Sara Horowitz is making the workplace safe for freelancers.
Sara Horowitz's grandmother lived in the Amalgamated Dwellings, a development on Manhattan's Lower East Side built in 1930 by a garment-workers union-the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. To Horowitz, the founder of the Freelancer's Union, the buildings symbolize an inspiring era of social change: "There had been a whole social movement pre–New Deal based on self-organization and mutual aide" she says. "The idea wasn't that the government would come in and fix things." Horowitz's Freelancers Union is an attempt to revive the spirit of that movement.The idea for a union of freelancers came to Horowitz when she inadvertently became one. After law school, Horowitz, now 30, took a job with an ostensibly radical labor law firm whose partners soon reclassified her and her coworkers as independent contractors to save money on their benefits. When she got fed up, quit, and went back to school, her coworkers gave her faux letterhead for the "Transient Workers' Union" with her name listed on top as union president.While completing a master's program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Horowitz decided that the Transient Workers' Union was a so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea. For the one-third of the American workforce that freelances in some form, the traditional union model was no longer applicable. But without some sort of collective voice, freelancers were being over-looked by the government.\n\n\n
|When people join together, you can do a lot more cool shit than when people are alone.|
Part of the union's recruitment drive includes posters in the New York subways with witty lines like, "Echinacea is not an acceptable form of health insurance."The Freelancers Union is focusing on expanding nationally by recruiting in freelancer-heavy cities from coast to coast, including Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In these new cities, it hopes to take on the kinds of local issues it has in New York, where it successfully lobbied to roll back the unincorporated business tax, which hit freelancers hard. As the union has grown, politicians have begun to take notice. Both John Edwards and John McCain have explicitly focused on how to make the U.S. economy and government programs work better for independent workers.So can we expect Freelancers Union Dwellings to rise in cities across the country? The challenge of taking on the urban housing crunch may be too daunting, even for Horowitz. Still, she says, "We've looked into it."LEARN MORE freelancersunion.org