Last summer's testimony, this year's law

Oct 2, 2019

This post was republished with the kind permission of Freelancers Union member Erin Bagwell.

Last summer I testified alongside Freelancer’s Union to advocate for a bill that would protect freelancers from sexual harassment in the workplace.

Right now, NYC has over 1.3 million independent contractors like photographers, models, designers, consultants and more. That’s one in three New Yorkers who might need protection against harassment and discrimination based on their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

At the last job I worked at before I started my Dream, Girl journey I was being sexually harassed by my boss, and didn’t have the courage or legal rights to do anything about it.

However, after traveling around the world the last five years with Dream, Girl and hearing your stories I feel more motivated than ever to make the workplace a safer and more inspiring place to be. It’s why I love doing corporate speaking events and why when Caitlin Pearce from Freelancer’s Union asked me to testify to support this bill I dug down deep and said “yes.”

The day I testified I was shaking like a leaf. While I was practicing my testimony at home I couldn’t get through the whole thing without crying. How the heck was I going to confidently share my story in front of a group of New York City Council members in a room full of strangers?

Just to add to the stakes of the day, I was three months pregnant, had horrible morning sickness, and was wildly hormonal.

Nevertheless, I made my statement, shared my story, and cried through the whole thing.

Afterwards, myself and the other gals who testified were met with warmth from our City Council Members. They thanked us for sharing our stories and even though I felt emotionally hungover for the rest of the day I knew I’d done the right thing for me. It left me grateful and just a little exhausted.

Fast forward to just over a year later when I received an email from Caitlin telling us our bill was going to be passed and we were invited back to City Hall to celebrate. This time, Ginny Rose would be by my side as we as we watched the vote, effectively solidifying this bill as law.

The day of the event we shared the stage with Freelancers Union, the other women who testified, as well as Council Member Brad Lander who championed the bill in a press conference.

It was exciting, humbling, and unexpectedly emotional. Once the press conference was done I took Ginny to Starbucks to refuel. While waiting for my iced coffee I started to shed a few tears. Sometimes it’s the really hard things that make the biggest impact. Sometimes it’s pushing past the fear to do the right thing that truly makes a difference.

And while I’m sure the bill would have passed to become law without my specific testimony, I’m proud as hell to say I was a part of it.

The rest of the morning my daughter and I strolled down Broadway exploring the financial district which ends at the Statue of Liberty, grateful to belong to a city so big.

Erin Bagwell

Erin Bagwell is a new mom, filmmaker, and writer. She raised $100K on Kickstarter to produce Dream, Girl — a documentary on inspiring female entrepreneurs that premiered at Obama’s White House.