**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. **
Bill Thompson is a Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City. To learn more about Bill Thompson, visit his website. His responses are below.
I served as the Comptroller of New York City from 2002 through 2009 where I was responsible for managing the finances of the country’s largest municipality and supervised a staff of more than 700 professionals. As the City’s top financial watchdog, I oversaw the City’s $100 billion pension.
I am a proud product of New York City’s public schools. I served as the head of the Board of Education for five terms; I oversaw a school system with 1.1 million students and 130,000 employees. In addition to my eight years of service as a citywide executive, I have valuable private sector experience.
After a lifetime living in Brooklyn, I now live in Harlem with my wife Elsie McCabe Thompson and two step children. I am the proud father of a grown daughter, Jennifer.
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.
Freelancers play an important role to our City’s economy. Freelancers provide companies a pool of talented workers that can be utilized to help them grow and prosper. Also, freelancers are vital to our arts. New York City is home to the fashion industry, thousands of museums, film and television industry, freelancers make up a big percentage of the workers of these industries which are vital to our economy. As a City we should do everything possible to make sure that freelancers are able to succeed because they provide valuable work and are an important boon to our local economy.
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?
Unfortunately, the National Labor Relations Act did not provide enough legal protections for Independent Contractors. Given the rise of temporary workers, permanent temporary workers and independent contractors, our City has to find ways to provide legal protections for these hardworking individuals. Also, as a City we want our self-employed and entrepreneurs to be able to succeed because their growth means more jobs and revenue for our City.
As Mayor I will propose for the Office of Small Business Services to establish events and programs for freelancers to be able to obtain information on how our City can help them grow and provide them the resources in place to be successful. Also, the New York City Economic Development Corporation under my leadership will work closer to small businesses (including the self-employed) to find ways for them to take advantage of opportunities to obtain grants and other assistance to be able to grow.
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?
Failing to count freelance workers is a monumental failure on the federal government’s part. It is important for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to revive this service because as a nation we need to have a firm understanding of how people are employed to be able to establish the best policies for our economy to grow and prosper. If we do not have reliable statistics it makes it much harder to create the proper policies. I would support a comprehensive survey of our City’s freelancers. I believe that there is untapped potential within our freelancers. A survey will help us find the policies in place to tap into that potential, which will mean more jobs and opportunities for our City’s residents.
**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 Bill Thompson 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.