Espinal’s immediate tasks will also include bringing freelancers of all types into the conversation about proposed worker classification legislation in various states.
“We need new leaders who will listen to the freelance workforce and innovate on their behalf in the policy arena and through advocacy and organizing, said Freelancers Union Founder Sara Horowitz. “Rafael is the rare leader who has the ability to navigate the complex challenges of the growing freelance economy.”
Espinal, who served the 37th District in Brooklyn, was a co-sponsor of the Freelance Isn’t Free legislation that passed in New York City in 2016—a historic win for the city’s 1.3 million freelancers. He co-sponsored a bill that passed in 2019 to extend protections against harassment and discrimination to independent workers under the city’s Human Rights Law.
“Rafael is a passionate and committed advocate for working people who has fought to protect and support the diverse community of freelancers in New York City,” said Freelancers Union’s outgoing executive director, Caitlin Pearce. “I am thrilled to see him take the reins and lead the next chapter at Freelancers Union to build a more just and sustainable working environment for independent workers nationwide.”
A native of Brooklyn and the son of Dominican immigrants who were union workers as well as freelancers, Espinal was elected to his City Council post in 2013, after serving two years in the New York State Assembly.
He is a graduate of Queens College and served as an adult literacy teacher and as a chief of staff in the New York City Council before running for elective office.
Espinal’s legislative accomplishments on the City Council include negotiating a $250 million comprehensive investment plan for his district, one of New York’s most underserved. The New York Times Editorial Board said in 2019, “In a 51-member body, Mr. Espinal has been a standout.” Time Out magazine named him a New Yorker of the Year in 2017 for leading the repeal of New York’s Cabaret Law—which had been used to target black-owned clubs, gay bars, and underground establishments since the Prohibition Era—and the establishment of the city’s new Office of Nightlife. Whether through securing major investments and job creation in his historically underprivileged community or pushing to prevent employers from retaliating against workers by proposing a legal “right to disconnect,” Espinal has been a fierce advocate for workers, fighting to improve their opportunities and quality of life.
About Freelancers Union
Freelancers Union is the largest and fastest-growing organization representing the 57 million independent workers across the country. It gives its 500,000 members a voice through policy advocacy, benefits, online resources, and educational and community-building events in nearly two dozen cities. Since its founding, Freelancers Union has fought for and won protections for freelance workers, including the first-of-its-kind Freelance Isn’t Free Act in New York City, which gives freelancers unprecedented protection from nonpayment and underpayment. In 2018, Freelancers Union launched Freelancers Hub, a free coworking space and training and resource center for freelancers, with support from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Learn more at www.freelancersunion.org