A critical barrier for American Freelancers has been healthcare. The freelancers union is setting up their first healthcare centre in New York.
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At Freelancers Union, we've been heavily influenced by Hillman's vision. It's why we built our own social-purpose insurance company to serve our independent workforce. It's why we're sponsoring new nonprofit health plans in New York, New Jersey, and Oregon next year. And it's why we're opening a bricks-and-mortar, zero-co-pay medical center in Downtown Brooklyn this fall. We're not the only unions that do this. Workers United, the Hotel Trades Council, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union all sponsor their own medical centers for members. The American Federation of Teachers' new "Share My Lesson" tool allows teachers to collaborate online to share resources, lesson plans, and other innovative ideas. We need to go back to Hillman's vision and look beyond the current valley of union decline. The labor movement needs to make sure workers can see the tangible value of union membership - not just in a bigger paycheck and stronger job protections, but also in their networked economic power. Unions need to get back in the business of building banks, insurance companies, day care centers, affordable vacation destinations -- and even dreaming up new 21st century institutions, like union-owned urban farms. They should be a welcoming home for social-purpose venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. This isn't just a dream for young do-gooders. Countless experienced actuaries, lawyers, and accountants are yearning for a way to use their business acumen to rebuild the nation's middle class. A union movement focused on creating sustainable, revenue-generating institutions could provide a platform to serve the social good and the bottom line. Sidney Hillman never could have foreseen this new economy fueled by ubiquitous personal technology that empowers people to self-organize. Start-ups like Kickstarter and Prosper have shown that Hillman's ideas of mutual support still have resonance - and a receptive, connected audience. Unions can be the force that brings ideas like these to scale by pooling a critical mass of resources to build tangible, enduring institutions - and finally fulfill Hillman's vision of an economy powered by those who work.