Freelancing can come with many advantages but freelance workers are notoriously exploited and harassed. Working as individuals, they often lack the power of an established organization or the financial resources to protect their work against exploitation and enforce timely pay. In 2017 in New York City, for example, 36 percent of freelancers reported being paid late, and 27 percent reported getting paid less than they were owed.
At the same time, this group of workers represents a large and growing segment of the economy.
Some organizations have emerged to help organize and protect freelancers. In New York, the Freelancers Union was instrumental in passing the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. In 9 European countries, Smart.coop helps freelancers to alleviate the anxiety of not getting paid on time, the administrative burden of freelance work. Smart offers them the protections that come with employee status, health insurance, and access to unemployment benefits.
But platform co-ops are emerging as another key strategy for changing the exploitative workplace dynamics of freelance work. By organizing workers through labor platforms that they own and operate together, freelancers can continue to pick up gigs as they see fit while socializing their collective administrative, legal, and healthcare needs.
Stocksy United in Canada is proving the success of the model by offering photographers membership in a platform co-op where they can co-own their work and co-govern the platform through a dedicated portal. Stocksy United is also offering continuing education for members.
Looking toward the future, we must begin creating new arrangements for freelance workers. Whether you are are an Uber driver in South Africa, or a food delivery courier in France, explore our website, connect with like-minded others, or learn about our conferences and events. Explore resources that can help you imagine a platform co-op in your city.
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