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Freelancer Rights

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The rise of the freelancing economy is quite disturbing to me for the same reasons as the much of the rest of the outsourced, franchised, temp, gig economy–workers have effectively no rights and protections and are totally at the whim of whoever hires them for basic things like getting paid. I think everyone in the online writing world has either done work and not been paid despite promises or knows someone who has been the victim of this sort of wage theft.

New York is acting to give freelancers much needed rights.

The New York City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to give freelance workers a set of protections against wage theft that are believed to be the first of their kind in the country.

Known as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the measure requires anyone hiring a freelance worker to agree in writing to a timetable and procedure for payment, and increases the potential awards to freelancers bringing legal complaints against those who have failed to pay them promptly.

The bill represents one of the earliest policy efforts to grapple directly with the growth in the so-called gig economy — a term that typically refers to the likes of temporary workers, contract workers, independent contractors and freelance workers. According to one estimate by the economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, this group grew to almost 16 percent of the work force in late 2015 from roughly 10 percent in early 2005.

“New York is in some ways at the center of the gig economy, of the evolution of the economy to more independent and contingent work,” Brad Lander, the councilman who introduced the legislation, said.

But Mr. Lander, Democrat of Brooklyn, added that the existing employment and labor laws are “so badly outdated they don’t give the basic protections all workers expect, much less broader support and benefits to all workers in the growing gig economy.”

The Freelancers Union, a group that played a key role in shaping the measure, estimates that there are nearly 4 million freelancers in the New York metropolitan area. A recent survey by the group found that half of all freelancers nationwide said they had encountered trouble getting paid in 2014, and that more than 70 percent struggled to collect payment at some point in their careers.

Sara Horowitz, the union’s executive director, said one of the bill’s most consequential provisions could be the requirement of a written contract for any freelance relationship for which the compensation is at least $800 over a four-month period.

To say the least, we need these protections on a national scale.

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