Bushwick councilman resigns seat in move to Freelancers Union

Councilman Rafael Espinal resigned to lead the Freelancers Union.
Photo by Mark Hallum

Bushwick Councilman Rafael Espinal resigned from elected office Sunday to work with a burgeoning freelancer’s union.

The lawmaker sent his letter of resignation to Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D–Manhattan) on Jan. 26 and will take up the position of executive director at the non-profit Freelancers Union on March 2. 

While the former politician will defend the interests of independent workers at this new post, the decision to step down leaves many of his longtime aides destined for unemployment, with some workers expressing dismay that reporters announced the details of Espinal’s resignation via Twitter

“We are all very unsure of what is happening and our futures. We have no idea about the resignation letter,” according to a staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I literally found out that he’s going to the Freelancers Union today, on Twitter. So I don’t know… I barely know anything.”

NY1’s Gloria Pazmino divulged that Espinal would accept a job with the Freelancers Union via Twitter, while the legislator’s self-serving resignation letter focused largely on his achievements over his last six years in Council. The letter did not hint at Espinal’s new job, or offer any explanation for his sudden exit. 

Espinal wasted no time abandoning his post representing the 37th Council District and resigned effective immediately. A special election is likely to occur around May, when most of his staff can expect to loose their jobs, with the Council Speaker’s office assuming management of the district until voters can elect a replacement. 

A group of council staffers seeking to unionize under the moniker Association of Legislative employees called for reforms to protect aides in the wake of Espinal’s sudden resignation.

Like Espinal, most sitting Council members are term-limited in 2021 and many have been busy jockeying for another elected position, or governmental appointment. Last year, Espinal was one of dozens of candidates competing in a special election for Public Advocate after Letitia James resigned to become the new state attorney general; Jumaane Williams won the job last February.

And just days ago, Espinal dropped out of the Democratic primary for Brooklyn borough president.

Espinal’s district covers the neighborhoods of Cypress Hills, Bushwick, Brownsville, Ocean Hill and East New York.

The Freelancers Union is a nonprofit organization which bills itself as “promoting the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services.”

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information is forthcoming.