Freelancers Aren’t Free policy

It's time to protect our workers [in a scripted font]: with a freelancers bill of rights [img: a dollar bill with a left facing arrow above and a right facing arrow below, black and white AGH4SEA logo]

The excerpts I wrote for mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston’s freelancers rights policy:

Freelancers aren’t free

When it comes to steady work expectations, let’s just say that independent contractors, also known as freelancers, don’t really have that. “Freelancers” is a wide-ranging term, from full-time freelancing through website design or journalists to part-time work like dog-walking, selling items online, and ridesharing.

Right now, labor with the highest rates of freelancers are:

Read the rest of AGH’s policy here!
(And if this sounds like something you’d like to see become a reality, feel free to donate so the campaign stays afloat.)

  1. Creatives (designers, and entertainment industry workers)
  2. Construction workers
  3. Architects and engineers

The most-discussed subset of exploited freelancers, however, tends to be transportation network company (TNC) drivers (read: rideshare drivers). In many ways, rightly so: the job is extremely public-facing, the companies are all notorious and high-profile, and the difference in wage gaps between the freelancers and the company’s leadership are stark, clear, and known. 

This leads us to the issue of deliberate misclassification. Employers will misclassify workers as independent contractors, or another form of freelancer, to remove them from entitled worker protections.

70% of freelancers report either not getting paid or having to wait months for their money—and the missing money adds up to $6,390 for the average independent worker.

This is particularly frustrating when, compared to US workers overall, a higher proportion of freelancers are caregivers or have a disability. Upwork’s studies since 2014 have shown time and time again that freelancing enables opportunities when people might not be able to otherwise work. In fact, nearly half of freelancers in 2019 said freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they’re unable to work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances—like caregiving, childcare, and health issues. Freelancers are also more likely to have college loans or other debt to pay off compared to the average worker, too.

Freelancers also happen to skew younger, more urban, and more diverse than the typical workforce. The younger the worker, the more likely they are to freelance. 53% of Gen Z workers did!

So let’s protect these workers with a Bill of Rights that makes it clear to businesses that freelancers aren’t free. 

Freelancer’s Bill of Rights

  • Employers will be required to pay the full, original amount within 30 days of project completion.
  • Workers will receive portable transit, healthcare, & retirement benefits.
  • Employees are required to establish contracts for work totaling over $600.
  • No more non-compete agreements for workers who juggle clients.

We know these policies are possible; New York set us up nicely to follow suit—and then some, building upon the current push by our Domestic Workers’ Standards Board.

Improving enforcement and ending wage theft

Our Office of Labor Standards’ current budget is $6,864,873. In order to increase enforcement of practices and standards, we must increase this existing budget to no less than double ($14M). In this way, we can also improve enforcement for our new minimum wage, our prevailing wage requirements as part of the Just Transition Tax, and improved collaboration with our revamped Office of Non-English, Immigrant, and Refugee Affairs.

This is how we support blue-collar workers, creatives, and entrepreneurs to take risks and start new businesses.

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