New Labor Protections for Uber and Lyft Drivers in Massachusetts

A coalition of labor leaders and workers will push for new protections for Uber and Lyft drivers in the current legislative session in Massachusetts. The bills (HD 2071 / SD 1162), supported by the International Association of Machinists and 32BJ SEIU, aims to secure a minimum wage, paid sick time, unemployment insurance, discrimination protection, and collective bargaining rights for ride-hailing service workers. This time, the Machinists’ union, which fought for a similar bill focused on collective bargaining in the previous session, has joined forces with 32BJ SEIU, a union that has organized personal care attendants and child care workers in the past. The 94-page bill expands on a previous version that only focused on compensation and benefits for drivers.

Benefits for Drivers

The bill does not set a minimum number of hours for workers to be eligible for a minimum wage, workers compensation, or discrimination protection. Hour limits may come into play for benefits such as health care after they have been established through the collective bargaining system that the bill would create. The bill faces opposition from a coalition of businesses and allies, who have their own proposal to make different benefits available to drivers.

Requirements for Rideshare Companies

The bill would require rideshare companies to cover some driving expenses, which is a pain point for many drivers who say the cost of gasoline and vehicle maintenance reduces their earnings. It would also require companies to pay into the state’s unemployment insurance system, and drivers could access those jobless benefits.

Scope of the Bill

The bill only focuses on transportation network companies, the most well-known of which are Uber and Lyft, and would not apply to drivers on app-based delivery platforms like DoorDash. However, the sponsors of the bill hope that its passage will serve as a model for other sectors.

Classification of Drivers

The bill is silent on the classification of drivers as independent contractors or employees, which was a heated topic in the previous session. However, the bill aims to ensure that drivers can access the listed rights, regardless of the outcome of the court battle or a potential ballot fight, even if drivers are declared contractors.

While this is good for most drivers, as it would provide better working conditions, we wish there were bills being passed that crack down on how Uber and Lyft hire drivers and fail to do proper background checks.

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