As app-based rideshare and delivery drivers voice their support for ballot measure, opponents launch ridiculous attacks that fold under mildest scrutiny.
CONTACT: Conor Yunits, 857-276-8479, firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON, MA – August 3, 2021 – While app-based rideshare and delivery drivers gathered at the Massachusetts State House and Springfield City Hall to voice their support for a proposed ballot question that would deliver historic new benefits while maintaining driver flexibility, opponents of the measure resorted to spreading falsehoods in the press.
The opposition’s entire argument is based on false premises and misunderstanding of what the vast majority of rideshare and delivery workers truly want. The ballot initiative will not lead to loss of rights: it will provide new, groundbreaking rights to drivers.
The ballot initiative is the first step in giving drivers protections and benefits they have previously never had through rideshare and delivery platforms. It would expand their access to paid leave, healthcare, minimum earnings, and discrimination protections.
The ballot question represents, in fact, a huge and immediate expansion of benefits and protections for drivers.
Below is a line by line comparison of the fictional claims made by opponents and the actual truth of what the proposed ballot question contains:
Massachusetts Rideshare & Delivery Ballot Question: Myths vs. Facts
Myth: Gig companies are spending “$100 million” on this ballot campaign.
Fact: This number is literally made up out of nowhere and repeated throughout the opposition’s press release. This is a completely baseless claim.
Myth: “The ballot language would allow tech giants to pay workers less than minimum wage”
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: “The ballot language…would remove app-based workers from legal protections against workplace injuries.”
Fact: False. 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.
Myth: “Extensive loopholes create a subminimum wage for app-based workers: Far from what Big Tech falsely promises, labor economists found that nearly identical Uber ballot measure in California guaranteed just $5.64 per hour after loopholes.”
Fact: Again, the ballot question sets an earnings floor of at least 120% of minimum wage ($18 per hour for 2023) plus $0.26 per mile towards vehicle expenses. Drivers also keep 100% of their tips. Additionally, because they would remain independent contractors, they could continue to deduct mileage and other expenses from their taxes. This earnings floor is just that, a floor — drivers can always earn more.
Myth: The ballot question “Removes antidiscrimination protections for app-based workers. Ballot measure exempts Big Tech companies from the robust protections of Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.”
Fact: The ballot initiative prohibits companies from discriminating against app-based drivers on any characteristic protected by the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
Myth: “Less than 10% of app-based workers would qualify for the healthcare stipend. For the few workers that qualify, the benefit is about $68 per month, less than 20% of the cost of a Bronze level family plan.”
Fact: Here the opposition is admitting that gig work is NOT full-time work for the vast majority of drivers, which undercuts their most basic argument. The reality is that the majority of drivers receive healthcare from other sources, often from a full-time job.
Additionally, the opposition’s framing here is again misleading: even in full-time employment, employers do not usually cover 100% of monthly premium contributions for employees.
Beyond that, the Massachusetts ballot initiative incorporates the same healthcare stipend benefit that is available to app-based drivers in California. Based on the current cost of a Bronze plan, app-based drivers in CA currently receive a stipend of $614 per quarter if they average at least 15 hours per week and $1,228 per quarter if they average 25 hours per week or more. The benefit levels in Massachusetts will likely be different since ACA bronze-tier plan costs are state-specific. The actual number will not be known until the Health Connector publishes the average statewide monthly premium. Any guesses the opposition makes as to the benefit are speculation.
Myth: “Companies can continue arbitrary, unfair, discriminatory deactivations.”
Fact: Companies are expressly prohibited from discriminating against app-based drivers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other protected class in contracting or deactivation. The ballot initiative requires companies to provide opportunity for app-based drivers to appeal deactivation and prohibits deactivation for any reason not identified in the driver’s contract.
Myth: “Allows companies to cheat state unemployment system of hundreds of millions… allows gig giants to free-ride on a system paid for by law-abiding Massachusettts businesses.”
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: “No Social Security contributions from Uber/Big Tech. Gig giants seek special exemption from paying into Social Security. Workers denied basic dignity in retirement.”
Fact: Social security is a federal issue. Neither the ballot measure nor any other state law would impact this issue.
Myth: “Perpetuates ‘false choice’ on flexibility. While Big Tech expands flexibility for favored, high-status employees, the ballot measure falsely claims that drivers can only maintain scheduling flexibility by surrendering all other worker rights.”
Fact: Schedule flexibility and flexibility to decide whether or when to work at all are not the same. Right now, app-based workers can choose to work when they want, where they want and for however long they want. They can choose whether to accept a job or not. They enjoy unlimited upward earning potential and can decide to take time off whenever they want, for however long they want, without needing to ever ask a “boss.”
By contrast, coffee baristas or grocery store cashiers don’t get to choose the location they work at or how long their shifts are, nor are they in control of which orders they want to make. A Starbucks barista cannot walk across the street in the middle of her shift and start pouring cups at Dunkin Donuts. These employees instead earn a flat wage and have to get permission to take time off, and risk negative consequences if they take too much time off. This is what app-based companies would have to do with set shifts, flat wages and limits on when and how people could work.
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.
App-based rideshare and delivery workers and their partners in the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work are also pursuing legislation at the State House that would add benefits and protections while maintaining flexibility.
The ballot measure is supported by a fast-growing coalition of drivers and allies in the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work.
Learn more about the coalition at: http://www.independentmass.org/