Embedded in the FU model is the fiction that there’s no space for real unions in a freelance economy. On the contrary, construction unions and entertainment industry guilds are comprised almost entirely of freelance workers who travel from gig to gig, with the union acting as both a sort of exclusive employment agency and a channel to protect wages and provide benefits a freelancer wouldn’t otherwise have.
The biggest systemic problem with freelancing is that economic uncertainty puts workers in a position where they are unable to turn down gigs. Workers who are worried about paying the rent can’t realistically ask for more money or complain about lousy working conditions, because the stakes are too high. And taking their disputes to court is expensive and time-consuming. Unless they have supremely rare talents, their employer can easily find a replacement who will accept a less lucrative contract.
The only type of cooperative that can remedy this situation is one that mandates all workers in the profession to stop providing services until the employer adopts better practices (the other alternative is a penalty- and regulation-based approach, which would be difficult for Washington, and Wall Street, to digest). Historically, these rights have only been won when workers made themselves seen, heard, and indispensable by holding strikes and standing united. It is conceivable that freelancers’ organizations could call for boycotts, but the Freelancers Union has done no such thing.