Gig Economy

Councilman, Labor Groups Help Pass Gig Employee Protections In NYC

New York City Council Member Brad Lander took to the steps of City Hall on Thursday, accompanied by the Freelancers Union and gig economy workers, to support legislation passed by the council that will provide protections for freelancers and gig workers in the city.

New York City Hall was the site of a rally supporting legislation introduced to the City Council by Council Member Brad Lander that would extend a social safety net and provide gig workers with new wage theft protections. The law was passed on Thursday (Oct. 27) by the full city council and will take effect in 2017.

Lander was joined on the steps of City Hall late Thursday morning by members of the Freelancers Union and gig economy employees in the city as he called on his fellow council members to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

Lander told PYMNTS the legislation was about protecting the paychecks of gig employees and freelancers in New York City.

“Today, New York City is becoming the first city in the nation to protect freelancers and independent contractors from getting stiffed,” Lander, a democrat from Brooklyn, who was first elected to the council in 2009, when he replaced current Mayor Bill de Blasio, said.

“This means new protections for NYC’s 1.3 million freelancers — for people like Elizabeth McKenzie, a freelancer in film production who lived on bread and rolls and worked in the dark because she couldn’t pay her utility bills after getting stiffed for $2,500 she had earned.”

The legislation is described as a “first-of-its-kind” bill that would seek to protect gig employees and freelancers, who often work short, ad-hoc jobs for various companies.

The gig economy is a quickly growing sector of the workforce. It has added 9.4 million workers since 2005, outpacing the U.S. economy, and currently employs nearly 16 percent of all American workers.

The new PYMNTS.com Gig Economy Index™ is designed to better understand workers in the gig economy — who they are, what services they supply and what percentage of their overall income the gigs represent.

The bill was passed unanimously in committee earlier this week and was voted into law by the full City Council by a unanimous vote of 51-0. It now awaits signature from Mayor de Blasio, who has 30 days to sign or veto the law. He is expected to sign the bill before the 30-day window expires, according to John Schaefer, communications liaison for Council Member Lander.

Currently, freelancers are not considered employees and thus are not covered by labor laws governing wages. Under the terms of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, employers will have to meet a payment deadline of 30 days after work is completed.

The bill also requires gig employees, freelancers and the companies that employ their services to sign written contracts that include the rate and payment dates for work valued at more than $800 over a 120-day period and will subject companies who do not pay in time to double damages in court and attorney’s fees.

Caitlin Pearce, director of member engagement for the Freelancers Union, noted that 38 percent of workers in the New York City metro area are employed in freelancing and gig work.

She said in an interview with PYMNTS that she was thrilled to see the protections pass through the council with flying colors and hopes the legislation could become an example for the rest of the country.

“Its something we’ve heard about time and time again from our members. There is very little recourse for someone who is freelancing and isn’t being treated fairly,” she said. “We really see New York City as being the first of many cities or even states that could model their legislation based on the economic situation in their area.”

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About The Index

The PYMNTS.com Gig Economy Index™, a Hyperwallet collaboration, is designed to better understand workers in the gig economy — people who often work in short-term, ad hoc positions — who they are, what services they supply and what percentage of their overall income the gigs represent.

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