ICYMI: Drivers from Across Massachusetts Discuss Ballot Question

CONTACT: Conor Yunits, 857-276-8479, cyunits@solomonmccown.com

BOSTON, MA – September 8, 2021 – Rideshare and delivery drivers from across Massachusetts held a virtual press conference today to respond to additional myths shared by opposition groups this morning. 

Four drivers from different parts of Massachusetts joined the video conference with reporters to voice their support for a recently certified ballot initiative, which drivers support by a margin of 7:1, that would grant historic new benefits for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers in the Commonwealth while allowing them to maintain their flexibility as independent contractors.

Drivers said: 

“A lot of these other drivers that I’m seeing on the opposing coalition are looking at it as if they are already employees of these companies. We’re not employees. I’ve never been an employee for these companies. You tell me any job where you can walk in, clock in and go to work and then decide ‘Oh I don’t want to do this today,’ clock out, go somewhere else, clock in, and work there instead,” said Matthew Rose of Wareham. “It’s a completely different type of industry, and that’s what we need to recognize.” 

“If you haven’t walked in our shoes, it’s kind of hard to understand where we’re coming from,” said Naomi Birabwa of Framingham. “This flexibility is so important to us. It’s empowering as well. Having this be able to be your own business, it’s like you’re building your brand, building your business. It has so many benefits, so it’s really important that this independence stays.” 

“I heard one driver say from the rally that it was like, they compared it to slavery, driving for Lyft and Uber, which I thought was absurd,” said Marcus Cole of Dorchester. “Because that’s the whole point of this: you don’t have to do it. You can go get another job and guess what, you can still jump on Lyft and Uber and have that choice. So there’s no comparison to the flexibility and freedom that we have.”

“Nobody wants to hire someone with my health issues who has to call out sick once or twice a week. So the ability to set my own schedule and make my own decisions on when I work is a great, great thing for me, and I don’t know any other opportunity that’s going to allow me to do that,” said Pam Bennett of Springfield. “That’s why I’m so passionate about this. It’s not really a job, it’s a way of life for me. It’s time to open up your mind. Your mind is like an umbrella, it only works if it’s open.” 

The opposition event this morning also reiterated a number of debunked myths, including:

Myth: “Workers are paid far less than the minimum wage. They don’t get reimbursed for gas and other expenses.”

Fact: The ballot language explicitly states that drivers would earn at least 120% of minimum wage plus pay to cover mileage and vehicle expenses. Unlike employees, drivers also receive tips on top of this guaranteed wage, which makes this a higher earnings floor than offered in countless other industries. 

Myth: “They get no sick time…”

Fact: The ballot question would make app-based rideshare and delivery drivers in Massachusetts eligible for the same paid sick time benefits that Massachusetts employees enjoy, and enroll drivers in the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave system, which provides up to 26 weeks of paid leave.

Myth: “…they get no unemployment…”

Fact: Extending unemployment benefits to all workers, such as freelancers and gig workers, is not as simple as classifying them as employees for the purposes of unemployment insurance. State unemployment systems and criteria weren’t designed to meet the needs of a workforce that works entirely on demand, at the workers’ discretion, and is not fired or laid off. 

The opposition glosses over these nuances. It would be challenging or impossible to identify which drivers are entitled to UI benefits. In an open marketplace like app-based work, where anyone with appropriate equipment and the ability to pass a background check can access work, an individual can only lose access to the earnings opportunity when they are deactivated. For gig workers, in the vast majority of cases, individuals are only deactivated when they have violated a platform’s community guidelines, e.g. committed fraud, a safety violation — activities that would generally preclude a worker from subsequently receiving UI benefits.

Myth: “…they get no Social Security.”

Fact: Social security is a federal issue. Neither the ballot measure nor any other state law would impact this issue.

Myth: “If workers are injured, discriminated against or harassed, they’re just on their own.”

Fact: The ballot language specifically provides occupational accident insurance for drivers. This insurance covers injuries suffered whenever the driver is online using an app-based platform. It’s one of the core provisions. The ballot question also prohibits companies from discriminating against app-based drivers on any characteristic protected by the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

Fact: The proposed ballot question:

  • Secures the overwhelmingly popular flexibility that app-based rideshare and delivery drivers currently enjoy. The ballot question will ensure that rideshare and delivery drivers can continue to work whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they want, with as many platforms as they want. 
  • Provides historic new benefits, including healthcare stipends, paid sick time, paid family & medical leave, and occupational accident insurance.
  • Guarantees app-based rideshare and delivery drivers an earnings floor of 120% of the state minimum wage ($18 per hour for 2023), not including tips. This is the floor – drivers can always earn more. Drivers will also be guaranteed at least $0.26 per mile to cover vehicle maintenance costs – this is money in their pockets in addition to what they can deduct from their taxes.
  • Protects app-based rideshare and delivery drivers against discrimination and provides an opportunity to appeal account deactivation – protections that largely do not currently exist for independent contractors in Massachusetts law.
  • Trains drivers on critical public safety issues like recognition and prevention of sexual assault and misconduct, collision avoidance and defensive driving, and proper handling of food or grocery deliveries. These trainings will promote the protection of consumers, workers and the community. And drivers will be paid for the required training time.