We know that freelancers are considered by many to be a pretty low rung of the job market, one that didn’t even warrant any attention during the recent 14-year long presidential campaign. But the workforce is growing, with 55 million people working as freelancers last year alone, making up 35 percent of the workforce. It’s only going to get bigger as people turn away from traditional office jobs in favor of making up their own patchwork careers.
We’re all going to have it a lot tougher in the coming year if Trump and his Cobra command squadron kill Obamacare and replace it with, who knows what, maybe just telling you to rub some dirt in it and get back out there. But there may be some good news on the horizon, at least in New York state. As part of his State of the State speech being delivered at several locations this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a “Portable Benefit Task Force” that will be charged with recommending some creative ways for freelance workers and others get access to affordable benefits.
“New York City specifically has been named the ‘freelancer capital of the world’ because it is home to 1.3 million self-identified freelancers,” Cuomo said in the speech, which you can read here. “Many of these workers lack the core protections and benefits provided for in the traditional labor market, and the existing system for supporting workers is outdated.”
The proposal is short on specifics (most proposals in speeches like this are), but Cuomo wants it to cover unemployment insurance, worker’s comp, leave accruals and other benefits. It’ll be led by Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky, with input from members from the insurance industry, labor unions,freelancers and gig-economy industries, and experts on traditional employee benefits and economic trends.
If this turns into something, New York City could be the best place in the country to be a freelancer (it’s already a pretty great one, IMO). In October, the City Council passed a first-in-the-nation law that protects freelance wage theft. The Freelance Isn’t Free law “creates harsh penalties for employers who delay or deny payment for freelancers and sets a strict window within which freelancers must be paid for their services,” according to Gothamist. It forces employers to pay a freelancer within 30 days of the work being submitted. 30 days! That is 1/10th as long as I’ve waited for some freelance invoices to be paid.
Brooklyn is also the home of the Freelancers Union, which offers health/dental insurance and operates its own health center for freelancers, and advocates on behalf of workers nationwide.
Maybe by the next presidential election, candidates will actually pay attention to freelancers. If we’re all still alive by then, of course.