A Labor Union for Social Entrepreneurs

"The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people." Cesar Chavez

Organized labor has a long history of protecting worker's rights globally. The use of collective bargaining and other tools have unified workers and strengthened their calls for fair wages, health & safety standards, and the elimination of practices like child labor.

The benefits of organized labor are many, but as the modern day work force takes new shape, the ability of traditional unions to organize some segments of the labor force is hampered. Social entrepreneurs, for example, are a cutting edge element of the labor force, generating new ideas and technologies for a sustainable economy. I, for one, want the number of innovative social entrepreneurs to grow. How can we encourage them? In leaving the traditional workforce, social entrepreneurs also must leave behind job security and affordable access to many services that generally flow through employers (at least in the United States), such as health insurance and retirement plans. This could hamper would-be entrepreneurs from taking the leap into the independent work force and bringing their brainchild to fruition.

One of the best examples of “good work” I’ve seen to support social entrepreneurs and the independent workforce generally is the Freelancers Union . According to a recent piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, over a quarter of U.S. workers are now self-employed, meaning that they simply don’t have the opportunity to organize with fellow workers. Or, at least they didn’t the rise of the Freelancers Union.

The Freelancers Union builds on the success of the traditional union model by magnifying the voice of workers in the public policy sphere and amplifying their bargaining power when its comes to accessing services like insurance at a good price. As Chavez reminds us, organized labor is about protecting people. Kudos to the Freelancers Union for extending this model to social entrepreneurs.