Newswise — A report released today by the Center for State Policy Analysis (cSPA) at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life examines a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would give gig drivers some new and valuable protections--but would deny them the full complement of rights traditionally afforded to employees.
The proposed initiative, which would appear on this November’s ballot, applies to gig drivers who work for ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, as well as delivery companies, such as DoorDash.
One complication voters need to understand is that the ballot question is tangled up with a lawsuit the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is pursuing against Uber and Lyft, arguing that the companies must treat drivers like regular employees.
Currently, gig drivers are treated as “independent contractors.” That gives them the flexibility to control their own schedule and work for multiple companies, but it leaves them without many benefits traditionally associated with employment such as overtime pay, unemployment insurance, and reimbursement for business costs.
Per the new cSPA report, this ballot question is unusual because it lacks a definitive “keep the status quo” option.
- A “yes” vote would give gig drivers some valuable new protections, including a minimum pay guarantee, per-mile reimbursement and paid sick leave. The attorney general’s lawsuit would be blocked, and drivers would be formally declared “independent contractors” rather than “employees.”
- A “no” vote would rely on the result of the ongoing lawsuit, where courts—rather than voters or lawmakers—will decide whether gig drivers are actually employees under current law.
Both the lawsuit and the ballot question are targeted at a small part of a bigger challenge, which is the lack of clear rules and protections for gig workers at large.
However, there is still time for lawmakers to resolve this situation through legislation, without need for a ballot question or lawsuit.
“Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as a ride-hailing app,” said Evan Horowitz, executive director of cSPA. "And while the world of gig work has grown explosively since then, the rules and protections for gig workers remain unclear. This ballot question is a chance for voters to have their say.”
“Delivery and ridesharing apps provide modern conveniences that rely on a similarly modern form of labor: the gig driver,” noted Caitlin Gorback, lead researcher on the cSPA report. “How Massachusetts chooses to classify gig drivers today will inform labor relationships in the broader gig economy tomorrow.”
cSPA provides expert, nonpartisan analysis of legislative proposals and ballot questions in Massachusetts. It is based at Tufts University and guided by a bipartisan advisory group. cSPA is supported by Tisch College along with a diverse group of funding sources from across the political spectrum. These funders have no involvement in cSPA's research.