What does Labor Day Mean in 2018?

I’m a freelance filmmaker. So are all the technicians we hire: camera people, editors, audio professionals, and more. What does Labor Day mean to freelancers? The day that Americans celebrate the achievements of workers? The history of this holiday is rooted in worker’s rights and the actions of unions. Yet, in 2018 less and less workers hold factory or company jobs and even fewer have a union negotiating on their behalf.

That means a gig economy company like ours needs to negotiate with clients on behalf of workers.

Asking Crew: What’s Your Rate?

First of all, we instituted an important change this year in how we hire crew. Traditionally in film & video, the call to crew includes the question “What is your rate?”. This question has been part of the hiring process for as long as I remember. In 2017, the California Equal Pay Act was amended to make it illegal for employers to use previous pay rates to justify discrimination in salaries. This got me thinking: a previous pay rate can sustain pay gaps between freelancer women and men or different races too. So CBV has stopped asking people for their rates. We pay based on experience, the scope of the work, and current market norms. We offer what we consider a fair rate and encourage crew to negotiate if they feel the rate is not right.

Working With Clients

We also work with clients to ensure that crews and editors get the protections a union would normally require. We let clients know up front when meal breaks will take place. We schedule sufficient turnaround for crews to get home, sleep a full night, and get back to work the next day safely. We avoid working on nights and weekends – so that our freelancers can have time with their friends and family.

Valuing Labor Creates More Value

To us, that is the best way to honor Labor Day. By making sure the other 364 days of the year are days where no gig worker is exploited or overworked or undervalued. And what we’ve found is that our crews are happier as a result. They work harder, bring more creativity, and value us for valuing them. All of that translates into more value for our clients as well.

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