Concert Companies Bring Worker Classification Fight to Massachusetts Through Ballot Initiative – TechCrunch

A coalition of app-based on-demand transportation and delivery companies, including Lyft, Uber, Doordash, and Instacart, petitioned for a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would keep gig economy workers classified as independent contractors as the industry clashes. won in California on the road.

The measure proposed by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work comes almost a year later California Voters Approved a similar measure known as Proposition 22 that pitted labor rights advocates against companies in the temp economy in a costly multi-million dollar battle.

Lyft, Uber and other members of the coalition, which also includes several local chambers of commerce in the state, said Tuesday that they want the ballot question to be included in the November 2022 election. The question must pass a review legal and receive sufficient voter signatures to be included on the ballot.

“While finding a legislative solution in Massachusetts is our priority, this part of our ongoing efforts to advocate for what the vast majority of drivers want: a flexible income opportunity that our platform provides in addition to new benefits,” said the co-founder of Lyft John Zimmer during Lyft Earnings Call on Tuesday. “As we pursue the ballot option, we are also closely engaged with the Massachusetts State Legislature and continue to work with them on a possible legislative solution.”

The coalition said the proposed ballot question would give application-based transportation and delivery workers new benefits, such as health care stipends, while keeping them classified as independent contractors.

Among the provisions promoted by the coalition would be an earnings floor equal to 120% of the Massachusetts minimum wage ($ 18 per hour in 2023 for app-based platforms, before customer tips) and health care stipends for employees. drivers who work at least 15 hours per week. . Drivers would still keep all of their tips and be guaranteed at least $ 0.26 per mile to cover vehicle maintenance and fuel, according to the coalition.

Labor activists are already backing down. The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, a group made up of a variety of organizations including the New England Area Conference NAACP, the Union of Minority Neighborhoods and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, said Tuesday that the measure of the ballot contains problematic language that will harm workers.

The group argued that there are wide loopholes that create a lower-than-minimum wage for app-based workers and that few qualify for health care. He also noted that the measure would remove protections against discrimination, remove workers’ compensation rules, and allow companies to cheat the state’s unemployment system of hundreds of millions.

While Uber, Lyft, and the wider coalition lobby for a ballot measure or legislation, they also faces a lawsuit filed last year by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who asked the court to rule that Uber and Lyft drivers are employed under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges in its complaint that Uber and Lyft cannot meet a three-part test under state law that would allow them to classify drivers as independent contractors. To qualify as an independent contractor, the worker must be free from the direction and control of a business, perform services outside the normal course of business, and perform similar work on their own.

Uber has been signaling since last year that it planned to push through laws similar to the Proposition 22 measure. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in November 2020 during an earnings call with analysts that the company “will advocate more strongly for laws like Proposition 22 “. He later added that it will be a priority of the company “to work with the governments of the US and the world to make this a reality.”

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