Visit the Group News Blog operated by friends of Steve:

Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


A freelance union?

Labor Union, Redefined, for Freelance Workers

Published: January 27, 2007

Herding freelancers is a bit like herding cats. Both are notoriously independent.

Nonetheless, Sara Horowitz has figured out a way to bring together tens of thousands of freelancers — Web designers, video editors, writers, dancers and graphic artists — into a thriving organization.

Ms. Horowitz has founded the Freelancers Union, offering members lower-cost health coverage and other benefits that many freelancers often have a hard time getting.

A former labor lawyer, Ms. Horowitz intends to form a forceful advocacy group for freelancers and independent contractors, the most mobile members of an increasingly mobile work force. In addition, she is trying to adapt unions to a world far different from yesteryear, when workers often remained with one employer for two or three decades.

“This really is about a new unionism,” she said, “and what it means is to bring people together to solve their problems.”

Having signed up 40,000 freelancers from the New York area, she is now planting her group’s flag across the nation, hoping to herd far more of the nation’s 20 million freelancers and independent contractors into her union.

“These workers are the backbone for so many industries vital to our nation’s economy — I.T., financial services, the arts, advertising and publishing,” she said. “Yet these same workers are not afforded simple job protections or a social safety net.”

By creating a new type of union for nontraditional workers, Ms. Horowitz hopes to help revive the labor movement. Its membership has slipped to just 7.4 percent of the private-sector work force, down from one-third in 1960.

Unlike traditional unions, the Freelancers Union has no intention of bargaining with employers. Still, Ms. Horowitz says her group’s main goal is identical to that of all unions — providing mutual aid, in this case health benefits, to their members.

“More and more people are not going to get their benefits from an employer,” Ms. Horowitz said. “Our ultimate goal is to update the New Deal. It is to create a new safety net that’s connected to the individual as they move from job to job.”

Jennifer Lebin joined the Freelancers Union while living in Manhattan after seeing one of its subway ads that say, “Welcome to Middle-Class Poverty.” Ms. Lebin, a political consultant, bought the group’s health coverage and paid $20 to attend a union-sponsored seminar offering tax advice to consultants and independent contractors.

Ms. Lebin, who has moved to Chicago, expressed disappointment that she could no longer use the union’s health plan — doctors in Illinois are not part of the network. “If there is a way that the Freelancers Union could offer the same benefits to members outside the New York area, I’d sign up in a heartbeat,” she said.

Labels: , ,