The State of Freelance Isn’t Free
Policy change is in the air for US freelancers! Freelance Isn’t Free Law is already in effect in New York City, Seattle, and Minneapolis and continues to move across the country with recent legislative wins in Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio. Now, New York has re-introduced the statewide bill and California, New Jersey, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri also have similar proposals on the docket for this year.
This is quickly becoming one labor issue that is uniting red and blue states, rural counties and cities, right and left alike. Freelancers, who for too long have worked independently in the shadows of our economy are now finding solidarity with each other and pushing policymakers to take aggressive action to expand legitimate work protections to this growing class of workers.
With an uncertain economy and rise in inflation, freelancing is gaining traction among diverse workers across the country at a time when traditional work is untenable or unappealing. With over a third of the country freelancing, we are seeing more recent graduates, working parents, caretakers, seniors and people with disabilities take control of their lives through freelancing. It’s no longer an option for freelancers to be left without protections and policymakers are shifting their priorities to respond to this evolving workforce.
Freelance Isn’t Free Updates
New York & New York City
The Statewide Freelance Isn’t Free bill (A9368/S8369) was passed by the legislature last session and largely expected to be signed by the governor but unfortunately was part of a slate of vetoes. Freelancers Union continues to believe that New York is the most progressive home to freelancers nationwide, so we're back at it for 2023. On February 22nd, State Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Bronson re-introduced the legislation(A6040/S5026) to cover all of New York State! The bill has already passed the senate labor committee and continues to move in both houses. On Freelance Isn’t Free Day, May 15th, Freelancers Union, elected officials and labor leaders are taking the fight to Albany to demand the NYS administration support freelance protections for all New Yorkers.
We celebrate May 15th as Freelance Isn’t Free Day because on that day in 2017, Freelancers Union helped to pave the way to start a long awaited trend in policy to protect freelancers. New York City became the nation’s leader as the first jurisdiction in the country to implement a law guaranteeing freelance workers protection against non-payment. The law has resulted in significant victories for the city’s freelance workers. Just this month, May 2023, we witnessed the effectiveness of Freelance Isn’t Free when a freelancer lodged a complaint against Kanye West and his brand, Ye. The freelancer was owed over $100,000 and was awarded $300,00 in statutory damages. Over 2,100 complaints have been filed from 2017-2022, and the vast majority of these were investigated fully. Complaints filed through Freelance Isn’t Free have recovered more than $2.4 million in unpaid fees.
New Yorkers - We’ll be meeting in Albany on Monday May 15th to show our support for a statewide Freelance Isn’t Free. Click here to learn more and RSVP!
Los Angeles, California
City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced the Freelance Worker Protections Ordinance in early 2021 and was officially passed into law in March this year! The law will go into effect on July 1st and specifies that services over $600 per calendar year must have a contract between the freelancer and client (who must both be based in L.A.), and that full payment must be made no later than 30 days after the services are rendered. Freelancers will be eligible to file a claim through the Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards of the Bureau of Contract Administration. This was a major win for the Freelancers Union, the Freelance Isn’t Free coalition, and to the second largest home of freelancers, Los Angeles!
The Columbus City Council proved that legislating can be swift when crucial protections are on the docket. Councilmember Rob Dorans introduced a freelance worker protection ordinance in late March this year and just over a month later it was passed into law! Under the new ordinance, Columbus-based employers are required to adhere to written contracts that specify pay rate and services rendered for work worth $250 or more over a four-month period. This legislation set a new standard with the lowest threshold to file a complaint for non-payment at $250 and will be enforced by the city’s Wage Theft Prevention and Enforcement Commission.
Seattle, WA & Minneapolis, MN
The Seattle Independent Contractor Protections Ordinance went into effect on September 1st, 2022, meaning that for projects over $600, Seattle-based freelancers are entitled to payment no later than 30 days after the completion of services, and are now eligible to file complaints against clients with the Seattle Office of Labor Standards! Similarly in Minneapolis, the Freelance Worker Protections Ordinance was signed into law and went into effect in January of 2021. This protects Minneapolis-based freelancers with contracts over $600 in a calendar year or more than $200 for work completed within any seven consecutive days from payment beyond 30 days from completion of their services, and renders them eligible to file a complaint with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. Both of these cities are have established a crucial safety net for freelancers by mandating written contracts for freelancers owed $600 and providing recourse against bad actors.
The Freelance Worker Protection Act (HB1122) was introduced by house sponsors
Representatives Will Guzzardi, Aaron M. Ortiz, Marcus C. Evans, Jr., Sonya M. Harper and senate sponsors Senators Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas, Javier L. Cervantes, Cristina Castro, Ram Villivalam, and Robert Peters. The bill is moving through the General Assembly and garnered support from major labor organizations. Illinois is slated to be the first state to pass a freelance protection legislation with The Freelance Worker Protection Act, and under this act, hiring parties are required to compensate freelancers in a timely manner and require written contracts. Either the client or the freelancer need to be based in Illinois to qualify for protection. Additionally, when signed into law, Freelance Worker Protection will prohibit hiring parties from engaging in discriminatory behavior, taking retaliatory action, threatening, intimidating, disciplining, harassing, denying work opportunities to, or otherwise penalizing freelance workers who exercise their rights under the act.
Kansas & Missouri
Representative Dan Osman introduced Freelance Isn’t Free in Kansas (HB2399). Alongside our partner The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City, we are making headway in the heartland to protect freelancers from bad actors. On February 20th, Freelancers Union Executive Director, Rafael Espinal testified at the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development hearing to implore the Kansas representatives to move forward with signing Freelance Isn’t Free into law. This law would require written contracts and 30 day payment for all services over $500 for Kansas-based freelancers.
Missouri State Representative Robert Sauls introduced a Freelance Isn’t Free bill (HB1331) in February of this year. The introductions of both of these bills demonstrate that essential freelance safeguards are quickly becoming a major topic and freelance voices are loud when we roar together!
Help amplify freelance voices and join the fight to ensure freelance protections are basic rights! Download the Freelance Isn’t Free toolkit!