Gig companies take worker classification fight to Massachusetts through ballot initiative ' TechCrunch

As the industry fights for its California victory, a coalition of app-based taxi-hailing and on demand delivery companies such as Lyft, Uber and Doordash have filed a petition to the Massachusetts ballot. The petition would allow gig economy workers to be classified as independent contractors.The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work proposes a ballot measure. This comes almost a year after Proposition 22 was approved by California voters. It pitted labor rights advocates against gig-economy companies in a costly multimillion-dollar battle.Lyft, Uber, and several other members of the coalition (which also includes several local chambers in the state of commerce) stated Tuesday that they want the ballot question to be included in the November 2022 elections. To be on the ballot, it must pass a legal review.Lyft cofounder John Zimmer stated Tuesday that while our primary goal is to find a Massachusetts legislative solution, this part of Lyft's continued efforts to advocate the needs of most drivers, Lyfts earnings call showed John Zimmer, Lyfts co-founder. We are still actively seeking the ballot option but we also work closely with the Massachusetts State Legislature to find a solution.According to the coalition, the ballot question proposed by the coalition would give app-based delivery and ride-hail workers new benefits like healthcare stipends. However, they will still be classified as independent contractors.The coalition proposed a floor on earnings equal to 120% the Massachusetts minimum wage ($18 an hour in 2023 via app-based platforms, prior customer tips), and healthcare stipends to drivers who work more than 15 hours per week. According to the coalition, drivers would retain all their tips and receive $0.26 per mile to pay for vehicle upkeep.Labor activists are already restraining the measure. Coalition to Protect Workers Rights is a coalition of several organizations, including the NAACP New England Area Conference and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. It stated Tuesday that the ballot measure contained problematic language that would harm workers.According to the group, there are many loopholes that allow app-based workers to earn a lower wage and few people qualify for healthcare. The group also pointed out that the measure would eliminate anti-discrimination protections and workers compensation rules, and allow companies to cheat the state unemployment program of hundreds of million.Uber, Lyft, and the broader coalition lobby for legislation or a ballot measure, but it is also facing a lawsuit from the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Shealey, who filed last year a suit asking the court to declare that Lyft and Uber drivers are employees under the Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.In its complaint, the AGs Office claims that Lyft and Uber are not able to satisfy a three-part state law test that would allow them classify drivers as independent contractors. Independent contractors are workers who work independently from the company and perform similar work.Since last year, Uber has indicated that it would push for similar laws to Proposition 22. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated in November 2020, during an earnings call with analysts, that the company would be louder for Prop 22 laws.