Rideshare and delivery drivers took over the Boston Common to unveil plans for a new question on next year's ballot, which, if passed by voters in 2024, would classify drivers as independent contractors.
“The ballot effort we are launching today, which closely mirrors what we proposed last year, will ensure that drivers have the flexibility to work where, when and how long they want while creating historic new benefits and protections," said Conor Yunits, a spokesman for Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work.
In recent years, rideshare and delivery drivers' rights and benefits have been contentious in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, supported by Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, opposes labor union efforts. Instead, they advocate for drivers to remain independent contractors — not full-time employees — while advocating for benefits and protections employees are entitled to.
The new initiative launched Wednesday offers several new versions of a question proposed last year that was ultimately dismissed by the Supreme Judicial Court before it got on the ballot.
Others, supported by unions such as 32BJ, support a bill that would allow drivers to unionize.
Then-Attorney General Maura Healey sued Uber and Lyft in 2020 to pressure them to classify drivers as employees, saying their business practices were in violation of state law. The case is still pending and the next hearing is not expected until May 2024.
The ballot question's language is not yet finalized but it could also require companies to provide stipends to cover benefits like health insurance premiums.
All versions of the question would also maintain their independent contractor status. Polling by the industry-backed group has found Massachusetts app-based drivers demonstrate a clear preference to be classified as independent contractors with more benefits.
Rideshare driver Charles Clemons Muhammad, who has been a driver for different services over 25 years, said, “I stand behind a ballot measure that would secure independence and provide new benefits for drivers like me and drivers like my colleagues.”
“Fun fact, I actually do work a 9-to-5 and there is no flexibility,” said Vennetia Prevost, a mother of three who is a rideshare driver outside of her full-time job. “My kids, they don't get the same mom that they get when I'm working DoorDash or Uber. I'm able to stop and pick them up when need be. I'm able to be at activities and attend any type of events that my children have.”
Some business and community groups have expressed their support for the initiative. The vice president of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Alex Guardiola said, “While we have WRTA [the Worcester Regional Transit Authority], we have the commuter rail, the last mile has been a challenge for a lot of our communities. And this is where these app-based drivers have been so crucial.”
If it makes it to the 2024 ballot, it will determine the future for rideshare and delivery drivers.
Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work filed several versions of the question after the 2022 question was thrown out by the Supreme Judicial Court. Yunits says the attorney general’s office, which certifies all ballot questions’ language, has been provided with “a number of options for certification that should address these concerns.”