Rideshare is an essential service — let’s protect it in Massachusetts

After a judge ordered Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers and grant them basic workers rights, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is threatening to suspend operations in California. With similar legal action pending in the Bay State, Massachusetts could be next.

Threatening to suspend rideshare is not a joke. Like it or not, Uber and Lyft are now essential features of our transportation system. Many doctors and nurses use rideshare to get to work, and I have personally delivered patients to the ER because they could not afford an ambulance. Uber and Lyft drivers are at the heart of keeping our other essential services running during this pandemic.

Should CEOs have the right to shut down major segments of our society in a temper tantrum designed to protect their foreign investors? Should they have the right to throw thousands of drivers, many of whom have just returned to work, back into unemployment? Should they have the right to hamstring our health sector in the middle of a pandemic? Who takes priority in our society: essential workers or Uber’s owners, also known as Softbank, Saudi Arabia, and Goldman Sachs?

We cannot afford to leave rideshare in the hands of such undeserving stewards. The existence of Lyft shows that there is nothing special about Uber; any nerd, with the right resources, can build a rideshare app. 

Meanwhile, the MBTA is crippled by decades of underfunding. Let’s kill two birds with one stone by letting the MBTA run ridesharing in Boston. We can fully fund public transit, ensure our essential services, pay drivers fair wages, work towards a greener commute, and give a warm and colorful Boston greeting to Mr. Dara while we’re at it. 

Is there any doubt Massachusetts has the nerds needed to take rideshare into public ownership? Let’s put them to work. 

Henry De Groot is the Executive Director of the Boston Independent Drivers Guild, an association of Uber and Lyft drivers.

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