Lyft has already shelled out $14.4 million for a likely November vote in Massachusetts that would consolidate its drivers as contractors rather than employees — and the vast majority of those funds were paid in a single $13 million donation, the largest in the state’s history. by a considerable margin. It’s an unequivocal opening salvo in what will likely be a bitter and drawn-out battle, the playbook to which Lyft and its gig work successfully compare themselves. tested in california two years ago.
While the Boston Globe reports, Lyft has so far contributed most of the Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers the committee’s $17.2 million war chest, which is intended to fund the next voting measure. The rest comes from Uber, DoorDash and Maplebear, the owner of Instacart. The previous record for the largest single donation was nearly one-third the size: $5.1 million contribution of General Motors in 2020.
Currently Lyft and Uber are involved in a lawsuit, filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General, which alleges that companies are misclassifying their workforce of drivers as contractors. Enjoying contractor status relieves them of many of the costs and obligations associated with employees – such as minimum wage, health care and overtime pay – but true contractors often control how and when they work and what they charge for their services. Whether or not shared drivers have this level of autonomy has become a point of legal dispute in several of the States and countries in which these companies operate.
So far, California has prosecuted its defense of temporary workers as employees most vociferously, first through a state Supreme Court. decision in 2018, then by AB5, a invoice successfully approved that (albeit briefly) established these types of drivers as employees. It took effect on January 1, 2020, and was overturned by the Proposition 22 voting measure in November of that year. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates poured a historic $224 million into the proposal — outstripping their opposition, which largely consisted of unions, by more than 10 to 1 — the most expensive voting measure in California history.
Although Prop 22 was finally decided unconstitutional, the strategy so far has been successful for temporary work companies. The legislative changes were tied up in court, and nowhere in the United States are Lyft or Uber drivers currently entitled to the full range of benefits enjoyed by full-time employees.
When defending Prop 22, the concert companies essentially employed two lines of attack. The first, against its own workers, was an easy attempt to link the concept of “flexibility” to contracting status, a totally false dichotomy perpetuated by the companies themselves. The second was to convince California voters that the costs associated with a fleet of employed drivers would force them to reduce service or raise prices.
After the approval of Prop 22, all companies that supported it raised prices anyway. Uber’s CEO also recently stated in a call with investors that, in the face of potential employee status regulations in the European Union, Uber can indeed afford to “make any model work” Financially. We reached out to Lyft to ask if they are in a similar position.
Given this much-publicized bait and trade-off, it seems unlikely that the Massachusetts Drivers’ Flexibility and Benefits committee will be able to successfully argue the same case regarding cost to consumers. Even so, the US$ 17.2 million already accrued was paid, as the Globe reports, a number of major political consultancies that were behind what is currently the most expensive (and likely soon to be second most expensive) ballot in Massachusetts history, which sought to impede the right to redress the law.
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