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November 6th, 2023– BOSTON – Today, Representative Andy Vargas of Haverhill testified in support of his bill H.1158, which would affirm employment status for rideshare and food delivery workers (drivers for companies such as Uber, Lyft, Instacart, etc.) Currently the companies skirt employment law by classifying drivers as independent contractors, which exempts them from the benefits and protections guaranteed with employee status in Massachusetts.
Employees in Massachusetts are ensured particular rights under the law; these rights include (but are not limited to) a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, health insurance, overtime regulations, sick leave, and more. By classifying drivers as independent contractors, the companies exempt themselves from providing the protections and benefits that are legally mandated for employees. Representative Vargas’ bill would affirm that drivers for these types of companies are employees under the law, ensuring they receive the full slate of labor protections other employees receive. The bill also expands protections by ensuring that drivers are compensated for all working time. The bill mandates data collection to increase transparency and allows municipalities to mitigate issues associated with these companies such as smog and traffic congestion. Representative Vargas filed the bill in partnership with the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and Senator Lydia Edwards of East Boston. Representative Vargas joined Senator Edwards, AFL-CIO's president Chrissy Lynch, and a former rideshare driver to testify in support of the bill today in front of the Joint Committee on Financial Services.
The companies have proposed creating a separate set of benefits for drivers, which labor advocates have described as being sub-par compared with the protections they would receive if they were classified as employees. Uber and Lyft are currently being sued by the Attorney General’s office for misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors. The Attorney General’s office alleges that drivers are employees and are entitled to the protections that classification entails.
This comes off the heels of the New York Attorney General’s office announcing that Uber and Lyft must pay $328 million as part of a settlement in response to a wage theft lawsuit. The companies will also be required to pay a minimum wage and pay into certain state systems in New York including Unemployment Insurance. Prior to the New York lawsuit, the issue of gig worker classification became a battle in California. Rideshare companies poured $224 million into a ballot question campaign (Prop 22) that carved rideshare drivers out of employee protections by classifying them as independent contractors. Prop 22 also limited drivers’ ability to collectively bargain.
“Classifying drivers as independent contractors shifts nearly all the risk and liability onto drivers and allows companies to skirt the basic protections other employers must comply with. Our local businesses in Haverhill pay into unemployment insurance, workers comp, and provide a minimum wage and overtime. There’s no reason that multi-billion-dollar corporations should get to carve themselves out and create their own set of rules. While finishing up my degree at BU, I drove for Uber and Lyft and on multiple occasions I remember driving for more than an hour and making less than minimum wage. I’m proud to join AFL-CIO on this issue. This is the worker’s rights issue of our times.” -Representative Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill.
The bill is currently before the Joint Committee on Financial Services.