Do Freelancers Need Unions?

Do Freelancers Need Unions?

Haaretz.com

Ha'aretz is reporting that freelancers are in talks with Israel's largest workers' organization, the Histadrut, to organize a freelancers' union.

3 Reasons They Do

The mostly-Anglo group that approached the Histadrut evidently thinks they need a union. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. To more easily negotiate benefits for freelancers that work long periods with the same company (de facto employees)
  2. To have Hebrew representation for immigrant freelancers and others that do not have strong Hebrew skills
  3. To give freelancers the confidence to stand up and fight back if they're unfairly exploited

There's also an interesting discussion in Hebrew about why freelance graphic designers should unionize, such as to create standard prices. Most of the points apply to any kind of freelancer.

2 Reasons They Don't

Over on the aliya mailing list Tachlis, some interesting counterpoints were made:

  • “When the tax laws changed in the U.S. in the 1990's, the effect upon freelance employees was disastrous. Faced with the requirements to provide benefits to long-term freelance employees, most employers stopped using them.”
  • “A freelancer is competing with his skills against the others to get the better contracts. Why would a good freelancer want to level the playing field?”

Conclusion

As someone who has seen both sides of a freelancing contract, I'm not impressed with this idea either.

All the pro-union points could be addressed by creating an industry association instead of the rigidity of a union structure.

If standardized pricing is so important, concerned freelancers' should band together into a collective or form their own company. I think it's better to keep the market open by letting freelancers continue to charge whatever they like.

A freelancer concerned about long-term benefits while at one company should try to get hired on staff. Otherwise, it just sounds as if they're trying to have their cake and eat it too by getting all the advantages of an employee while still having the liberty of being independent.

A freelancer's biggest concern is getting loyal clients. The only way being unionized will help in that regard is if a company has an arrangement with the union to only use its member freelancers. A union could actually make prospecting more difficult by pitting union freelancers against non-union freelancers.

What do you think? Should a freelancers' union be encouraged or discouraged? If you're a freelancer, would you join up?

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About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

Leave a Comment:

10 comments
Jacob Share
Israeli Job News Roundup for Nov. 12th, 2007 says

[…] one wants or deserves to be exploited, but there are better ways to respond to this old […]

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Jacob Share
Laura Goldman says

I am not against a freelancer’s association instead of a union. But I do not have the financial capacity to do it on my own. The histadrut is providing the financial muscle. If you know someeone else that will please let me know.
I do not also have the Hebrew skills myself to help fellow freelancers.

Reply
Jacob Share
jacob says

Laura, thanks for joining in. It means a lot.

I believe in ‘attracting’. I think that if enough freelancers are supportive of getting together, it should be possible to make an association work if you build on the skills of the people involved.

For example, there are seemingly enough benefits involved that attracting native Israeli freelancers shouldn’t be too hard and then presto, your team would have the needed Hebrew skills it needs.

Services can be exchanged instead of money if that’s the only obstacle to the associative option.

Another example- JobMob is about helping people find work in Israel and freelancers are as good as any. I’d be willing to help out on the Internet side of things in the case of an association, and I’m not even a freelancer.

Going to the Histadrut was a good idea because it aroused the media to your plight, but I hope that it ends with that. The Histadrut has its own agenda and freelancers are simply another human pipeline that it wants to be able to frivolously shut down to get its way.

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Jacob Share
Laura Goldman says

I am going to take you up on your offer. I would like to set up a static page on the web with contact information. I do not even know how to start.
Maybe I am not organized or inspirational enough. But I do not seem to be able to organize volunteers. I asked someone that is interested and supports the union to post on Janglo for me. They agreed but later wrote back they did not have the time.
I have done almost everything myself. I can not keep that up.

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Jacob Share
jacob says

Laura, you can email me directly at jacob.share [at] shareselectmedia.com and give me more information of what you’d like to put on the Web.

Although I don’t support the union, if I think it makes sense I would be willing to post your information here on JobMob. Otherwise, I will at least point you in the right direction.

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Jacob Share
Paula Weinstein says

Laura:
Hi, I found this article during some research I’m doing. I’m interested in what is an Association (vs. union) and how it may apply to local (Israeli) workers of (Foreign) Embassies in Israel.
I would appreciate any help.

Thanks,

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Jacob Share
Laura Goldman says

Paula, I wish that I had better news for you. Unfortunately, there was not enough interest in the union to start it. If you contact me at stockjockey13@hotmail.com, I can direct you in the right direction.

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Jacob Share
Lynda says

Hi Laura,
Please do not write that no one wanted to help you.

I remember very clearly offering to show you how (and to do for you) a static site for the union, at minimal cost – ie domain and the normal monthly fees for hosting. No extras.
Your reply was that your ‘committee’ wanted a .org (which is also possible) or to get the histadrut to pay for it.

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Jacob Share
Laura Goldman says

I appreciate very much Lynda’s generous offer to help with the website. But the fact remains that we did not have enough people to interest the Histadrut.

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Jacob Share
Laura Goldman says

Clarification There was much sentiment coalesced against joining the Histadrut. People were afraid that they would lose their jobs if their employers knew that they were a member of the Histadrut.
Freelancers did not want to unite to fight for their rights. The successful ones did not need to unite. The less successful did not understand how this would benefit them.
The Histadrut can not start a new union for ten people.

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