The Freelancers Union

While freelancers like graphic designers and software developers have rarely enjoyed collective bargaining, a new Freelancers Union aims to fight for their rights.
By Staff, Utne Reader
May/June 2012
Add to My MSN


Content Tools

Related Content

Spiritually Rethinking the Economy

With the economy in crisis, right now seems like a good time to rethink the economic fundamentals of...

How Unions Could Stimulate the Economy

The Employee Free Choice Act could help restore the financial viability of the struggling middle cla...

Graffiti Artists in the White House

Marc Schiller of Wooster Collective, a stalwart booster of international street art, writes a letter...

Freelancers Find a Friend in Gawker

Last month, when Viacom’s contract workers and freelancers learned that their benefits were getting ...

As U.S. union membership hits historic lows, one union is adding members: the Freelancers Union. According to Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writing in Dissent (Winter 2012), the organization boasts some 230,000 members.

Beyond its name, however, the outfit has little in common with trade unions. Most notably, it offers no collective bargaining power, nor the right to strike; in fact, it’s not legally incorporated as a union at all. Instead, the principal benefits of membership are access to lower-cost health care benefits and retirement investment.

The eight-year-old nonprofit is the brainchild of Sara Horowitz, who describes the association as a form of “new mutualism”—a kind of union 2.0 that seeks social change in creative collaboration.

Horowitz may be onto something. Since freelancers—graphic designers, software developers, writers, and other professionals—negotiate independent contracts with a variety of clients, collective bargaining isn’t very appealing. Where the union has begun to show some muscle is in lobbying against policies that unfairly target freelancers (who account for up to 30 percent of the workforce, according to the union).

In the state of New York the organization helped repeal laws that double-taxed self-employed workers, first as businesses, then as individual earners. Federal tax codes include similar provisions. The Freelancers Union is advocating for changes here, too.

These agendas have made for some unusual alliances; New York’s mayor Mike Bloomberg was an ally in the state code fight. Still, given the notoriously independent nature of freelancers, it’s perhaps fitting that their new and tentative collective voice should have a hint of the unorthodox in it.








Post a comment below.

 








Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!