June 5, 2009 by Gsmith
My friends in NYC associated with the Freelancer’s Union just got covered in Newsweek. Good article…
With the U.S. economy continuing to shed jobs—532,000 were lost in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which on Friday is expected to release similar numbers for May—unions are getting hammered. In Detroit, the UAW agreed to steep concessions as part of the GM’s bankruptcy negotiations with the federal government. They include cutting benefits, cost-of-living increases, holidays and some health coverage, and agreeing not to strike before 2015, in exchange for 17.5 percent of the restructured GM and $6.5 billion in preferred stock. Some 20,000 employees will lose their jobs almost immediately, with hundreds of thousands, or even more, layoffs to come.
Those fortunate enough to land other gigs may find themselves floating from one company to another and working on a contract-by-contract or project-to-project basis. What about health insurance and other benefits? That’s where the New York-based Freelancers Union steps in. Since its inception more than two decades ago, the group has grown to 110,000 members spread throughout the country and across a variety of industries. The union evolved from Working Today, an organization founded in 1985 by attorney and labor organizer Sara Horowitz, who in 1999 received a $275,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for her efforts. Horowitz, 46, spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Nick Summers about the atomizing workforce, the future of organized labor and what jobs will look like in the not-too-distant future. Excerpts:
SUMMERS: How have the Freelancers Union and its members been affected by the recession?
Horowitz: Our membership has really been growing—we have over 110,000 members nationally. I think that shows that the rate at which people are freelancing is increasing. Freelancing has been a third of the workforce, and now you could say that it’s gone mainstream. Seasoned freelancers are doing OK. That’s not to say they’re doing great, or better; but after a layoff, there’s still work that needs to be done, and the seasoned people are nimble, have a network put together, and know how to deal.
Then, there’s a big set of struggling freelancers. Back in the olden days of two or three years ago, they were paying for their health insurance, their retirement, and it was a pain, but they were doing OK. Now, for the first time, this group is living off savings, and they’re not OK. They’re starting to use food stamps, or going on welfare. It’s definitely a minority of what I’m hearing, but I’m hearing it, and it’s really shocking.
Much more here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/200250