If you’ve ever freelanced as a writer—or any other role, for that matter—in all likelihood you know the frustration of having to track down payment from clients. Luckily, as Publishers Weekly noted this week, getting paid as a freelancer might get a lot easier soon: Democratic New York state senator and Andrew Gounardes and assembly member Harry Bronson have introduced bill S8369, nicknamed “Freelance Isn’t Free,” to provide recourse to freelance workers experiencing wage theft and other violations. The statewide bill expands on New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, established five years ago.
The new bill requires written contracts for freelancers; mandates timely payments for freelancers; gives freelancers right to no retaliation; and makes the New York State Labor Department the regulatory agency for freelancers in the state, meaning they can pursue legal action against clients who aren’t paying them. “In establishing basic protections against some of the most pernicious workplace practices,” reads the bill, “Freelance Isn’t Free will help support a key component of the modern workforce that is currently unprotected by state Labor Law.”
More state bills like this, please! This legislation is common-sense good, as it affords protections to a significant group of workers: last year, as the bill points out, roughly a third of Americans worked freelance or on contract. “Freelance and contract workers play an essential role in our economy, and it’s far past time we make sure their rights as workers are fully protected statewide,” Sen. Gounardes said in a statement to Publishers Weekly. “As unionization and workers’ rights efforts are growing throughout the country, it is our responsibility to protect freelancers all throughout New York State.”
Unsurprisingly, writers and protectors of writers’ rights have been speaking out in favor of the bill. “Over the years, the National Writers Union has collected millions of dollars for unpaid freelancers, sometimes in expensive court cases and other times by organizing the power of the freelancers to push back against deadbeat publishers,” Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union, Local 1981, said in a statement to Publishers Weekly. “What’s even more striking than the millions we have collected is the hundreds of millions that have gone uncollected as nonpayment and late payment has become a business model. Passing the Freelance Isn’t Free law in New York State will be a giant step in making this model illegal and bringing independent contractors the protections of labor law they so deserve.”