As part of its campaign to protect independent workers from deadbeat companies, Freelancers Union launched on Monday “The World’s Longest Invoice” — an online counter where independent workers can share stories and add the amount they have been stiffed to a running national total.
The New York-based Freelancers Union said its goal is to support the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, a first-of-its-kind NYC Council legislation that would provide basic protections for independent workers from companies who refuse to pay, or force them to wait months for their checks.
If successful, the legislation could be a national model for other cities to follow, the union said.
Under the proposed bill, any company that hires a freelance worker would have to execute a simple written contract, describing the work to be completed, the rate and method of payment, and date when payment is due.
“Those companies that stiff freelancers would face consequences, including double damages, attorney’s fees, and civil penalties from judges and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs,” said the Freelancers Union in a statement.
First introduced by NYC Council Member Brad Lander and a broad coalition of business and labor organizations led by the Freelancers Union, the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act has gained support from a majority of the NYC Council, with 28 of 51 members currently signed on, plus NYC Public Advocate Tish James.
The union said more than 70 percent of freelancers experience late or nonpayment at some point in their career, “getting stiffed an average of $5,968 every year – forcing many to use credit cards or rely on government assistance to make up the difference.”
The union said traditional workers can turn to the Department of Labor when they’re stiffed, but new economy workers only have two options: sue or walk away.
“And increasingly that’s a gamble companies with lawyers and resources at their disposal are willing to make,” it said.
Freelancers Union said it is combining traditional grassroots organizing with online social media to raise awareness about the problem and the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act.
The union said the legislation is backed by a broad coalition of supporters including: AFT, UFT, 32BJ SEIU, Make the Road, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Guestworker Alliance, Kickstarter, General Assembly, Work Market, Freshbooks, New York Tech Meetup, and American Sustainable Business Council.
The others are: National Writers Union, Graphic Artists Guild, Contently, LiquidTalent, Managed by Q, Center for Social Innovation, Lower Manhattan Headquarters, Brooklyn Creative League, Promptly, Civic Hall, The Yard, Ask Domino, Moveon, Tycoon, and Musicians for Musicians.