Permalancers walk out at Viacom

Dec 11, 2007

Today's New York Times covers the story at MTV Networks: facing cuts to their benefits, permalancers walked off the job Monday afternoon. From the article:

Sara Horowitz, the founder of the Freelancers Union, an organization of 40,000 New York area freelancers, said permalancing was widespread, particularly in the media industry. Protests, however, are not. "I really think it’s getting to a point where people are not willing to take it anymore," she said.

Freelancers Union supports the right of workers to be classified fairly, and most importantly, to get the benefits they've worked for and deserve. Two different types of misclassification hurt workers. The first is what the Viacom workers are experiencing. "Permalancers" are workers who are freelancing indefinitely for one company. In this type of misclassification, people are termed "freelancers" when they really are employees—and they should be getting the same benefits as the other employees. This is a way for companies to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes. However, at least these workers can take a tax deduction on business expenses, including whatever benefits they have to buy on their own. The second type of misclassification is when a company, fearful of being pursued for misclassification of workers by the IRS, simply terms all its workers "employees"—even those who are actually freelancers. These workers aren’t provided with benefits, and because they’re technically "employees," their retirement plan options are limited and they cannot take tax deductions when they purchase health insurance. The protests at MTV Networks continue later this week, when the members of the WGA—on strike themselves—will be picketing outside the Viacom headquarters. And for complete coverage of the walkout, check out Gawker's Viacom archive.