- Director Dispatches, Community
On Celebrating and Giving Back
Looking forward to Giving Tuesday on November 28 and a fundraising bash on December 1, executive director Rafael Espinal highlights how the Freelancers Union is helping to shape the future of work for everyone.
Freelancing is more than a solitary endeavor—it's about being part of a lively community that transcends industries. Rafael Espinal, Executive Director of Freelancers Union, joins us to share details about the nonprofit org’s upcoming fundraiser party in Bushwick on December 1, the significance of Giving Tuesday on November 28, and how the Freelancers Union is influencing the future of freelancing and the workforce as a whole.
CC: Rafael, as we approach Giving Tuesday, could you share why it's crucial for freelancers and their allies to contribute to the Freelancers Union?
RE: Giving Tuesday is a pivotal day for us. As an advocacy group for freelancers, we provide resources, curated information, and advocacy without charging any fees. Members pay zero dues. It's a day for members—and for everyone who wants to support creative and independent workers—to give back through tax-deductible donations, ensuring that we can continue to support freelancers in their journey and advocate for the groundbreaking Freelancing Isn’t Free Act (FIFA) across the country.
CC: Freelancers Union operates with a small but mighty team. Can you shed light on its size and efficiency?
RE: We're a team of about seven directors, each handling a crucial role, from member benefits to advocacy. Every dollar donated helps us maintain our efficiency, ease the workload, and potentially make new hires to better support freelancers. There’s a lot of work that happens in the background to curate partners and resources with freelancers’ best interests in mind. We do everything we can to ensure that you have the tools you need to succeed as a freelancer.
CC: How does Freelancers Union extend its benefits beyond freelancers, reaching even those in traditional nine-to-five jobs?
RE: Our focus is on improving the quality of life for freelancers, and by doing so, we're enhancing conditions for the entire workforce. During the pandemic especially, we saw the hurdles that freelancers face, mainly the lack of basic rights and benefits. Supporting us means advocating for the greater good of all workers. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. We fight to ensure that all people have the basic right to healthcare and the basic right to benefits they need to protect themselves in the case that they're out of work. Highlighting the plight of the freelancer also highlights the plight of so many workers in our country.
CC: There’s a lot of buzz around affordable healthcare, but “affordable” is a relative term. Sticker shock at the cost of health insurance plans is a reality for many freelancers. How does the Freelancers Union navigate this challenge for its members?
RE: Healthcare costs are regulated by federal laws, and a lot has changed under the Affordable Care Act. Before it passed in 2010, Freelancers Union had its own health insurance company with group rates for independent workers. Current regulations don’t allow for that. Longer term, we support advocacy around Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system with comprehensive benefits for everyone in the United States. In the meantime, we work within current bounds to identify the most affordable insurance plans.
Our aim is to relieve freelancers from the burden of navigating the market by curating the best options available. We're also exploring creative solutions, like our recent partnership with Galileo. Their telehealth services offer 24/7 access to a doctor with zero copays or fees. There's also an option to add on a benefits package with discounted prescription vision and dental, at a cost of $300 for the entire year. Broken down monthly, for about $20 to $25 a month, you can access a doctor and get discounted prescriptions, vision, and dental as if you had insurance.
CC: Looking forward to the December 1 party in support of Freelancers Union, I wonder how you create a unifying experience for such a diverse community?
RE: Freelancers come from different fields, but the common thread is independence. The fundraiser is a celebration of this unity and cross-pollination, a recognition of freelancers as a vital part of the economy. It's an informal event— a fun party at Sleepwalk in Bushwick, organized by the creative agency Ad Hoc Projects. They also work with partners like Pitchfork, Pioneer Works, and Adult Swim on creative strategy and event production, and they co-launched the nonprofit NYC Nightlife United to sustain and advocate for nightlife workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sleepwalk venue is cool—a cocktail bar slash performance space. Kristine Barilli, a New York-based resident at Lot Radio and former Music Director at Public Records, will DJ. It's a super casual event, with food, drinks, a special raffle, and the opportunity for freelancers to network. You can access discounted party tickets with code “FUMEMBER.” Come have a good time on a Friday night, and show our strength in numbers!