Posted on in Brilliant Science, General

Sara Horowitz got her first job at a law firm in Manhattan about 20 years ago. She was shocked to discover that she was considered an independent contractor and would not get health benefits.  Unfortunately, that is the plight of many freelance workers. This group is also known as the gig economy.

To address this need, Sara started the Freelancers Union. It is based in Brooklyn. It does not bargain with employers, but it does address the urgent need for healthcare insurance by freelancers.

Sara’s union is very successful. It has started its own non-profit health insurance company. The health insurance company covers 23,000 workers and has revenues of $105 million.

Sara impressed the Obama administration as social innovation worth growing. The Obama administration awarded Sara’s group $340 million in low cost loans.

Traditional labour unions have shrunk in membership and influence over the years. New unions such as the Freelancer’s Union have stepped up to give collective voice and power to marginalized workers.

Premiums for Freelancer’s health insurance range from $225 to $603 per month. This is 40% less than individual insurance plans.

The Freelancer’s union has started its own health clinics with doctors, health coaches and nutritionists. The focus is on timely and progressive primary care which will save money over time.

Sara commented that the old style labour unions have not innovated for several decades. The world has changed. They have not kept up. The  Freelancer’s union earns $2M per  year towards operations from the sale of discounted health insurance. The union has a staff of 80. It is self sustaining.  Sara earns $272,000 per year as the CEO. With insurance premiums of $105M,  this is an appropriate amount.

Sara’s current theme is the new “mutualism”. It is based on the premise that freelancers can band together to set up social purpose institutions to serve their mutual needs. In fact this mutualism is not new. The social unionism of the 192o’s got mutualism right.

Sara Horowitz is being lauded for creating the Freelancer’s Union. She received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. She has spoken at Davos at the World Economic Forum.

Sara should be recognized as a valuable role model for all those developing social purpose institutions to meet the healthcare and other needs of their members.

Reference: The New York Times March 24 2013 Sunday Business page 1.