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Friday, January 28, 2011

Join the Freelancers Union

These past several years have been tough on all of us. In the beginning of 2009, I lost many of my editors, who went down with the death of their magazine or were simply let go. The need for editorial content was reduced to a trickle because those sought after advertising dollars that the publishing world feeds on was gone. Yet, even though I was making very little, I couldn’t receive unemployment benefits because I was self-employed. Independent workers comprise one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy, almost 1/3 of all workers, yet we’re still not recognized by the Department of Labor. When my freelance work started to pick up again, several publishers made me wait over six to seven months to be paid. Twice, I had to use the services of a good friend who’s a lawyer to make sure my check was forthcoming. We were lucky the first time when he realized that one of the investors in a website I wrote for does business with his law firm. One simple phone call to that investor and I was paid within the week. When a company’s employee is not paid, they can go to a state’s Department of Labor who can levy fines and impose jail time on that employer. All an independent contractor can do is ask repeatedly and then go to a small claims court.

So when I heard about the Freelancers Union that is now 150,000 members strong and growing quickly, one that has its own Political Action Committee to fight for the rights of the self-employed, I immediately joined. The union was started by Sara Horowitz 16 years ago and she has since received a MacArthur “genius” grant for her work. Based in New York, Horowitz graduated from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, or ILR as it was dubbed when my brother, Jim, graduated. She then went on to get her law degree and work as a public defender, before spending a year at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. So far, IT professionals, television and film producers, advertising workers, and graphic designers make up the bulk of the union, but freelance writers and other self-employed workers would be wise to join the swelling ranks. The Freelancers Union has already opened an insurance company to help with health care, and is working diligently to create unemployment protection, fight against unpaid wages, and eliminate any punitive double taxes on independent workers, like the one in New York City that was recently thrown out. Please go to the Freelancers Union website and become a member.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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