“Freelance Money Isn’t Like Other Money”

This aggrieved response, in Salon, to the NYT magazine piece about Portland — why people move there, what they do then, and how the city is changing — makes some sobering points about how our culture views freelance work and the money that results.

In 2013 my husband had a salaried position and did some freelance work — freelance work he has been doing for the past 10 years — on the side. In 2014 he quit the salaried job to pursue freelance full-time and is making roughly three times what he used to. Had he left that salaried job for another, we’d have no problem. We’d produce his last two pay stubs and even though it was a new job his work history would demonstrate some indelible quality about him and we’d have our mortgage.

But it doesn’t work like that for freelancers. The invoices we send out every month, the checks we deposit, the estimated taxes we’ve already paid — none of it really means anything until we file our tax return. Freelance money, we’ve come to realize, isn’t like other money. At a time in our economy when a salaried worker can lose his job without warning and then be unemployed for months, if not years, he’s still seen as a safer bet than a freelancer. Our money doesn’t count, and neither do our jobs. This is cultural, I understand, and there are countless ways — from healthcare to the tax code — that our culture is set up to favor salaried workers.

No one who reads this site could mistake freelancers for slackers. But it’s true that when Ben and I both jumped off the freelance cliff, we didn’t consider the long-term ramifications in terms of things like mortgages. (Move somewhere significantly cheaper and buy in cash?) Anyone have experience convincing banks to lend to you as something other than a FT employee?

Job of the Day: Staff Announcer for Saturday Night Live

Don Pardo has been SNL's legendary announcer since the show began in 1974, but he died this week at the age of 96.

A First Date Without Baggage

Clara Bensen’s romance with Jeff began in the traditional manner: through a dating site on the internet. Where their story strays from the typical “meet for drinks, go home together, never speak again” experience is how they planned their batshit crazy first date.

As Clara recounts in an essay for Salon, the burgeoning couple met at the Houston airport and hopped on a flight to Istanbul together for their first date—with no luggage, no itinerary, and a return flight scheduled 21 days later.

Fast Food Workers Go On Strike

Workers want to unionize and raise their pay from minimum wage to $15 an hour, but it would be more likely that companies would negotiate that figure down—if they're willing to negotiate at all.

Latina Working for the Grey Lady Tells All

Awesome excerpts are available in Salon from Daisy Hernandez’s upcoming book about working at the New York Times. Spoiler alert: she did not have a great time. The hardest part was trying to negotiate a White Male workspace. “Black boys consistently do badly in school,” her editor told her at one point, when she pitched a story about racism. “It’s like it’s genetic!” 

Still, for a long time, getting her dream job meant independence, career advancement, and the kind of financial security her parents desperately wanted for her.

At the Times, people spend their days writing and then get paid every two weeks. It happens even if you disagree with Mr. Flaco or if you write a bad piece that needs tons of editing. You still get paid. So, convinced that this life can’t be mine, I insist on taking my intern paycheck to the bank every two weeks and cashing it. Each time the black teller hands me the stack of hundred dollar bills, I feel that I am real and that this is really happening to me. It is a lesson I learned from my mother.

On Fridays, if she had been paid at the factory, Tía Chuchi would take my sister and me to meet my mother at the bank, where she would be waiting on line with a check, that precious slip of paper in her hand. She would take the money from the bank teller in one swift move, as if someone was going to steal it from her, and then she would move over to the side and count the bills, slipping them into a small envelope the way she would place a pillow in a pillowcase. Those dollars were freedom. We could afford an evening meal at McDonald’s and pasteles, too.

‘The More Your Job Helps Others, the Less You Get Paid’

Last summer David Graeber wrote an essay in Strike! Magazine about the phenomenon of "bullshit jobs"—"the kind of jobs that even those who work them feel do not really need to exist." At Salon, Thomas Frank has an interview with Graeber about why "the more your job helps others, the less you get paid."

Just Another Case of Women and Men Being Treated Totally Equally

Have fun reading about this ridiculous case in which a judge says it’s fair game to use a woman’s abortion as evidence of her being an unfit parent. She has two kids with her ex-husband; he’s trying to get full custody. His lawyers subpoenaed her medical records and are arguing that her abortion a year after the divorce is proof she shouldn’t have the kids and the judge was like oh interesting no problem motion to vilify a woman for making a good choice for her life sustained. Cool attitude, judge.

Everybody Loves Uber!*

Salon.com has a darkly portentous article titled “Why Uber Must Be Stopped,” and in case there’s any doubt about how unscrupulous and even criminal they think the ride-sharing app is, they’ve illustrated it with a picture of Jordan Belfort and Gordon Gekko. Guys, come on. No Mr. Burns?

Defenders of no-holds-barred free-market competition see nothing to be alarmed or concerned about. Riders can only benefit from fierce competition for their services, and the number of cancellations is trivial compared to Lyft’s total volume of rides, explains Timothy Lee at Vox. On the other hand, if you are inclined to see Uber as the acme of ruthless and amoral profit-seeking, then the latest news on Uber’s “deceptive tactics” is just one more confirmation of how the company will do anything to win. Uber’s ambitions are limitless and it has the bankroll to do what it wants.

Indeed, there is some irony to the fact that Uber has so much cash in the bank that it need not comply with the most basic premise of capitalism — the notion that survival is predicated on making more money than you spend. With access to an astonishing $1.5 billion in capital, Uber can simultaneously wage regulatory battles in multiple cities, engage in recruitment wars in which smartphones are distributed like candy, subsidize drivers at below cost, and employ whomever is necessary to achieve long-term goals. The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: What happens when a company with the DNA of Uber ends up winning it all? What happens when the local taxi companies are destroyed and Lyft is crushed? When Uber has dominant market position in every major city on the globe? “UberEverywhere” isn’t a joke. It’s a mantra, a call to arms, a holy ideology.

I have trouble with Salon in its incarnation as a red-faced, bearded, overly earnest dude who gesticulates a lot. It’s hard to nod when you’re getting flecked with his impassioned spittle.

The Selfie as Class Signifier

Miss Sheryl doesn’t have a computer and definitely wouldn’t know what a selfie is. Her cell runs on minutes and doesn’t have a camera. Like many of us, she’s too poor to participate in pop culture. She’s on public assistance living in public housing and scrambles for odd jobs to survive.

Salon’s D. Watkins reports from East Baltimore, where “everything looks like ‘The Wire’ and nobody cares what a ‘selfie’ is.” Watkins points out that it requires a certain amount of money to participate in certain aspects of pop culture. [via]

Photo: Paul Sableman

Improving Health Care in Memphis, Tenn.

In Salon, Alex Halperin reports on the "Memphis model," a health network partnership between hospitals and congregations in Memphis, Tenn.—one of the poorest metro areas in the U.S. and one of the "least healthy"—that has resulted in treating more people and saving hospitals millions in annual costs. Essentially, getting more people treated through the network has resulted in fewer expensive hospital stays for patients who avoid help until the last minute, and partnering with congregations has created a support network for patients to turn to before and after they receive treatment.