This spring the Freelancers Union conducted an online survey to find out who freelancers are, how they work and how they are faring.1 With more than 2,800 participants in the New York metropolitan area, this survey is one of the first efforts to get a comprehensive picture of New York’s independent workers. Four key findings emerged from the results:
1 - Freelancers are highly educated and participate in key sectors of the city’s economy as workers and as potential consumers. • 85% of New York’s freelancer respondents have at least a college degree. • The highest concentration work in the city’s key industries: advertising, publishing, film and television, technology and the arts. • Their median income is $50,000, 20% higher than the city’s overall median.
2 - Freelancers are fleeing corporate America. • More than 60% cited some form of freedom (from office politics, difficult bosses, cubicles and commutes) as a main benefit to their lifestyle. • 86% cited having a “flexible schedule” as one of the main advantages of freelancing.
3 - Freelancers are an emerging constituency and they vote in record numbers. • More than half (53%) see themselves as members of a freelancer community. • 100% of respondents have voted in a national election, 87% in a state election and 83% in a local election.
4 - Freelancers who responded to our survey fall out of the social safety net. • About 28% of freelancers who participated in the survey spent some portion of the last year without health insurance. • Less than half (47%) save money for retirement each month.
The survey findings indicate that freelancers are entrepreneurial workers who succeed because of their creativity, independence and drive. They contribute to key sectors of the New York City economy and are an engaged constituency.
But freelancers’ struggles are perhaps even more telling. Operating entirely outside of the safety net of employer-provided benefits, their experience illustrates the grave flaws in our system of social insurance, which limits access to health insurance and retirement plans to those with traditional employment relationships. Furthermore, as the employer-sponsored benefits system continues to erode, independent workers might well be the proverbial canaries in the coal mine demonstrating to traditional employees what their future might hold. Freelancers’ experiences have long-term implications for New York City and its public policy, as well as for the entire country.
The extensive literature on organizational wrongdoing tends to assume that a clear red line divides the moral terrain. However, many organizations function not as moral orders, but as moral pursuits in which there is intentionally no explicit definition of right and wrong; members are encouraged to engage in an ongoing pursuit of personal morality. We use illustrations from field sites in which red lines proved either well-defined or elusive to theorize differences in forms of wrongdoing in moral orders versus moral pursuits. More specifically, we explore cases in which organizational actors seek to (re)define right and wrong and to pursue actions that they consider moral, but that others in their setting consider wrongdoing. We identify two sets of misaligned moral strategies: one involving moral hijacking, moral assembling, and moral blurring that occurs when individuals engage in a moral pursuit from within the context of a moral order; and another involving moral circumscribing, moral spotlighting, and moral seceding that occurs when individuals seek to establish a moral order from within a moral pursuit. We develop this typology to highlight the importance of context in defining wrongdoing, and to better understand the variety of wrongdoing in organizations.
The means by which field participants collectively resist an inquiry into their social world—that is, the repertoires of field resistance they deploy—can vary radically from one setting to the next. For example, factory craftsmen who produce in their plant and on the side illegal artifacts might resist a scholarly inquiry into their practices by denying that they are thieves. By contrast, clinical anatomists who procure human cadavers for medical education and research might physically obstruct a scholar’s access to the field. Alternatively, business school faculty members faced with an inquiry into their work practices might decide to remain silent as a way to deflect the inquiry. This chapter reviews several forms of field resistance and discusses what they can teach us about their respective field settings. Moreover, by treating acts of resistance as data points rather than merely irritating impediments to field inquiries, this chapter calls for paying closer attention to repertoires of field resistance and highlights the benefits of collecting, analyzing, and qualifying field participants’ acts of resistance as innovative forms of data. A similar argument can also be made for paying closer attention to forms of field embrace or the various (and telling) means by which field participants embrace a scholars’ inquiry into their social world.