Guess what? I'm a lobbyist.

Freelancers Union member Lynn Stabile wrote this post before Tuesday's super-lobbying-field trip to Albany - it's a great reflection of why some 60 folks got up before dawn to go with her!albany-lobby-day-may-17-2011-089.JPG

I didn't really know what lobbying was. I'd never looked it up, and just had a vague image of people in blue blazers with striped ties running around the capital talking to politicians, corporations and each other.  I had no idea that lobbyists could be anyone with an interest they wanted politicians to help them with . . . and that I could be one.

Lobbying is when you make an appointment with a politician (Did you know you could just call up and do that?  I didn't.) then go present your issue and ask for your representative's support.  And this is repeated with other legislators and representatives whose support is needed.

So for us freelancers who volunteer our time to lobby, the Freelancers Union staff did the heavy lifting by making the appointments, reaching out to other members, facilitating the planning meetings, and most importantly they wrote the bill (The Freelancer Payment Protection Act) we were lobbying for. But now we, the freelancers, need to give it a voice and the OOMPH it needs to succeed. We are the ones this bill is talking about. It is meant to protect us, allowing us to do our jobs more effectively, so we can be more successful and ultimately have better lives.

Our meeting with Senator Addabbo of Queens in March went very well. Myself and three other union members, along with a couple staff met with him in his office at Howard Beach.  He sat with us in his office in a circle of metal folding chairs, learned our names and took some notes. He suggested we canvas at local job fairs and advertise in small local newspapers to spread the word about Freelancers Union and the issues and rights of independent workers. I pitched the Freelancer Payment Protection act to him, and we discussed how it does not cover only Freelancers Union members but all independent workers, how the new legislation would extend the laws of the Department of Labor by which full-time employees are protected to freelancers, and how the fines levied on non-paying clients would act to fund the administration of the laws. Then the other members in attendance told their stories of getting stiffed or getting late payment, and how it affects their careers. One member, Mary, a freelance writer for the cosmetics industry, then directly asked the Senator if he would help us and would he sponsor our bill. He said yes!

For this round, we had face-to-face meetings with 15 legislators. All but three of them have endorsed or sponsored our bill, and the ones that haven't aren't saying no, apparently just biding their time.

As the final phase of our effort to get this bill passed, we are organizing members to go up to Albany on May 17th for a lobbying day. We need to fill at least one bus with freelancers from the city, and get as many Albany locals to join with us as we swarm the state capital traveling as a well-organized mob from office to office introducing the bill and asking for support. I personally have been making phone calls to other members, asking my freelance friends on Facebook, Twitter, and professional networking sites I belong to, and flyering at networking events I go to. I must be annoying my circle of friends by now, but I'm determined that everyone understand that I am busting my ass, and that my work or their participation isn't about helping me or Freelancers Union, it's about all of us. I know a lot of freelancers and am disappointed that so few of them are getting involved. I know taking time off when you are a freelancer is difficult, but if we can pass this bill, it will go a long way to ending client non-payment, reduce late payment, and getting us back to doing the real work. In which case a few hours now is a very worthwhile investment.

- Lynn Stabile is a web quality assurance analyst and testing manager. You can read her blog about freelancing at http://www.freevolver.net or find her on twitter at @BluPomplemous

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