Crain’s new york reported that freelance workers in NY state are owed more than $4.7 billion in lost wages. The article ( sited a study by a Rutgers University economist that “shows that 42% of nearly 900,000 independent workers in New York State reported having trouble collecting payment for their labors last year.”


Two companion bills have been introduced in the State Assembly and State Senate that would allow freelancers to file a claim for unpaid wages with the NY State Department of Labor. The bills would also allow for stiff fines and penalties for employers who refuse to pay.


According to William Rodgers, the Rutgers economist who did the study, over 35% of freelancers were paid late last year and almost 14% were not paid at all. Many freelancers experienced both. This cost the state an estimated $323 million in lost taxes as well. Rodgers added that in New York City, the lost wages could have amounted to two months worth of household bills.


None of this is news to NWU. For the past 14 months we have been fighting alongside more than 60 freelance writers, translators, editors and graphic artists who worked for Inkwell Solutions, a sub-contractor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the Big Three textbook publishers in the US. After completing a project for the Texas school system in 2009, Inkwell closed its doors owing the workers more than $360,000. We are taking their case to federal court this month.


As if this isn’t bad enough, tens of thousands of freelance writers are not paid enough to earn a living, even when they are paid on time. “Content Farms” like Demand Media, worth over $1.5 billion, and with contracts with both the San Francisco Chronicle and National Football League, boasts of paying more than 10,000 freelancers a penny-a-word.


NWU will see the fight through at Inkwell, and we are investigating the freelancers’ bills pending in Albany. Most of all, we will fight not just to get paid on time, but to be paid a living wage for our work. Join NWU.

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