At its October Membership Meeting last week, the Boston Independent Drivers Guild passed a 10-part Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights. This platform will be the basis for BIDG’s legislative action, as we fight to take on Uber and Lyft through the Massachusetts state legislature. Now BIDG is organizing to turn this platform into Massachusetts law.
Click here to sign our petition calling for the Massachusetts legislature to pass our Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights.
What is the ‘Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights?’
The Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights (RDBR) includes a $20/hr minimum wage plus expenses, protection of drivers’ flexibility, and the right to form a union. Based on Seattle, we estimate that gross pay for this minimum wage will be around $29/hr!
The RDBR also calls for drivers to receive 50 percent of any state taxes on Uber and Lyft, to have protections from passenger harassment, from arbitrary deactivations, and the right to dispute deactivations. If passed, the bill will raise millions of dollars for a driver deactivation center, scholarships for drivers, grants for electric vehicles, as well as funding for affordable housing and public transportation.
The RDBR calls for drivers to enjoy the same worker rights that other Massachusetts workers are entitled to, such as paid sick time, overtime, and paid family leave, but it does not call for rideshare drivers to be classified as employees. Massachusetts already has its own version of California’s AB5 (MGL Ch. 149 S 148b), which was passed in 2004, so there is no need for a new law.
Much of the RDBR is based off of the successes of Teamsters Local 117 in Seattle, Washington. Uber drivers there were recently able to win a $16/hr minimum wage, plus expenses, which will equal about $25/hr gross pay. This represents a $6/hr increase in drivers pay in that city. BIDG is pushing for an even higher minimum wage; even $16/hr is not enough to support a family in Boston. BIDG is also pushing for $25/hr plus expenses for XL-classification drivers, and $30/hr plus expenses for luxury-classification drivers.
Hourly Pay vs. Raising Rates vs. Set Percentage
In the BIDG October Membership Meeting, there was a healthy debate about how to structure pay increases. Some drivers wanted to go for a minimum hourly wage, others supported raising the per mile and per minute rates, and still others wanted to enshrine a certain percentage of the fair in law. All of these options would be a step forward, and it is a sign of an active and healthy democratic membership to have different opinions coming from our members; as the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a CEO! BIDG is a democratic organization run by rank and file drivers, and so we put the question of pay to a vote.
In the end, focusing on hourly wages won with large, but not unanimous support. The argument in favor of hourly wages is two-fold. First, since we are pushing for legislation, we need to be able to communicate easily with politicians and with the public; everyone understands how hourly pay works, while it would be more difficult to explain raising mileage rates or commission percentages. Second, New York City and Seattle have already raised pay by setting hourly minimums; having precedent elsewhere makes it more convincing to lawmakers that our program is realistic.
Turning our vision into law
At this stage, the RDBR is just a vision; it will take months of committed organizing to turn our vision into law. There will be three main areas of organizing: legislative drafting, lobbying, and coalition building.
Legislative drafting is the process of turning our ten-point program into a bill. BIDG is assembling a special team of volunteers with the experience needed to translate our vision into ‘legalese.’
As our bill takes shape, we will lobby state legislators. BIDG will meet with politicians to speak with them about the issues facing drivers and our proposed solutions. We will ask politicians to co-sign our legislation, and to make an affirmative commitment to supporting it when it comes up to vote.
There will be three stages of lobbying. The first is meeting with half a dozen of our closest political allies in the state house, who will help us draft the bill and plan our strategy. The second will be meeting the legislators who will support and co-sign the bill, but who are unlikely to genuinely champion it; this may be two dozen or so. And the third stage will be going to every single legislator to get a commitment on our bill as it approaches a vote. We need 81 votes to pass in the lower house, and we expect the senate to be more friendly. We have already begun stage one of lobbying and it is going fantastic!
The final area of organizing is coalition building. Our strategy is to design this legislation to benefit both drivers and the community. Our proposal to tax Uber and Lyft will provide millions of dollars in money to drivers, but also millions to working class residents of Massachusetts in funding for affordable housing and public transit, as well as funds to replace our vehicles with greener hybrid or electric vehicles. This strategy will allow us to organize housing, transit, and environmental groups to support our bill. Without this coalition, we would struggle to win the 81 votes we need to pass our legislation.
All in for the Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights
Drivers of Massachusetts shared their hopes for state laws to improve their conditions, and then democratically turned them into a platform: the Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights. Now it is up to all of us to make this vision a reality.
We need you to take action. You can start by signing this petition and sharing it with your friends, whether they are drivers or not. You can also sign up here to be a BIDG ambassador, and we will mail you a kit to help get other drivers involved.
As this fight heats up, we will need drivers to show up to rallies, demonstrations, and protests, and to call their legislators.