By Steven Taylor, CNN • Updated 21st July 2011
This week, a report was published that estimates that one-quarter of U.S. employees will be employed by free agents by 2020, when wages will have shrunk a third in real terms.
This includes part-time, freelance, and independent employees working for temp agencies and employers who rent premises or businesses.
Experts say the growth in these part-time employees and freelancers will be driven by people who are frustrated with the job market, or under- or unemployed.
“Across the United States, an increasing number of workers are finding work elsewhere, from part-time work to self-employment and direct employer agreements — with many more new ways to work increasingly opening up daily,” says Bart Loyst, president of M.L.B. Movement.
Loyst and partner Albert Kipp, are the two men behind the movement whose mission is to connect working individuals with corporations, and ultimately to shift some of those so-called “free agent” companies into an official enterprise.
The two say M.L.B. (formerly known as Freelancers Union) is the product of a long-term struggle for the rights of employees and their freedom to work, as well as provide more employment and benefits to employees.
In the last 20 years, they add, it’s only become a movement, with New York, Chicago, and Atlanta being the latest cities to establish themselves as regional hubs.
However, just over a year after it was first launched, M.L.B. has “activated” 200,000 “members”, contributing close to $2 million, and is expanding globally.
There are at least 300 office locations in the UK (including accommodation), along with Toronto, London, and Perth.
South Africa is also represented, with South African government departments providing access, and a M.L.B. office at No. 2 Grand Avenues in Johannesburg is growing rapidly.
In the US, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York are also showing signs of interest.
M.L.B. contends that in some areas, such as advertising agencies, there is currently no need for an official agent, but in other areas — such as tech startups — a need for contracted workers and developers should be anticipated.
New ‘models’ for growth
Although M.L.B. is the movement’s name, it is growing and transforming into a new hybrid model, using the power of the Internet to bring about a model to engage corporations.
“There are good reasons why M.L.B. members will prefer not to be in an official contract, even if that might ultimately be the only type of agreement that fits them best and offers better benefits for them,” said Loyst.
“Most members support traditional contract work because there is a desire to control the ability to work when and where they wish and because they like the extra benefits associated with having more responsibility,” he added.
Yet, while M.L.B. — or M.L.B. Workers — may prefer to be under the management of a corporation, rather than an independent contractor, is there any precedent?
“There are many examples of labor cooperatives in Latin America, also known as social credits systems, and indeed their existence is relevant to their success in the United States and its impact on self-employment,” said Stanley Gold, a contributor to the M.L.B. publication, the Outline.
“In a social credit system, workers are invited to voluntarily invest time, labor and resources into community enterprises, which then pay out worker benefits as dividends.
“U.S. labor cooperatives do exist, and they offer a potential model that would inspire many more individual working people to establish their own companies.”
In a nutshell, it could be argued that something similar is exactly what M.L.B. is trying to do with a corporation model, but keep the benefits — including better benefits — in the employees’ pocket.
“There are many ways to organize your business, and a lot of options for employees. What M.L.B. offers is the chance to control your destiny, negotiate a more flexible and fair set of contracts, and build trust with the people with whom you work,” said Gold.