After a three month process of discussion and debate among our driver members, the Boston Independent Drivers Guild has finalized our legislative program for Massachusetts. Our Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights has put drivers behind the steering wheel in determining how to regulate our industry and challenge Uber and Lyft’s assault on worker rights. While Uber and Lyft seek to create a third category in order to keep drivers voiceless and in poverty, our bill gives raises and rights to drivers regardless of category.
While we do not claim to speak for every driver, we can genuinely say that our legislation is the most direct expression of the organic concerns of drivers. Every driver in Massachusetts had an opportunity to voice their input and vote on the final formulation of the bill. Up until the final vote, we were accepting suggestions and altering the bill to reflect driver concerns. Our bill will soon be introduced to the state legislature, where it will be up to lawmakers to turn our vision into reality. The Boston Independent Drivers Guild is now tasked with mobilizing drivers, community supporters, and lawmakers to champion this historic legislation.
A New Approach To Rideshare Rights
At the core of the Rideshare Drivers Bill of Rights is a fundamentally new approach: giving drivers rights regardless of classification status.
While BIDG supports, and indeed initiated, the Attorney General’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft for misclassifying drivers, the recent defeat of AB5 in California shows that winning employee status is not an assured path when Uber and Lyft can buy their way to victory. Uber and Lyft are pushing their bogus “independent contractor plus” third category, which strips drivers of basic worker rights while giving them near-worthless concessions.
In order to pre-empt Uber and Lyft’s counter-attack, BIDG is launching our bill of rights as an offensive to guarantee drivers raises and rights no matter what. If we frame the debate directly on the issues of pay, rights, and unionization, rather than on classification status, the public and legislators will support the drivers’ campaign.
This does not mean that the fight for employee status is not important. Winning employee status will help deliver large settlements to drivers for stolen wages, potentially tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands per driver, and will hold the line in the larger corporate assault on worker rights. But no new law is needed to win employee status; we just need the existing laws to be successfully enforced. And winning employee status at the state level will not give drivers access to unionization.
Additionally, our legislation does not only focus on passenger transport drivers, but also ensures improvements for food delivery drivers, such as those working for UberEats and Instacart.
Ensuring Basic Rights Immediately
The Rideshare Driver Bill of Rights grants basic worker rights to drivers immediately, without waiting for the classification issue to be settled in the courts.
Our legislation gives app-based drivers access to paid sick leave and overtime legislation, simply by writing into the law that drivers are protected by the existing laws. At the start of the pandemic, paid sick leave became a life or death issue, as drivers were forced to choose between working while potentially infected or staying home while bills and rent accumulated.
The bill also gives drivers protection under Massachusetts anti-discrimination law. The rating system used by Uber and Lyft allows customer ratings to lead to drivers being fired. In other words, explicit or implicit discrimination by customers can lead to workers being fired. Common sense tells us that minority and immigrant drivers as a whole are likely receiving lower average ratings, leading these drivers to be deactivated at a higher rate. A lawsuit was launched last fall on this basis, and additional data should be forthcoming. Our bill specifically bans this type of practice.
Our legislation also provides drivers with a custom path to unionization. Even if the courts rule that drivers are employees at the state level, they will not have access to unionization as long as the federal National Labor Relations Board continues to treat them as independent contractors. Therefore, we are proposing to create a system that allows for Massachusetts drivers to have the option of unionizing right away.
Going Further Than The Minimum
While ensuring even basic rights will be a massive step forward, we do not limit our vision to ensuring just the legal minimum. Our legislation aims to empower drivers to work and live with dignity.
For one, the Rideshare Driver Bill of Rights calls for a living wage for drivers, based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator. The pay structure we propose is an altered form of what has been passed in Seattle. Rather than mandating that drivers are paid for waiting time directly, the Seattle model bases itself on a study of the proportion between the times that drivers spend waiting and driving to pick up passengers — for which they are not compensated — and the time that drivers spend with passengers in their vehicles. The pay for passenger time is adjusted to compensate for waiting and dispatch time. This system will prevent the adverse effects we have seen in New York City, where drivers are sometimes unable to go online because the TNCs must pay them during their wait times.
The same proportional system is used to calculate drivers’ per mile rates. And our system goes further than the Seattle system, compensating drivers in the luxury and XL categories at higher rates in order to offset their higher expenses.
Furthermore, our proposal places a cap on new TNC drivers, to stop the race to the bottom. We want our industry to provide opportunity to full- and part-time workers, but first we must ensure the conditions of workers already in the industry.