Monday, December 17, 2007

Permalancers Need Health Benefits, Too

Wanna be a freelance writer? You'll probably have to take care of yourself, or get a REAL job, too, if you want benefits. I highly recommend you read this about the situation that's boiled over at Viacom. Yep. Viacom.

You might have heard of a few of the company's brands, like MTv. Nickelodeon. Comedy Central. Ah yes, THAT little company. I'm a freelancer/permalancer for Viacom, and was delighted to sign up for my 401K a few months ago. Last week, I found out through several hard-to-decipher e-mails that there's no more 401K for me, and virtually no health care coverage for me and my fellow 'lancers.

We're ticked off, of course, and I sincerely hope the company takes notice. If The Nation's article is accurate, about HALF of Viacom's creative juices flow from a pool of "permalancers." I happen to know that's a pretty good estimate of the company's IT staff, too.

Look, if a company wants to claim its people are freelancers - people who are REQUIRED to put in a regular 20, 30, 40, or more hours per week, people who get regular performance reviews, and who have ongoing duties related to BRANDS, which the company chooses to call "projects" - that's between the company and its lawyers, and a judge if the case goes to court. But there's no way to deny an entertainment company derives its revenue from the creative juices of its people - and therefore, usurping the option to be in a 401K plan is pretty damned petty. And greedy. And stupid.

If you freelance, or just think this doesn't sound fair, I urge you to send a message to Viacom. And maybe forgo the MTv until this little matter is resolved. On behalf of several thousand folks who work pretty darned hard, regardless of our "employment status" with the entertainment behemoth, I thank you.

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