Massachusetts politicians are still pushing for better working conditions for rideshare drivers. New bills in the House and Senate would not only pursue enterprise-wide collective bargaining rights, as with previous 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 costs and pour money into the government’s unemployment insurance system.
The new legislation would not determine whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. However, Senate bill co-sponsor Jason Lewis told the State House News Service that his bill would establish requirements that applied regardless of a driver’s status. Previous bills would have mandated workers to negotiate benefits, which are now included, Lewis says.
Massachusetts sued Uber and Lyft in 2020 for allegedly misclassifying drivers as contractors and denying them protections under state labor laws. The companies responded with a proposed voting measure that would have offered benefits in return for requiring drivers to be treated as contractors. The state Supreme Court rejected that proposal last June.
We reached out to Uber and Lyft for comment. In a statement, the Service Employees International Union (a supporter of the bill) says the bill “rewrites the rules” and gives conditions drivers have been seeking for over a decade. The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, an industry-led organization opposed to the legislation, previously claimed that measures to grant worker status do not reflect a “large majority” of drivers wanting to remain contractors. The coalition favors bills that would bring the anti-worker election proposal to the legislature and create vested benefits accounts.
The state has been one of the major battlegrounds for rideshare labor conditions, but it’s only part of a larger battle. Uber and the New York City Taxi and Limo Commission have clashed over pay rises, while a California law intended to reclassify many gig economy workers as employees has faced unsuccessful attempts to create exemptions for companies like Uber and Lyft.
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