Freelancers Union members and staff have been steadily building support for legislation to help freelancers collect what they are rightfully owed, and we're thrilled with the newly introduced, bipartisan Freelancer Payment Protection Act (S4129/A6698). This legislation mimics the language of the current labor law, which currently only protects traditional employees, and thus seeks to provide the same wage protection to independent contractors that New York has provided to the rest of the workforce for years.
If you’re a freelancer living in New York, please take the time to email the sponsors of the bill to thank them for their leadership on this issue: Assembly Speaker Silver and Senators Golden, Lanza, and Squadron. (And stay tuned for details on our May 17 lobby day in Albany to help ensure this important legislation is passed.)
If you’ve never been stiffed by a client yourself, know that the majority of independent contractors have difficulty collecting their owed wages at some point in their careers, yet unlike traditional employees, they lack any labor protections to ensure they get paid for completed work. A recent study by Rutgers University economist William Rodgers shows that 42% of the nearly 900,000 independent workers in New York State had trouble collecting payment last year, totaling an estimated $4.7 billion in lost wages.
While waiting on their paychecks, many of these workers turn to credit cards or government assistance to meet their basic expenses. This highlights not only the disproportionate burden placed on these individuals to collect payments that are rightfully theirs, but also illustrates how much productivity is lost when they must spend time pursuing compensation instead of doing valuable and constructive work. And all of New York stands to gain from this bill: the recovery and payment of the unpaid wages would generate an estimated $323 million in state tax revenue.
The Freelancer Payment Protection Act would mean that independent workers who are not paid by their clients could file a wage claim with the New York State Department of Labor. If the agency finds in their favor, the company or client could be personally liable for up to $20,000 in penalties and even face jail time.
(photo by Bill on Capitol Hill, via Flickr)