In order to help independent workers achieve security and stability, Freelancers Union is launching a National Benefits Platform that will connect independent workers across the country to a suite of curated benefits -- like health insurance, 401(k) plans, and life, disability, liability, and dental insurance. Relying on its nearly 20-year track record connecting the new workforce with the benefits they need, Freelancers Union will grow this platform over time through the insights and ideas of its members. In partnering with other major national organizations that serve the new workforce -- like online gig platform Elance-oDesk and ride-sharing leader Lyft -- the National Benefits Platform will be a major part of the new economic infrastructure America needs to serve this rising, independent workforce.
Over the next twenty months, the Freelancers Union commits to build and launch a National Benefits Platform connecting independent workers across America to a range of health and financial security benefits. The platform will be an online portal where independent workers can enter their ZIP code and be presented with curated benefit options specifically for their local community. The National Benefits Platform will be immediately available to Freelancers Union's 250,000 members. Additionally, the platform will be immediately available to launch partners' members, totaling 2.7 million benefits-eligible members. Freelancers Union projects that 25,000 individuals will sign up for or access at least one benefit through the platform by the end of the commitment. Every benefit on the National Benefits Platform will be vetted by Freelancers Union's team of experts. The union has its own team of actuaries and benefit experts and has worked closely with partners to curate high-quality benefits. Working with both national and local benefit providers, Freelancers Union will serve as the curator ensuring that the benefits on the platform give independent workers the security and stability they need to live the lives they want.
The National Benefits Platform signals a major national expansion for Freelancers Union and its membership, built on nearly two decades of experience providing benefits. Previously, the union has only been able to offer health benefits in parts New York State. The National Benefits Platform will be a one-stop shop for the nation's independent workers to find the benefits they need to be truly secure. Additionally, the partnerships will help groups that may not traditionally see themselves as 'freelancers' gain access to the benefits they need.
This launch phase of the National Benefits Platform will begin a new era for Freelancers Union as the organization develops and demonstrates a sustainable financial model for this concept. The benefits platform is a major step toward bring together the groups, companies, and leaders who will have the connections and ability to help craft a new economy that works for America's new workforce.
-Launch the National Benefits Platform (June 2014)
-Launch first round of strategic partners with benefits-eligible memberships totaling three million people (June 2014)
-Launch second round of strategic partners with additional benefits-eligible memberships totaling at least one million (September 2014)
-Launch curated health care choices in all 50 states ahead of the national open enrollment period (October/November 2014)
-Secure 10,000 members signing up and/or accessing their health insurance through the platform during national open enrollment period (November/December 2014)
-Engage in formal iteration process with Freelancers Union members, through surveys, focus groups and in-person and virtual town halls (January 2015)
-Add new benefit types to platform, likely focusing on financial services (March 2015)
-Develop report on trends, themes, and ideas that arose from the surveys and focus groups. Begin to iterate the platform in ways that respond to members' needs. (April 2015)
-Launch final round of strategic partners with additional benefits-eligible memberships totaling at least one million, bringing total to at least five million (June 2015)
-Secure 10,000 members newly signing up and/or accessing their health insurance through the platform during national open enrollment period (November/December 2015)
The United States' independent workforce is rapidly growing. In 2006, the last time the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics counted, one in three workers (or 42 million people) was independent; importantly, that data was captured before the recession that swelled the ranks of freelancers. Many private studies such as the annual 'State of Independence in America' report show that by 2020, 40 to 50% of the workforce will be independent. Who are these workers? Basically, anyone without a traditional 9 to 5 job with benefits. These independent workers, consultants, temps, part-timers, crafters, share economy workers, and others, all face many similar challenges when it comes to ensuring their stability and security. While this new way of working has many advantages, including the ability for workers to follow their passions and craft lives of meaningful independence, many of these workers are left without the benefits earlier generations could count on from their employer. From retirement planning to health care to simple liability protections, this new workforce faces broad and difficult challenges that cut across industry, education, and income. Even the few benefits that are accessible to this workforce today are too often simply products geared to the traditional job-holders of an earlier era and do not meet the needs of today's new economy workers. Furthermore, independent workers seeking individual benefits are left without clear or trusted direction on vetted benefits, and are often left to pay a premium, missing out on the economies of scale once realized through employer-driven benefit plans.
Since its inception in 1995, Freelancers Union has helped connect new economy workers to benefits, first through a Portable Benefits Network then through its wholly-owned social purpose subsidiary, Freelancers Insurance Company, which currently provides health coverage to 25,000 New York freelancers and their families.
The independent workforce is vast and diverse. Connecting with the broad array of strategic partners who connect with this new workforce, like unions, sharing economy companies, freelance job marketplaces, co-working communities, freelance staffing agencies, skill-building sites, worker-cooperative networks, and more, is critical to ensuring greater access benefits. As such, wide media attention and additional strategic partner groups will be crucial to deliver broad access to and awareness of the platform.
The National Benefits Platform offers partners an attractive and straight-forward connection opportunity for their members. By partnering with Freelancers Union organizations can provide their members with direct and co-branded access to the platform. Freelancers Union will also highlight these partner organizations as leaders building the new economic infrastructure the new workforce needs.