You could say that Sara Horowitz was talked into becoming an activist for working people. Growing up she says she would talk into the wee hours with her father about politics and the plight of ordinary people. And both her parents raised her to talk to everyone the same way, whether it was an elected official or a hotel cleaning woman.
“Once you start realizing that we’re all God’s children, you recognize that our obligation in life is to see ourselves as human beings.”
So it’s not surprising that by eighth grade, Sara was calling on the girls in her class to go on strike to support International Women’s Day. What was surprising…they listened!
“The girls went on strike. That was wild.”
After law school, Sara continued in her family’s humanitarian tradition by working for Legal Aid in New York and becoming the union representative. As she talked with workers she discovered that their biggest concern, especially for the self-employed, was health insurance. That’s when her upbringing and her training came together in a constructive idea.
In 1995, Sara started Freelancers Union. Freelancers, all 53-million of them, are an essential part of the American economy. They are “solopreneurs” working in film and television, advertising, graphic design, health care, journalism, fashion, financial services, and many more fields. Yet, generally, they have no health insurance, no retirement plans, no one to represent them, and few professional communities to join. They have always been America’s invisible workforce. Sara founded Freelancers Union to end this invisibility and the exploitation that goes with it.
“Many people feel they are profoundly alone. We expect our government to do something for us, but we could have power if we connected to other people.”
The Union is a federation of the unaffiliated, dedicated to helping the diverse, self-employed community build a powerful voice – in politics and in markets. The Union connects freelancers to group-rate benefits, resources, community, and political action to improve their lives – and their bottom lines. Under Sara’s leadership, Freelancers Union has grown to more than 250,000 members nationwide.
In 2008 she launched Freelancers Insurance Company, a social-purpose business wholly-owned by the union, providing independent workers with high-quality, affordable, and portable health insurance. The union’s National Benefits Platform, launched in 2014, now helps freelancers across America access benefits like health insurance, 401(k), and life, liability, dental, and disability insurance. She has also built two integrated primary care clinics providing no-copay care to union members.
“I really feel that we’re at the beginning of a different era. It’s our obligation to figure things out…be kind and really focus together. So much of life is about love.”
As a result of her work, Sara was invited to be a panelist at the Summit on Worker Voice, held at the White House in October 2015 and hosted by President Obama. No doubt, her parents would be proud that she’s still “talking” about improving the lives of American workers.