Arguing that app-based companies such as Uber and Lyft shift costly burdens onto taxpayers by denying drivers employee status, a new coalition of labor, civil rights and racial justice groups launched an effort Tuesday to oppose the tech giants in their effort to rewrite state labor laws.
Dozens of activists with the Coalition to Protect Workers' Rights kicked off their campaign outside the State House, pledging to fight gig economy leaders as the debate over wage and benefit guarantees for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts drivers picks up steam.
While Uber and Lyft face a lawsuit from Attorney General Maura Healey over driver classification, the companies and their allies have been pushing the Legislature to approve legislation (H 1234) that would change state law to ensure that all app-based drivers can be designated as independent contractors rather than employees, while also creating "portable benefit accounts" for drivers.
"What our coalition wants is for Big Tech to follow the law and classify their workers as employees who are entitled to the very basic protections that we've all fought hard for: a minimum wage, sick time, paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, and protection against sexual harassment," said Chrissy Lynch, chief of staff at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. "We have come together to oppose the campaign by Big Tech to rewrite long-standing Massachusetts laws that would exclude hundreds of thousands of workers from these fundamental rights and protections."
The companies have not committed to pursing a ballot question, which they must decide by the Aug. 4 deadline to launch a 2022 initiative petition campaigns, but opponents said Tuesday they expect the fight to go before voters.
Hours after the Coalition to Protect Workers' Rights launched, the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work — which includes Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and business groups — plans to hold its own virtual press conference at 1 p.m. to detail a poll it commissioned that found most Bay State drivers would prefer to retain the flexibility of independent contractors.