freelance workers. We also applaud the efforts of the Freelancers Union, who have been our partners in this multi-year campaign. The new state-wide legislation builds on the 2017 New York City bill, and follows the passage of the Illinois law, as well as city ordinances in Los Angeles and Columbus, OH—all in 2023.
“Freelance Isn’t Free works,” said Larry Goldbetter, President of the National Writers Union. “The NYC version of the l law has collected millions of dollars in unpaid fees for freelance workers, and currently 41 freelancers are collecting $275,000, double damages, from a publisher with a pattern and practice of non-payment and late payment. This is a solid floor from which to build out the full set of labor protections that freelance workers deserve, statewide and nationally.”
“For freelancers, delayed or non-payment from an employer can mean the difference between making rent and buying groceries or not. We applaud New York State for moving to ensure that freelancers have protection from this type of exploitation which relies on employers’ ability to isolate their workforce,” said Eric Thurm, Campaign Coordinator for the National Writers Union. “Over the past few years, record numbers of workers have either chosen or been pushed into freelancing. It is more important than ever to protect these precarious workers, who so often slip through the cracks. Thanks to the efforts of our sponsors Assembly Member Harry Bronson and Senator Andrew Gounardes, as well as legislative leadership and Governor Hochul, New York has joined Illinois in passing critical and necessary protections for freelancers. We look forward to these states setting an example for the rest of the country.”
“From Rochester to Rhinebeck, all work deserves pay. This Thanksgiving, we are thankful that New York State is committing to protections for freelancers by providing them that basic right,” said Executive Director of the Freelancers Union Rafael Espinal. “This could not have been done without the partnership of National Writers Union and the steadfast dedication of the legislation’s sponsors, Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Harry Bronson. It is because of their leadership that so many freelancers across the state now have recourse under Freelance Isn’t Free.”
Roughly one out of three workers in the US workforce are independent contract workers, with New York leading the way. A recent study by the Independent Economy Council found that 74% of respondents are not getting paid on-time while 59% are owed $50,000 or more for work already done. Freelance workers experience contract violations, non-payment and retaliation for pursuing payment. According to a 2019 study collaboration between Upwork and the Freelancers Union, 74% reported experiencing late or non-payment, 59% of freelancers report that they live “paycheck to paycheck,” and freelancers lose, on average, about $6,000 a year.
Freelance workers across New York State deserve to be protected at work, to receive timely payment and be free from exploitation. The Freelance Isn’t Free law is a big step in the right direction. We thank the Governor, the legislators, our partners and our members for making this possible.