UFCW Local 328 News

Massachusetts drivers, delivery workers, and allies slam Proposition 22-copycat ballot language as discriminatory assault on workers’ civil and economic rights

Local advocates and drivers say Uber/Big Tech’s $100 million campaign is intended to deliberately mislead voters, continue exploitation of growing, app-based workforce

BOSTON, MA – Ballot initiative language to be filed Wednesday by Big Tech giants Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart would permanently create a “second class” status for drivers, delivery workers, and other “app-based” workers in Massachusetts, more than 70 percent of whom are Black, Brown and immigrant workers. According to experts, the ballot language would allow tech giants to pay workers less than minimum wage, make no contributions to unemployment or Social Security, and remove app-based workers from legal protections against workplace injuries, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, a growing alliance of drivers, delivery workers and organizations, including the NAACP New England Area Conference, the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, and other groups pledged to oppose the expected $100 million campaign funded by Uber and other tech giants, calling out the measure as exploitative, racially discriminatory and deceptive, similar to a fight in California last year. In a measure known as Proposition 22, gig giants spent $220 million to win special exemptions from labor and civil rights laws in California. The national worker power and media group, More Perfect Union, highlighted the Massachusetts ballot campaign as a national fight in a new video.

“The ballot language from Uber and Lyft is a $100 million ploy to avoid paying taxes, avoid paying workers fairly, and allow Big Tech companies to buy their way out of the basic obligations of every other business,” said Beth Griffith, an Uber driver and spokesperson for the Coalition. “Drivers and delivery workers, most of us Black, Brown and immigrants, are tired of being treated like ‘second class’ workers by these multibillion dollar tech companies. When we ask these companies to simply follow the law, they threaten our jobs.”

According to the Coalition, some of the most troubling aspects of the Big Tech ballot language include:

  • Extensive loopholes create a subminimum wage for app-based workers: Far from what Big Tech falsely promises, labor economists found that nearly identical Uber ballot measure in California guaranteed just $5.64 per hour after loopholes. 
  • Removes antidiscrimination protections for app-based workers. Ballot measure exempts Big Tech companies from the robust protections of Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, MGL c. 151B, and removes state agency enforcement for app-based workers.
  • Less than 10% of app-based workers would qualify for the healthcare stipend. For the few workers that qualify, the benefit is about $68 per month, less than 20% of the cost of a Bronze level family plan
  • Ballot eliminates 113 year-old Workers’ Compensation rules for Big Tech backers. Injured drivers and delivery workers denied protections in the fine-print. 
  • Companies can continue arbitrary, unfair, discriminatory deactivations. No process outlined to earn reinstatement.
  • Allows companies to cheat state unemployment system of hundreds of millions. While New Jersey seeks to recoup millions from gig giants, ballot measure allow gig giants to free-ride on a system paid for by law-abiding Massachusettts businesses.
  • No Social Security contributions from Uber/Big Tech. Gig giants seek special exemption from paying into Social Security. Workers denied basic dignity in retirement. 
  • Perpetuates “false choice” on flexibility. While Big Tech expands flexibility for favored, high-status employees, the ballot measure falsely claims that drivers can only maintain scheduling flexibility by surrendering all other worker rights.

“Big Tech companies exploit vulnerable workers and undermine efforts to build wealth and opportunity in Black and Brown communities,” said Mimi Ramos, Executive Director at New England United 4 Justice and a leader in the Coalition. “This ballot measure undermines progress on racial justice and sets back the clock on civil rights. Not gonna happen on our watch.”

“Big Tech should follow the same laws as everyone else, pay their taxes, contribute to Social Security, and treat their workers with basic fairness,” said Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and Chair of the Coalition Board. “Massachusetts voters know these companies aren’t spending $220 million to help low-wage workers. They’re doing it to help themselves.”

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About the Coalition: Twitter: @noprop22ma | FB: @NoProp22MA | www.noprop22ma.com

The Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights is a broad alliance of workers, civil rights, immigrant, faith, labor, community organizing, racial and environmental justice groups who believe that all workers in Massachusetts should be able to earn a decent wage, take care of their health, and protect against harassment and discrimination on the job. We oppose the $100M+ campaign by Big Tech companies to undermine our law, as they recently did in California through Proposition 22, to exclude workers from basic rights and exempt themselves from the obligations of every other employer.