Bring the Freelance Isn’t Free Act to Los Angeles

Aug 09, 2021

As the Executive Director of Freelancers Union, one of my top priorities has been to advocate for the proliferation of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act in cities across the country. With Minnesota becoming the second jurisdiction to institute such a law in January of this year, we are proud to report that on Tuesday, August 10, the Los Angeles City Council’s Economic Development and Jobs Committee will meet to discuss bringing a version of New York City’s landmark law to their city.

This is the first step toward securing legal rights and protections for the freelancers of Los Angeles. Late and nonpayment from clients is the most common - some 71% of freelancers struggle to get paid in their career, and they lose an average of $6,000. It’s wage theft, plain and simple, and clients get away with it because they know that freelancers work alone, without the legal rights afforded to employees.

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act establishes protections for freelance workers, specifically the rights to a written contract, timely and full payment, and protection from retaliation. The law empowers a city agency to enforce it, and has real consequences for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Bringing this law to L.A. will be a major victory for the hundreds of thousands of freelancers who are the backbone of the city’s economy. If the motion passes in Tuesday’s meeting, Council staff will begin drafting legislation that provides all these key protections and is specific to the needs of the L.A. workforce. After that, it will be brought to the full Council for a vote.

Right now, the most important tool we have is your stories. Councilmembers need to hear from freelancers who have suffered because of nonpayment to understand the scope of the issue. The City Council is accepting public comments on the motion in writing and by phone to the meeting itself. If it passes this step, every City Council member will need to hear directly from their constituents about why they should support this bill.

It’s time to speak up! If you are interested in working with us directly to make this law a reality, either by providing a testimonial or helping to organize your freelance peers, please reach out directly to advocacy@freelancersunion.org.

If you’d like to submit a written comment or send an email to your councilmember, you can use the below script as a model. New Yorkers are also invited to share stories of how Freelance Isn’t Free has helped them.

I am writing to support Council Blumenfield's motion, Council File 21-0107, to have the City Council adopt a NY-like Freelance Isn't Free law. The motion is at: https://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2021/21-0107_mot_01-26-2021.pdf.

The NYC Freelance Isn’t Free Law establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to a written contract, timely and full payment, and protection from retaliation. The law establishes penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. In New York, the law has helped freelancers recover more than $1.6 million in restitution and penalties in the last three years.

As a freelancer, [SHARE YOUR STORY WITH NONPAYMENT HERE].

Freelance Isn't Free works and protects the growing number of independent contractors in the US economy. I urge you to bring this legislation to Los Angeles.

Rafael Espinal

Rafael Espinal is the president and executive director of Freelancers Union.