On the boundaries of freelance employment.
It's continually baffling to me how many people appear to be fine with authoritarian impulses as long as they're carried out by a company and not by a government. It reminds me of David Graeber's description of "managerial feudalism" in his book Bullshit Jobs--except, as you point out, this is even more of an overreach given that these journalists weren't even employed.
On the other hand, I wonder how much of this overreach is due to the fact that readers often appear ready to boycott venues that publish work written by people with whom they disagree. The NYT's motives here might be partially ideological--but surely they're also economic. Can any blame for this be laid at the feet of consumers, especially consumers who loudly unsubscribe or complain when they see something written by someone they see as unsavory?
After covering the women's college basketball tournament for the Times for two years as a freelancer, I was booted off the beat following "complaints" about the "political" nature of my Twitter; I'd been previously told to delete tweets about raising money for abortion funds. I was told with very little notice, so wasn't able to find a replacement gig, and had been counting on it to make up a significant chunk of my income. It was fucked! And reading this is so vindicating — thank you! — Natalie Weiner
I’ve been complaining about what a sham contract work is for years, and I always get people (whose spouses have full-time jobs withe benefits or who have other sources or income) saying “oh but the flexibility is fantastic!!”
I JUST got a “real job” as an employee several months ago after years and years of trying, and WHAT a difference. Hiring contractors to run one’s business should be illegal, or at least restricted to hiring people who already have stable jobs.
1. Can’t have a continuing upward transfer without exploiting workers even more.
2. A not-unrelated factoid: last I heard, ~25% of full time workers did not make a living wage which, I understand, is ~35-45k/year (which cannot be earned working for $15 or even 16 an hour).
Wait, what? You don't get paid for inclusion in the Best Sportswriting book? If that's true, that stinks. (I mean, I understand that you'd get more from your own book. I wouldn't be surprised if Best Of didn't pay a lot, but nothing just seems crappy.) Anyway, I've pre-ordered your book and I'm looking forward to it.
ok but seriously we need to figure out a way to unionize
This resonates with my work as a therapist! The field is dominated by “fee for service” positions (paid for the hour you do therapy, cobbling together your own caseload under someone else’s practice), increasingly popularized by healthcare start ups like BetterHelp. It’s BS
I left corporate life in 1990 and have been self-employed since. I rigorously defend this boundary. After ten years on non-profit boards and committees, I’m one month and one board away from giving all of those up too so that my voice can be truly independent. Thank you Substack and my readers!
I don’t live in the U.S., I’m not a freelancer, and I’m not even a professional writer. But boy did I enjoy reading this piece today. Crystal clear and truly educational.
You're still the goddamn best to do this, IMHO, and I'm grateful to get to read you here and In These Times.
This is so important. Thank you.
Great article. As a fan of Nolan Hamilton’s writing on the labor movement, I have to now admit I had no idea about sports writing too! I’m gonna check it out.
Agreed on not blaming consumers. There are organized forces, corporations, misclassifying workers as IE’s and the further consolidation of corporations has completely altered any sense of a balance of power for freelancers. Workers rights and free speech rights are as intertwined as they have ever been. The “marketplace” for work and ideas has narrowed significantly. While a broad based movement is foundational to fixing the problem, there is a role for regulators right now. The FTC and NLRB both have actions they can take right now.
Just preordered the audiobook
Corporations aren’t the government so the way to voice opposition is to stop paying them. I’ve cancelled my NYT subscription, just canceled the Athletic once they fired the local Philly writers I liked, and subscribed to personally pay the writers I want to read. Monthly fees to HamNo, defector, allphly, etc. do add up, but it’s worth it.
If only there was a website or, maybe a print offering deliver to my house, that had different sections, but all in one place, that me and everyone else could pay a small amount for and get the befit of differing views along with what I want to read daily.
Maybe some asshole disrupter will come along and invent that for me.
/side eyes Harvard Business Publishing
Chris Hedges, an ordained minister, accomplished war journalist, great thinker, speaker, and writer (maybe prophetic), and all around nice guy, having been arrested for standing up for the rights of people everywhere was fired from the NYT for suggesting going to war with Iraq was a bad idea because they weren’t the ones who took the towers down after 9-11. If anyone isn’t familiar with his work, do yourself a favor.