MTV network freelancers took their beef to the streets yesterday in protest of changes to their benefits plan; about two hundred of the workers spent the afternoon picketing outside the Times Square headquarters of MTV's parent company Viacom. According to Gawker, an initial chant of “What the fuck?!” was revised into the catchier “We care about our 401(k)s!” after a reportedly winsome young rabble-rouser climbed atop a garbage can and helped brainstorm new chant ideas.

Though the immediate catalyst for the walkout was MTV’s recent fiddling with their benefits, tension has been simmering for a long time among the freelancers, who sarcastically refer to themselves as “permalancers” because they’re essentially full-time employees without the same benefits. Some MTV workers have been there as long as three years but remain classified “freelance” in order to keep benefits out of reach.

It’s a common practice these days, according to Sara Horowitz, the founder of the Freelancers Union, which claims as members 40,000 New York area freelancers. She told the Times that while permalancing is widespread, particularly in the media industry, protests are not.“I really think it’s getting to a point where people are not willing to take it anymore,” she said. In the MTV permalancers' case, the objections seem to be winning some concessions; Viacom reinstated the 401(k) plan they had taken away and, according to Gawker, management has been quietly negotiating with some of the squeakier wheels.

UPDATE:The freelancers were scheduled to walk out again this afternoon at 3pm; other full-time employees have pledged to join them in solidarity.

What about you; wretched permalancer or sleek, pampered employee with benefits? Is yesterday’s walkout the start of a wider freelancer rebellion?

Photo by Davide Berretta.