BOSTON, MA – October 10, 2023 – Today, rideshare drivers from across the Commonwealth testified in front of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to ask for their freedom and flexibility to choose when, where, and for how long they work.
The Committee hearing covered dozens of pieces of legislation, including H. 1848, which offers a solution to the flexibility issue while also ensuring drivers have strong benefits and protections. The bill would define network drivers in Massachusetts as independent contractors with required minimum compensation and benefits. Throughout the hearing, drivers expressed their desire to remain flexible and independent.
Enderson Rafael Mejia Jimenez began driving with rideshare apps in his neighborhood of Lynn after graduating from college in 2020. “I was looking for a second job that would help me pay off my student loans and save some extra money for emergencies,” he said. “Driving gives me the ability to work around my full-time job as a civil engineer and make extra money on my own schedule. This flexibility is crucial for me to make the additional income that I need to pay off my student loans.”
Juri Love, a rideshare driver with Lyft resides in Foxboro. “I began working as a driver because of the ability to make my own schedule. Driving provides me with a steady income and the flexibility that I need to care for my active children, as a single mother,” said Love. “A job with a traditional 9 am to 5 pm schedule would never provide me with the flexibility that I need to accomplish everything that I am doing.”
The flexibility of being a rideshare driver allows Zaira Flete of Haverhill to care for her elderly parents. “If I had a typical 9-5 job, I would have to request time off very often to take my parents to all their doctor’s appointments,” she said. “Driving gives me the ability to work around my parents’ health needs, my own schedule and gives me the flexibility to expand upon my own business on the side.”
A lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General in 2020 remains pending, leaving the future of thousands of drivers in the hands of the courts. If the lawsuit is successful, rideshare drivers in Massachusetts could be re-classified as employees instead of independent contractors under Massachusetts labor laws at the expense of their flexibility, and potentially, their ability to earn. A trial in this matter has been scheduled for May 2024.
At the same time, labor groups at the State House are pushing legislation that would strip drivers of their flexibility, with some proposals going much further. For example, legislation proposed by the AFL-CIO includes provisions that would establish new “base locations” or dispatch zones that would significantly restrict driver flexibility, forcing them to operate in distinct geographic areas, regardless of what is convenient or most profitable for them, and limiting driver availability elsewhere; and another provision that would create local licensing requirements for rideshare. A patchwork system of regulations would deter drivers from providing services, since compliance with each distinct town rule would be almost impossible.
Unless the legislature can work with all parties to find a compromise that protects the flexibility and independence that drivers overwhelmingly support, these labor groups will continue to try and force drivers to become employees against their will and upend the rideshare and delivery industries for drivers, consumers, and small businesses.
In Washington state, Democratic legislators convened all parties to work toward a solution for rideshare drivers. They brought drivers and companies together with local Teamsters and other labor leaders to find a solution that protected flexibility while creating new benefits. Drivers remain confident this can happen in Massachusetts too.