Reviving a New York City Tradition of Defending Human Rights

Originally published in NY Slant

By Council Members Brad Lander and Darlene Mealy

As the Broadway hit “Hamilton” is teaching a new generation, New York City is built on a long and storied history of providing a home for people of every class, color, creed and identity. We’ve long been known as a tolerant and welcoming place for all and a leader in advancing human rights.

But we also know that New York City can only achieve its promise when all of us – regardless of our background – have full and equal ability to achieve our potential.

Unfortunately, for most of the past two decades, the city’s Commission on Human Rights withered in its capacity to enforce the protections afforded by the Human Rights Law. Mayor Rudy Giuliani decimated the commission (which in 1991, under Mayor David Dinkins, had a staff of 241 and a budget of $9.5 million) shrinking it to just seven investigators and four attorneys by 2001. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made modest restorations, but still left the agency with a staff of just 66, with the city putting in just $1.1 million, 80 percent less than two decades earlier. The time it took to resolve a case grew longer every single year of the Bloomberg Administration. Read more »

Here’s why #IVotePBNYC. How about you?

It’s just one week until the start of our 5th annual participatory budgeting (PBNYC) vote week, when you and your neighbors get to vote on some great projects in our neighborhoods. Please take a minute this weekend to decide where and when to vote, review the projects on the ballot, and pledge to vote.

We’re already seeing a lot of strong PBNYC spirit across the district, and looking forward to seeing more! Already hundreds of you have pledged to vote this year, and our volunteers are hitting the streets this weekend to help get the word out. Here’s some of what’s been happening as we get closer to the vote: Read more »

Help our very own Vision Zero teen champion!

Just over a year ago, one very impressive Park Slope teenager, Alison Collard de Beaufort, (an MS 51 alum and current Brooklyn Tech student) made headlines by helping to launch the Vision Zero Youth Council -- a group of young people, tired of seeing their fellow students killed in traffic crashes, who are pushing for better pedestrian safety across the city. Read more »

Join me to help CHiPS provide food & shelter for our neighbors!

Many of you are already familiar with CHiPS (Community Help in Park Slope) from volunteering to cook or serve a meal at their soup kitchen. If not, here’s your chance to learn more. Either way, I hope you’ll join me in supporting them today – by buying tickets to their first annual gala on April 6th  or by making a direct contribution! Read more »

PBNYC 2016 Ballot is here: What will you choose?

You’re going to get a lot of chances to vote this year – the Presidential primary in April, the State legislative primary in September, and the General Election in November.

But only one ballot contains 13 fantastic local projects to improve our schools, parks, libraries, streets and transit: the PBNYC 2016 ballot for our district is here, and its time to get ready to vote on how you want to spend $1.5 million. Read more »

Op-Ed: Pay freelancers — or pay a legal price

By Brad Lander and Sara Horowitz

Originally published in NY Daily News 

For freelance theater technician Lily Meyer, the hardest part of her job isn’t the long hours or demanding work environment. The hardest part is getting paid.

As she found out after a client failed to pay her for $10,000 of work she’d already done, there is little recourse for independent workers when they’ve been stiffed. Read more »

A web designer, a model, and a freelance court reporter walk into City Hall…

It should be the set-up line for a joke. But instead, it was to tell their stories of wage theft. The web designer, the model, and the freelance court reporter had all been cheated out of thousands of dollars for work they had done.

At a New York City Council hearing last Monday, more than 100 graphic designers, consultants, writers, and other representatives of NYC’s 1.3 million independent workers turned out in droves to testify. Read more »

Super Tuesday, PBNYC style: Take action for democracy tonight!

The Super Tuesday results are coming in … from Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and even American Samoa.

But you can take “Super Tuesday” action for democracy, right now, right here in Brooklyn!

That’s because we’re quickly coming up on our 5th Year of Participatory Budgeting (PBNYC), the process by which New Yorkers vote to fund specific community projects (submitted by their neighbors) designed to improve their neighborhood public spaces. There’s nothing quite like this truly participatory democracy, in its purest and most community-focused form to make us forget about all the primary season negativity, and get excited to vote again. Read more »

New York City Considering Landmark Protections For Freelancers Who Suffer From Wage Theft

Originally published on February 29, in the International Business Times:

By Cole Stangler

If employees get stiffed on a payment from the boss, they have a clear path for recouping lost pay: Workers can file a complaint with state or federal labor authorities. Then the government can go to court to win back pay, swallowing the legal fees.

Freelancers, on the other hand, have no such protections. Now a first-of-its-kind bill in New York City aims to plug that gap — and on Monday it saw its first hearing.

“All workers deserve to get paid on time and in full for the work they do,” said the legislation’s leading sponsor, Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn. “Traditional W2 employees at least have some protections from wage theft, but freelancers and independent workers don’t. [We asked] what can New York City do to provide them? And here we are.”

Lander introduced his bill last December after hearing from freelancer advocates like the New York City-based Freelancers Union. The group is not a traditional labor union — it does not charge any dues to members and it does not bargain with companies — but serves as a broad network and advocacy organization for freelancers. Last December, it released a study documenting the extent of wage theft for this slice of the workforce, from espresso-swilling writers and graphic designers to accountants and adjunct professors. Read more »

Bill Protecting NYC Freelancers from Deadbeat Companies Moves Forward With Majority Support

At City Council Consumer Affairs Hearing, Writers, Domestic Workers, Web Developers, & More Advocate for “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, First-of-its-Kind Legislation to end Non Payment Epidemic

1.3 Million Freelancers in NYC; Stiffed an Average $5,968/year

NEW YORK – Graphic artists, writers, domestic workers, and other representatives of NYC’s 1.3 million freelancers testified before the City Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs today and rallied outside City Hall to demand passage of the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act.

The proposed legislation, the first-of-its-kind in the country, provides basic protections for independent workers from deadbeat companies who refuse to pay, or force freelancers to wait months for their checks.

First introduced by Council Member Brad Lander and a broad coalition of business and labor organizations led by the Freelancers Union, the bill has gained support from a majority of the Council, with 27 of 51 members currently signed on. Read more »

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