The battle over the employment status of carpooling drivers in the Mass. intensifies as both sides rally support

The battle over whether carpooling drivers should be classified as employees of companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart has intensified, as both sides testified about a bill that would codify the status of carpoolers. drivers as independent contractors.

The Popular Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights has won support from Boston mayoral candidates, 25 state senators, 44 state officials and Attorney General Maura Healey, who have filed a lawsuit in justice against these companies for allegedly misclassifying its workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The group also made headlines last week about a UC Berkeley study that found that drivers would only earn $ 4.82 in take home pay if the law passed.

On the Big Tech side, the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work has had a letter signed by more than 3,200 Massachusetts-based rideshare drivers who support the bill that would give them certain protections while keeping them as independent contractors. . The group also said the law worked in California.

The two groups clashed in an hour-long hearing by the Joint Committee on Financial Services on Wednesday on the bill. This would block carpool drivers’ status as independent contractors, but grant them certain benefits, including a portable benefit account and some health care coverage. Rideshare companies are embarking on a similar effort through the ballot question process, which means voters could vote on this issue in 2022.

At the hearing, several carpooling drivers testified in favor of the bill, explaining that they use these apps for the flexibility they offer. “DoorDash has really been a blessing for me,” said Pam Bennett, who said she was unable to work due to an injury. “The benefits will just sweeten the already incredible offer I have.”

Other drivers, however, disagreed. Lisa Call, who started driving Uber to send her kids to college, said her outlook changed after she was in an accident while working. “I realized that Uber really doesn’t care too much about me,” she said, adding that it didn’t compensate her for the depreciation of her car or gasoline.

Representative Steve Owens, D-Watertown, asked representatives of ridesharing companies and labor experts why these companies can’t offer benefits while still maintaining flexibility.

“The minute-to-minute flexibility we’re talking about… doesn’t coexist with employment anywhere,” said Jen Hensley, government relations manager at Lyft, a response that was not satisfied with Owens.

Veena Dubal, law professor at UC Hastings, then answered his question. “These companies have a workforce, a labor market that needs flexibility,” she said. “If they take away that flexibility, they won’t have people to do this work. “

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