The Massachusetts Coalition of Independent Work announced plans to file a ballot initiative to allow app-based workers to be independent contractors. The Coalition includes Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates and others. The Coalition issued this statement:
Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work
CONTACT: Conor Yunits, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 3, 2021
BOSTON, MA – August 3, 2021 – A broad coalition of app-based workers and partners from across Massachusetts today took the first steps toward a 2022 ballot question that would grant historic new benefits for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers in the Commonwealth while allowing them to maintain their flexibility as independent contractors.
In Massachusetts, 83% of app-based rideshare and delivery workers recently voiced their support for proposals that grant them new benefits but also protect their right to remain independent contractors. The proposed ballot question would achieve both goals, establishing a minimum earnings guarantee for workers; extending new benefits including healthcare stipends, paid sick paid family and medical leave and occupational accident insurance; and protecting drivers from discrimination all while securing workers’ rights to work when, where, how often and how long they want. As a result, by a margin of 7:1, app-based rideshare and delivery workers say they support this ballot initiative.
“I’ve been an Instacart shopper for almost three years, and what has kept me with the platform is the flexibility to create a schedule that works best for both me and my son,” said Habiba Kerris of Boston, who shops with Instacart. “As a busy single mom, I rely on a few different sources of income, and being able to earn extra money by shopping any time I’ve needed or wanted to has been essential for me.”
Included in the ballot measure are provisions that establish an earnings floor equal to 120% of the Massachusetts minimum wage ($18 per hour in 2023 from app-based platforms, before customer tips) for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers, but with unlimited upward earning potential. Drivers would continue to keep 100% of their tips. They would also be guaranteed at least $0.26 per mile to cover vehicle upkeep and gas.
“This is the best of both worlds,” said Pam Bennett, who delivers with DoorDash. “This measure will help every driver, by preserving our ability to work whenever and however we want, and also give us access to brand new benefits that will really help.”
If voters approve the ballot measure, rideshare and delivery network companies will be required to pay healthcare stipends for drivers who work at least 15 hours per week, including full stipends equal to 100% of the average employer contribution toward a Health fileConnector plan premium for those who work an average of 25 hours or more per week. Rideshare and delivery drivers would also earn paid sick time and paid family & medical leave, and be provided with on the job injury protection.
“I love the idea of getting these new benefits, but maintaining my freedom is the most important factor for me,” said Marcus Cole, who drives with Lyft. “I’ve worked plenty of jobs as a full-time employee and the set schedules didn’t work for me or my family. Right now I can spend quality time with my daughter and navigate both her mother’s schedule and my wife’s schedule at the hospital where she works as a nurse. That’s what I want to protect.”
Without the ballot measure or a legislative solution, the future of app-based rideshare and delivery could be in jeopardy. A pending lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General is attempting to force app-based drivers into becoming employees, an outcome that drivers have overwhelmingly rejected.
Allies of the drivers also joined in support of the ballot initiative.
“In our efforts to uplift children, youth, and families in Greater Boston, we meet a lot of individuals who drive for gig companies to earn extra money to help pay their bills,” said Frank Farrow, Executive Director of Elevate Boston.
“These are people from our community, parents, younger people, older people, who are working when they can; a few hours here or there, and often in ways that help people in their neighborhoods get to work, grocery stores or hospitals. We continue to support this effort to create new benefits for drivers, as long as they can keep their independence, because countless drivers have expressed that those two elements together work best for the people who are relying on this work.”
Data collected by the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent work found that 82% of app-based rideshare and delivery workers in Massachusetts use the apps less than 15 hours per week. Most people who drive with these platforms do so because it allows them the flexibility to work when, where and how they want, and for many, driving is not their main source of income. An economic study in California around a similar forced employment effort found that 80-90 percent of drivers would lose the ability to earn on these platforms entirely. Those who might be hired could be stuck with set shifts, flat wages, and limits on when and how they could drive.
“There is a national call for true equity and inclusion amid a world pandemic, and yet without a major change thousands of drivers could lose the work they rely on,” said James Hills, a community activist and spokesperson for the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work. “A large number of app-based drivers are Black, Brown and women and it is imperative that we protect the flexibility that they want and their ability to earn when they want. That freedom, plus the benefits and protections in this ballot question, will strengthen our communities and boost economic opportunities for people from every background.”
The proposed ballot question:
- Secures the overwhelmingly popular flexibility that app-based rideshare and delivery drivers currently enjoy. The ballot question will ensure that rideshare and delivery drivers can continue to work whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they want, with as many platforms as they want.
- Provides historic new benefits, including healthcare stipends, paid sick time, paid family & medical leave, and occupational accident insurance.
- Guarantees app-based rideshare and delivery drivers an earnings floor of 120% of the state minimum wage ($18 per hour for 2023), not including tips. This is the floor – drivers can always earn more. Drivers will also be guaranteed at least $0.26 per mile to cover vehicle maintenance costs – this is money in their pockets in addition to what they can deduct from their taxes.
- Protects app-based rideshare and delivery drivers against discrimination and provides an opportunity to appeal account deactivation – protections that largely do not currently exist for independent contractors in Massachusetts law.
- Trains drivers on critical public safety issues like recognition and prevention of sexual assault and misconduct, collision avoidance and defensive driving, and proper handling of food or grocery deliveries. These trainings will promote the protection of consumers, workers and the community.
App-based rideshare and delivery workers and their partners in the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work are also pursuing legislation at the State House that would add benefits and protections while maintaining flexibility.
The ballot measure is supported by a fast-growing coalition of drivers and allies in the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work.
Learn more about the coalition members at https://independentmass.org/