ICYMI: Washington signs into law legislation protecting independence and flexibility for rideshare drivers; Massachusetts drivers ask state leaders to support a solution here too

Washington passed into law flexibility + benefit bill

More than 6,400 drivers sign petition in support of ballot initiative in Massachusetts

CONTACT: Conor Yunits, 857-276-8479, cyunits@solomonmccown.com

BOSTON, MA – April 1, 2022 – With the support of drivers, the local Teamsters union, and a Democratic legislature, Washington signed into law a bill that will grant new benefits and protections to app-based rideshare drivers while protecting their flexibility and independence. This law is the latest example of diverse stakeholders, including labor leaders, coming together to find solutions that provide flexibility and benefits. 

In Massachusetts this week, dozens of app-based delivery and rideshare drivers spoke to legislative leaders about a Massachusetts-specific solution that would also protect independence and provide access to benefits. 

From the MarketWatch story on Washington: 

“We’ve been fighting for this,” said Peter Kuel, president of the Drivers Union near Seattle, which is affiliated with Teamsters Local 117 and says it represents 30,000 drivers in three counties in the area. “This is good for drivers,” he said in an interview with MarketWatch.

State Rep. Liz Berry, a Democrat who represents a district that includes parts of the Seattle area, told MarketWatch in an interview recently that she is proud of the bill she wrote. Drivers were her “North Star” as she worked on the details with input from Uber, Lyft, the local unions and others, she said.

Here in Massachusetts, drivers from across the Commonwealth joined this week’s Joint Committee on Financial Services hearing to express their support for protecting drivers’ flexibility and independence while granting them access to new benefits. Dozens of drivers testified in favor of flexibility and benefits at the hearing, joined in spirit by more than 6,400 Massachusetts drivers who signed a petition supporting a proposed ballot question. 

“At the last hearing, and today, I heard a lot of people say that drivers can be employees and still keep the flexibility we have now,” said Pam Bennett, who drives with DoorDash. “That’s just wrong, and it comes from a complete misunderstanding of the kind of flexibility we are talking about.”

“Talk to drivers,” said Charles Clemmons, who drives with Lyft and Uber. “Don’t just take the word of the loudest voices who want to complain, or the people who think they know best. Actually talk to drivers. Talk to lots of them. Talk to black drivers and white drivers and latino drivers. Ask them if they want to be employees, or if they want to keep their independence.”

“When the pandemic hit, and school went remote, my granddaughter initially struggled,” said Rachel Brown, who drives with Lyft and Uber. “But because of the flexibility of driving, I was able to spend time with her and help her adjust to remote learning. Despite those early struggles, she is now an honor roll student. Shift-based work would never have given me that kind of freedom, and let’s be clear, employment means shift-based work.”

“Because I have my independence, my ever-changing schedule throughout my pregnancy and with my newborn child was never a problem,” said Prossie Namanda, who shops with Instacart. “I am urging Massachusetts lawmakers to keep it that way. This ballot initiative would protect my flexibility as a shopper and would allow me to keep earning money that lets me take care of my child.”

“Everybody is hiring right now for $15 – $16 – $17 per hour,” said Luis Ramos, who drives with Lyft. “Driving into Boston you can see billboards advertising bus driver positions with $4500 signing bonuses. Why would I drive for Uber and Lyft if the pay is so low and being an employee is so great? Because that is not the truth, and I do not want to be an employee.”

The Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers committee is committed to establishing a new law that secures rideshare and delivery earning opportunities for residents statewide who value flexibility, and that provides access to company-paid benefits such as healthcare stipends, paid sick time, and family & medical leave.