Massachusetts may become the next battleground over the employee classification of gig workers after a coalition of app-based companies filed papers to qualify a ballot measure that would define their workers as independent contractors.
The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, which includes Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart, modeled its proposal on Proposition 22, which California voters passed in November 2020 after the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in the state’s history.
The measure would exempt gig workers from being classified as employees but offer them some limited benefits, including minimum pay of $18 per hour and health care stipends for drivers who work at least 15 hours per week.
“This is the best of both worlds,” Pam Bennett, a DoorDash courier, said in a statement provided by the coalition. “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 the measure is approved by the state’s attorney general, Maura Healey, backers could begin collecting the signatures needed to get the issue on the November 2022 ballot. “If placed on the ballot next year, the proposal could make Massachusetts the epicenter for an expensive fight over the legal rights of gig workers,” Reuters said.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed his support for the measure on Wednesday.
“In the state of Massachusetts, we think the right answer is our IC+ model, which is independent contractor with benefits,” he said during an earnings call. “Our drivers love it. Prop 22 has proven to be incredibly popular with California drivers.”
But critics said the initiative, like Prop 22, is a ploy by the companies to avoid paying taxes and workers’ compensation and contains loopholes that would create a subminimum wage for employees.
“The benefits promised under Prop 22 were a sham that have not materialized. As a network of over 10,000 gig workers in the state of California, we have not seen Uber drivers able to access any meaningful benefits since the implementation of Prop 22,” Shona Clarkson, an organizer for Gig Workers Rising, told TechCrunch.