**We want New York City to be a freelance-friendly city. As the collective voice of our New York City members, Freelancers Union sent questionnaires to the 2013 candidates for city-wide public office to get their take on issues important to freelancers. **
**Over the next several weeks, we will be posting the responses from those candidates who got back to us. Check back regularly to hear what the candidates have to say about freelancers. And remember, make sure your voice is heard! Get out and vote in the primary on September 10 and in the general election on November 5. **
Scott Stringer is a Democratic candidate for Comptroller of New York City. To learn more about Scott Stringer, visit his website. His responses are below.
New York City is known as a hotbed of Fortune 500 companies. However, while the “FIRE” economies of finance, insurance, and real estate continue to form a major foundation of the City’s economy, freelancers have never been more important, especially as the era of the “creative class” has blossomed throughout the five boroughs.
As Comptroller, I will work to ensure that all business—whether big, small, or _individual—_are able to flourish in NYC, by cutting red tape, building the necessary infrastructure that is the backbone of regional growth, and ensuring that New York City remains a safe, affordable place for people to raise families.
1. In your opinion, what is the role of freelancers in New York City? What value do they bring to the City? Please describe any past experience you may have working on issues of importance to freelancers.
Last year, I laid out a comprehensive set of recommendations for growing and reforming New York’s entrepreneurial economy —from finance, fashion and food, to marketing and media—into a pipeline to the middle class, in a pioneering report “Start-Up City: Growing New York’s Entrepreneurial Economy for All.” Those recommendations—from internet connectivity and affordable housing/office space, to transportation improvements and streamlining DOB practices, are designed to not only make it easier for startups to operate in NYC, but also to help assist freelancers in continuing to boost our economy.
In particular, I proposed NYC ShareSpace—a website serving as a bulletin board for start-ups and freelancers to join forces in the search for viable office space. This is critical, especially in an era in which finding a workspace is becoming increasingly competitive.
In addition, I have supported a bill in the New York State Legislature that would extend the Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC) through 2014. By helping to reduce the rising cost of health insurance coverage for nearly 25,000 Freelancers Union members (at premiums that average 40 percent less than plans available on the individual and group markets in New York City), FIC has been a model for the rest of the nation.
2. Many freelancers are self-employed and/or entrepreneurs who face a myriad of legal, regulatory and tax issues when starting and operating their business in New York City. How would you expand offerings for independent workers to start, maintain and grow their businesses?
City government already provides targeted services to many industries and businesses, from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Television, and Broadcasting (MOFTB), which streamlines the process of shooting film on our streets, to the Office of Small Business Services, which provides a suite of resources to streamline the opening and expansion of companies throughout the City.
We should build on the success of these approaches by launching a special freelancers unit within SBS to address the unique needs of this burgeoning population.
In addition, we should offer workshops for freelancers to learn about opportunities to build their businesses through the City’s procurement process. The City spends over $10 billion a year on goods and services. While many contracts (such as for the 7-line extension) must be filled by larger companies, there are millions of dollars in smaller contracts that can and should be filled by local small businesses and freelancers.
3. Nearly 1 in 3 workers (or 42million people) work freelance across the U.S., according to a 2006 GAO report. But 2006 was the last time the federal government counted this crucial part of the new workforce. Accurate, comprehensive data is crucial to crafting policies that address the needs of this sector. How important do you feel it is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics revives the survey? What are your thoughts on conducting a comprehensive survey of NYC freelancers to collect demographic data and assess the economic impact of their work?
Given the incredible growth in the freelance economy, it is essential for either BLS or the Census Bureau (through its annual “American Community Survey”) to provide rich data. While NYC could perform a survey on its own, the rise of the freelance economy in cities across the country means that the most efficient way to perform these surveys is via the Federal Government, which already has the apparatus set up for this type of data collection. City government could then decide to add to this national snapshot via periodic targeted surveys of freelancers in the five boroughs, in order to determine the unique needs of our local population.
Ultimately, BLS/Census Bureau should not simply rehash the same old survey. Instead, it should update the parameters of the survey to better reflect the reality of freelance work today. In particular, this means expanding the category of “contingent workers” to include other “independent” workers, include day, part-time, and temporary laborers. Moreover, as Jeff Wald of Work Market recently discussed, collecting data on freelance workers should not be viewed as an annual exercise, but instead one that parallels the monthly employment reports already published by BLS.
**4. Unlike many other workers, freelancers have episodic income but are not eligible for unemployment benefits. What would you do to assist freelancers during periods of unemployment? What ideas do you have for assisting freelancers in saving for these times? **
First, I want to create as much opportunities as possible for our freelancers so that none of them have to sustain any long periods of unemployment. However, for our unemployed freelancers I would propose for our New York City Office of Small Business Services and New York City Economic Development Corporation to help establish a database for opportunities that will be geared to companies that are in need of freelancers. I would also like to work with Freelancers Union to make sure that our unemployed freelancers have access to quality healthcare and other social services to them in times of need. As a City we do not make it a point to discuss the need to save money for the unavoidable difficult, lean times that people often encounter. As a Mayor I want to use my experience as Comptroller and in the private sector to help establish a financial literacy program for all New Yorkers. I would also like to convene a taskforce to help establish a program to encourage freelancers, independent contractors, temporary workers and permanent temporary workers to become more proactive about retirement planning.
5. Freelancers are, by nature, entrepreneurs who have built their own communities to support their work and themselves. This is a model more and more New Yorkers are learning from and building more economically sustainable, cooperative, and collaborative institutions. How will you support these new institutions, including cooperatives, social purpose businesses and collaborative consumption organizations?
In general, I believe that government has potential opportunities to help businesses grow through collaboration. Government should be a collaborator and should work toward helping entrepreneurs obtain the resources they need to be able to grow and prosper. As Mayor I will work with freelancers to create new policies to be able to make our City the most entrepreneurial friendly for freelancers.
**Thanks to Scott Stringer for answering our questions. If you need more info on how or where to vote, check out NYC.gov's voting resources. Please remember to vote on September 10! **
Freelancers Union has endorsed Daniel Squadron for Public Advocate. Come join other Freelancers Union members as we volunteer for his campaign and show our support for a freelancer-friendly candidate! Send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.