Trial Slated to Start on May 13, 2024
After touting recent settlements in New York as a possible template for action by the Massachusetts Legislature, Uber collected signatures from more than 5,000 of its drivers here on a petition urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would keep drivers classified as independent contractors while entitling them to an earnings guarantee and new benefits.
Uber and Lyft reached settlements in early November with New York Attorney General Letitia James to resolve wage theft allegations and Uber agreed to a separate settlement with New York State Department of Labor to address past and future unemployment insurance liability. Through the settlements, thousands of rideshare drivers in New York will gain access to benefits like a pay floor, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits. The drivers will still be considered independent contractors.
“The reason I think this is applicable for Massachusetts is because this is exactly what a lot of us have been talking to the Legislature [about] … exactly the type of forward thinking we want to work with the state Legislature on,” Josh Gold, senior director of public policy and communications at Uber, told the News Service earlier this month.
Uber has since doubled down on the strategy of floating the New York settlements as a model.
In the weeks after the settlements were announced, the company collected driver signatures on a petition urging “the Massachusetts Legislature to take action now by using the framework outlined by the New York Attorney General to pass legislation that would codify our status as independent contractors while implementing an earnings guarantee, providing new benefits, and expanding protections.” The petition was signed by more than 5,000 drivers from across Massachusetts.
The Legislature will soon have to decide whether or how to address a complex set of issues around app-based drivers. An industry-backed committee is pursuing a ballot question that would define the drivers as independent contractors — how the companies currently classify drivers — under state law while extending them some new benefits, like an earnings floor 20 percent higher than minimum wage. A separate ballot question campaign is looking to give drivers the right to unionize.
Both questions are expected to go to the Legislature for consideration in January. If lawmakers opt against action by May 1, 2024, campaigns can collect more signatures to proceed to the Nov. 5, 2024 statewide ballot.
But even with legislative action, Uber and Lyft are facing a lawsuit that now-Gov. Maura Healey filed against them in July 2020 alleging that the practice of classifying drivers as contractors instead of employees violates the state’s wage and hour laws and serves to boost company profits.
The slow-moving case is expected to go to trial starting May 13, 2024.