Is independence an obstacle to political progress?

Apr 6, 2009

Is our sense of individualism as United States citizens interfering with our power to take collective action and fight for workers’ rights in these times of economic uncertainty? The Sunday Times article, “In America, Labor Has An Unusually Long Fuse,” contrasted the more militant, out-front protests of Europeans on the streets with our own means of communicating our grievances, mostly through the web. This often corresponds to how individuals identify themselves in class terms. The article’s author, Steven Greenhouse, explains that, “Today, American workers, even those earning $20,000 a year, tend to view themselves as part of an upwardly mobile middle class. In contrast, European workers often still see themselves as proletarians in an enduring class struggle.” Freelancers Union members come from a vast array of industries, employment arrangements (independent contractor, permalancer, temp, part-timer, etc.), and geographic locales, making the use of the web the most convenient means of sharing our concerns. We know, though, that often a flesh-and-blood presence is far more powerful. That’s why, in addition to forums, emails, and petitions, we push to schedule hearings and town halls with elected officials. We can’t fit our 100,000+ members in one room, but politicians can’t just hit the “close” button on fifty of our members testifying in person. If you are inspired to join your fellow freelancers in collective action (and if you’re in the NYC area), keep your afternoon free on April 28, as we call to exempt sole proprietors from paying the Unincorporated Business Tax (UBT) at a City Council hearing. An email with details will be going to New Yorkers on the “Get Involved!” email list, and we’ll keep you updated on this blog.