Economy ∙ Jobs ∙ COVID Recovery

Support for Independent, Freelance and Gig Economy Workers

Pre-COVID, New York City had over half a million independent workers in industries ranging from software engineering and transportation to housecleaning and childcare. The “future of work” in New York City is already here, and the vast majority of these workers lack basic benefits and protections on the job. These are the frontline workers who, through the pandemic, served our city bravely as they delivered our groceries, drove people to hospitals and cared for our family members. But they have too long lacked basic protections such as workers compensation, paid sick leave, adequate health insurance coverage and a basic minimum wage. Andrew Yang will protect independent workers by doing the following:

Expand protections and opportunities for freelancers.

In 2016, the City Council passed landmark legislation known as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which guarantees freelance workers the right to a written contract, timely and full payment, and protection from retaliation. It also gives the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards (OLPS) the authority to investigate worker complaints and impose penalties and remedies on employers. These protections have been a model for the rest of the country and have done so much to safeguard independent workers. Andrew Yang will build on this legislation by lowering the threshold to trigger a contract. Currently under the law, contracts are only required for work with a fee of $800 or more. But we know that many freelancers take gigs for less than this. For example, a DJ performing at a music venue might charge less than $800 for her services per night, which means she is not entitled to the legal protections afforded by a contract for her work. We believe the threshold should be lowered to $250 to accommodate freelancers’ needs and ensure they are always paid what they deserve. We also propose lowering the required payment period on a contract from 30 to 15 days and a required small down payment at the beginning of a job to ensure freelancers have a safety net from the start of the project. 

Create a Freelancer Hub in all five boroughs. 

Through a partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), the Freelancers Union runs free programming in its unique Freelancer Hub in Brooklyn. The Hub has become a space for workforce development, collaboration, networking and source of community for freelancers. A Yang administration will create hubs in other boroughs, which will maximize opportunities for freelancers to thrive in a post-Covid economy. The hubs should be outfitted with film and music studio space, editing rooms so New Yorkers can create their craft right here in NY for free. By getting the city to invest in local hubs, we will be helping the local commercial market as well by directly stimulating growth in these communities with the freelancers who will be working in the hubs. 

Create a Universal Portable Benefits Fund. 

Administered by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protections,the New Benefits Fund will support expanded worker protections and create a larger pool of workers to negotiate lower premiums for benefits that would benefit a growing class of independent workers.  The New Benefits Fund will provide wage and social safety protections to a group of essential workers who are traditionally underserved and vulnerable. The New Benefits Act would acknowledge the reality that work has changed for thousands of New Yorkers and support the creation of these flexible jobs by ensuring every worker in NYC has access to the protections they need to survive, especially in a post-pandemic City. Modeled after Philadelphia’s Bill of Rights and New York State’s Black Car Fund, the New Benefits Fund will pool resources to aggregate benefits, such as: paid time off, workers compensation, healthcare subsidies and more.