The Next Battleground for Gig Worker Lan Laws for: Massachusetts

Less than two years after a tough election fight in California, concert companies like Uber and Lyft are once again clashing with working groups, politicians and courts in Massachusetts over a measure that would preserve the independent status of business leaders.

The Massachusetts proposal would guarantee workers a minimum wage, but would limit access to other benefits offered to ordinary workers, similar to the California voting measure. And just like in California, state judges can frustrate the multi-million dollar campaign that concert companies are doing.

A Massachusetts court has questioned whether the job proposal violates state law, and the November vote could be revoked this summer.

While the conflict puts state politicians in Massachusetts and other states under increasing pressure on travel and food delivery companies, they are demanding a broader assessment of whether the concert economy exploits those who work there.

On Wednesday, five U.S. senators and three members of the House, including several from Massachusetts, sent letters to several companies, criticizing the practice of misrepresenting employees as members of Parliament as an independent contractor. Lawmakers are demanding that companies publish detailed reports describing the risks to drivers, according to Gig Workers Rising, a defense group that has seen at least 50 deaths in the past five years.

Uber and Lyft have released reports of attacks and other serious incidents on their platforms, but lawmakers, who are demanding a response by June 21, are demanding more details, as well as companies like DoorDash to do the same. . The concertgoers who were attacked also wrote that they wanted information to help with funeral services and other expenses or to help their families.

Lawmakers said the lack of driver safety and the status of their independent contractor were related.

“Drivers put themselves at greater risk because of low wages, low wages, which encourages them to work longer hours, which encourages them to accept more trips, even when they feel safe,” said Massachusetts representative Ayanna Pressley. an interview.

In a statement, a spokesman for DoorDash said the letters made “misleading and misleading claims” and that the company was committed to keeping its drivers safe. Other concerts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gig companies spent $ 200 million struggling to qualify their drivers as independent contractors in California. The conflict began in 2019 when California passed a law requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees. He later sued the state attorney general for enforcing concert companies, and responded with a threat to leave the state.

The 2020 voting measure, Proposition 22, was approved by about 59 percent of the vote, meaning that concertgoers would remain independent contractors. But last year, a California judge overturned a new law. The case is pending appeal.

Madam. Pressley argued that the Massachusetts ballot measure was a way to save money by avoiding giving more money and benefits to concert drivers, such as health coverage coverage. “All of this is ultimately about prioritizing profits over people,” he said.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Under the proposal, drivers would earn at least $ 18 while they send food or passengers per hour.

It would also provide limited benefits, such as a fee per vehicle cost per kilometer, for accident insurance, paid sick time, and health care benefits for employees who have spent a certain number of hours driving. Gig companies should not provide you with unemployment insurance, employee compensation, paid leave, or any other health care payments.

Conor Yunits, who is leading the Massachusetts Independent Labor Coalition, a campaign in favor of the vote measure, said many drivers did not want to be classified as workers because it would limit their ability to set their own hours.

“It’s about their life, about being flexible, about their ability to be their own boss, about setting their own schedules,” Mr. Yunits, Vice President of Issues Management Group. “In fact, drivers accept that. After all, we believe that voters will support this. “

Opponents of the voting measure have warned that drivers would only be paid that rate while completing a task and not while waiting for the next rider. Considering the delay time, a study has estimated that drivers can earn only $ 5 to $ 7 per hour. (Mr. Yunits called the study “pure propaganda.”)

Opponents also say that drivers should already receive benefits from their employees. In 2020, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued Uber and Lyft in an effort to force their driver to recognize that they are employees under state law. This case is in the courts.

If the austerity measures overpower opposition from Massachusetts’ s most prominent unions and politicians, a strong pro-labor state could push concert companies to continue their state-by-state approach to codifying driver rules.

“We’re preparing for the fight,” said Wes McEnany, of Massachusetts Is Not for Sale, which is leading the campaign against the proposal.

The discussion may soon be debatable. In May, the Massachusetts Supreme Court heard the arguments of a group that sued to stop the voting measure, and expressed concern that concert companies were trying to wrinkle a rule that had nothing to do with voters ’past.

Part of the proposed voting measure states that drivers are not “employees or agents” of concert companies. Opponents of the measure mean that companies like Uber are trying not to be held responsible for the actions of drivers in accidents or crimes.

Under state law, if the court finds that one part of the measure has nothing to do with the rest — it stated that it might be at a hearing in May — it may reject the proposed vote.

Voters may have “completely different views on whether a concert hall employee should have all of these benefits, whether they can sue the company in the event of an accident or rape,” Judge Scott Kafker, a judge, said at the hearing. “They’re very different subjects, aren’t they?”

The lawyer who defended the measure of the vote argued that these issues were related to an employee’s relationship with a company and were related.

The court’s decision is expected in late June or early July. It is also possible that the State Parliament will pass a law similar to the voting measure in the coming months, with a vote in November not necessary, although that possibility seems unlikely.

If the court allows voters to impose the measure, voters may have some advantages. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart raised $ 17.8 million last year to support the measure, according to the State Office of Campaign and Financial Policy, which has not released the totals for 2022. Having the greatest political contribution in the history of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts no less than a million dollars in sales last year. The group said it had learned from the California fight that voters could get confused for a minute of a complicated vote on independent contractors, so the main focus of the campaign will be on arguing that big tech companies are trying to rewrite state laws.

“California had to go first and catch a little bit of rain,” he said. said McEnany. “I think we have a look back, looking at California and being able to see it coming. We were able to build a coalition much earlier.”

Concert companies say drivers are also on the sidelines. The Massachusetts Independent Labor Coalition cites a survey of about 400 Massachusetts drivers this year, paid for by concert companies, and 81% supported the vote.

The drivers surveyed were told that the vote would classify the driver as an independent contractor rather than the employee, and that he would provide new benefits, and that a negative vote would maintain the status quo.

Opponents say drivers are being deceived, and both can maintain flexible schedules and receive higher salaries and benefits if they qualify as employees.

“This half measure is not enough,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who signed letters to concert companies about employee safety. “The answer is to classify these employees as employees and pay them a living wage and provide real benefits.”

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