Independent Contractors Unite!

Some people choose freelance work because of the flexibility and independence it offers. Many others, however, work in conditions identical to those of full-time, “permanent” employees, but are considered by their employers to be “independent contractors.” In practice, this normally means no health insurance, no retirement plan, as well as more complicated (and sometimes higher) income taxes.

New York attorney Sara Horowitz is leading a union for freelance workers. As today’s New York Times explains, the union doesn’t negotiate contracts with employers, but it does allow freelance workers access to group discounts on health insurance. Of course, this shouldn’t be necessary. We could easily offer health care coverage to all citizens, just as every other highly developed society does. But since we insist on living with a patchwork of private health insurance plans, the idea of a freelancers union makes good sense.

While a union that can’t negotiate contracts with employers won’t make an impact on wage stagnation or income inequality, we need as much ferment in labor organizing as we can get. Here’s hoping this effort leads in a progressive direction – and is followed by many more such efforts for non-traditional workers.

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