Alternative to app-based driver petition draws big-time opposition


BOSTON – Dozens of Massachusetts lawmakers, both Boston mayoral candidates, Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins and other public figures will declare their opposition Wednesday to worker classification legislation sought by major gig economy companies.

The coalition of organized labor and community groups fighting the industry-backed campaign said 25 senators and 44 representatives joined their effort to sink a Rep. Mark Cusack bill that would declare app-based drivers to be independent contractors, not employees, while requiring companies to offer them some benefits.

According to the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, opposition to the bill will also come from City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, the finalists in the Boston mayoral race, and Attorney General Maura Healey, who is suing Uber and Lyft alleging their current practice of treating drivers as contractors violates state law.

Opponents rallied Wednesday morning outside the State House ahead of an 11 a.m. Financial Services Committee hearing, where lawmakers will hear testimony about the bill filed by Cusack, of Braintree, and Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield.

“Last year, in California, the same companies pushing H.1234 spent more than $200 million to win these proposals in a ballot campaign,” the 25 senators — representing a majority of the chamber — wrote in a letter to the committee. “Massachusetts should learn from their experience and has the opportunity now to be a national leader when it comes to protecting the rights of gig-based workers.”

Bill and ballot question supporters also hosted a pre-hearing event via Zoom to call for the legislation’s passage, arguing that it would extend new benefit options to drivers while allowing them to retain the flexibility they desire.

“They’ve never done the job, so they don’t know what it entails or even what it would entail if we no longer had independence and we worked for the companies,” Travis Jones, who has driven for DoorDash and UberEats, said of lawmakers who oppose the proposal.

While they press lawmakers to approve the Cusack-Gonzalez bill, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — who are together funding the Coalition for Independent Work — and their allies are also pursuing a similar ballot question that could go before voters in 2022.

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