• Advocacy

Help Get the Freelance Isn’t Free Act Passed in NY State!

I have been a freelance graphic artist and Freelancers Union member since 2004. I’ve collected every cent owed to me, but not on time or without fighting. Other independent contractors haven’t been as lucky. Clients who don’t pay independent workers rob New York State’s economy of millions. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act will change that. I lobbied with the Freelancers Union twice in Albany for previous versions of it, which didn’t pass, and supported the legislation in New York City, where it is now the law. The good news is that the Assembly and Senate passed it this year. We need Governor Hochul to sign it to give self-employed workers the legal protections that traditional ones already have and strengthen the economy. 

How much money is at stake?

A 2009 Freelancers Union study estimated that New York State's self-employed never collected $965 million in wages, and their recovery would generate $323 million in tax revenue. These would be $1.375 billion and $460 million today. 

Wage theft from independent workers hurts everyone in New York State through lost tax revenue and decreased consumer spending. People who don’t collect their earnings don’t pay taxes and can’t buy things.

Why is this happening?

There’s a gray area between the maximum amount you can sue for in small claims court and what you can recoup in regular court. Suing for $6000 will cost more in legal and other fees, so the freelancer gives up. Companies know and take advantage of this. 

This legislation will expand the Labor Law and allow independent contractors with a written contract to report clients who don’t pay to the Department of Labor, which can order them to pay double the amount owed. It will make retaliation against the reporting worker illegal. The DOL will provide free model contracts.

What can I do?

Please call Governor Hochul at 1-518-474-8390—phoning has more impact than writing—and tell her to enact this law to protect freelancers and benefit New York State. 

Here’s a sample script:

Hi, my name is _____________, from [City], NY, [Zip]. I’m calling Gov. Hochul to ask that she sign Senate Bill S5026 / Assembly Bill A6040, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, to protect workers like me from clients who don’t pay us for the work we have done, bring income tax revenue to the state, and strengthen the economy through increased consumer spending. [Personalize: I’m a freelance photographer, independent contractor, accountant, etc.] and know this law will force clients to pay to avoid penalties. Thank you, Governor Hochul, for protecting New York’s independent workers.

Your call will help prevent wage theft, guarantee independent workers the same protections as traditional ones, bring tax revenue to NY State, and increase consumer spending. Once this ground-breaking law is passed in NY, other states will follow. We are not just artists. We are house cleaners, landscapers, bookkeepers, and we don’t work for free. Thank you for helping us get paid fairly and bring millions to New York State!

Joseph Caserto Joseph is an award-winning freelance graphic artist, educator & consultant. He has been a member of Freelancers Union since 2004 & served as the elected Member Representative on the Board of Directors