Massachusetts politicians are still pushing for better working conditions for ridesharing drivers. New bills in the state House and Senate would not only pursue collective bargaining rights across companies, as with past measures, but would guarantee a minimum wage, paid sick leave and other benefits. Companies like Uber and Lyft would also have to cover some driver expenses and pour money into the government’s unemployment insurance system.
The new legislation wouldn’t decide whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. However, Senate bill co-sponsor Jason Lewis told the State House News Service his bill would establish requirements that apply regardless of a driver’s status. Previous bills would have tasked workers with negotiating for benefits that are now included, Lewis says.
Massachusetts sued Uber and Lyft in 2020 for allegedly misclassifying drivers as contractors and denying protections granted under state labor law. The companies responded with a proposed ballot measure that would have offered benefits in return for requiring that drivers be treated as contractors. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court rejected that proposal last June.
We’ve asked Uber and Lyft for comment. In a statement, the Service Employees International Union (a bill proponent) says the bill “rewrites the rules” and gives condition drivers have sought for over a decade. The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, an industry-run organization that opposes the legislation, previously claimed that measures granting employee status don’t reflect a “vast majority” of drivers that want to remain contractors. The coalition prefers bills that would bring the anti-employee ballot proposal to the legislature as well as create portable benefit accounts.
The state has been one of the major battlegrounds for ridesharing work conditions, but it’s only one part of a larger fight. Uber and New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission have fought over pay raises, while a California law meant to reclassify many gig economy workers as employees has faced unsuccessful attempts to carve out exemptions for companies like Uber and Lyft.
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