Massachusetts court rejects ballot to define gig workers as contractors – TechCrunch

In a major setback for app-based gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, a Massachusetts court ruled on Tuesday to reject a proposed ballot measure that, if passed, would define workers in gigs as independent contractors rather than employees.

The unanimous decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the ballot initiative violated state law and was therefore not eligible to go before voters this fall. The ruling, which ended a $17.8 million campaign by gig companies to support the measure, represents a major victory for workers’ rights activists who argue the companies have failed to provide appropriate worker protections and benefits, such as workers’ compensation or even a basic minimum. salary. In fact, one study found that workers in Massachusetts could earn $4.82 an hour if the measure were passed.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, the coalition of app-based gig companies that proposed the ballot initiative, hasn’t confirmed whether or not it will continue to fight in Massachusetts, but the Uber CEO , Dara Khosrowshahi, has repeatedly said that the company would support and promote similar proposals across the United States. Uber and other companies are actively working to do just that in states like Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.

In September 2021, Attorney General Maura Healey gave the coalition the go-ahead to begin collecting the signatures needed to put the measure to voters, though she has sued Uber and Lyft in the past to challenge their definition of drivers in as entrepreneurs.

Judge Scott Kafker on Tuesday said Healey, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was wrong to say the proposal complied with state constitutional requirements limiting ballot measures to related matters. Kafker said the coalition had included a vaguely worded and unrelated proposal to limit companies’ liability for accidents involving their drivers. This is an especially hot topic following research that has documented at least 50 on-the-job gig worker deaths since 2017, with minimal effort by companies to provide support to victims’ families.

The proposed bill mirrors much of California’s Proposition 22, which was passed in California in 2020 but has since been ruled unconstitutional and is now suspended in legal limbo. He called for establishing a pay floor equal to 120% of the state minimum wage, or $18 an hour, before tips. Importantly, companies only count hours when a worker is actively driving to pick up a driver or food and drop off the driver or food, which means that all time spent driving, using gas and looking for unpaid work.

According to the now notional ballot measure, companies would have been required to pay health care benefits if drivers worked at least 15 hours a week, and drivers would have been eligible for paid sick leave and family and family leave. medical paid.

Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the voting issues committee under the coalition, said the court’s decision subverts “the democratic process and [denies] voters the right to make their own decision.

A survey of about 400 Massachusetts drivers, paid by gig companies, found that 81% of workers supported the ballot measure. However, union activists have argued that due to the huge sums of money spent by gig companies convincing drivers that their livelihoods and flexibility are at stake, drivers have been presented with a false choice and misleading between flexibility and benefits, both of which can be obtained as employees.

“It is laughable that these companies are wrongly trying to position themselves as advancing democracy as they try to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy a misleading law that would not only harm our democracy and our communities, but also to taxpayers, drivers and passengers,” said Wes McEnany, campaign manager for theMassachusetts is not for sale,” in a statement.

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