Drivers Pressure Lawmakers From Different Directions

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Staring down the prospect of legislative action, a pair of ballot question campaigns and a lawsuit, a representative for Lyft warned lawmakers Monday that changing the status quo too much could significantly downsize the company's fleet of drivers.

High-ranking employees for Uber and Lyft addressed legislators during a packed Financial Services Committee hearing, where they urged the Legislature not to advance union-backed bills that would reshape how the popular on-demand ride platforms classify and compensate their workers.

Six bills are on the committee's agenda, each seeking varying levels of reform to the benefits and protections available to drivers as well as language affecting whether they should be treated as employees or independent contractors under state law.

Brendan Joyce, a public policy manager at Lyft, said proposals (H 1158 / S 627) backed by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO "would likely result in tens of thousands of drivers stopping app-based work altogether, compounding the ongoing transportation crisis here in the commonwealth."

Joyce said Lyft hopes to achieve a compromise "in partnership with the Legislature" to provide drivers with more benefits while retaining independent contractor status, similar to a law passed in Washington state last year.

Organized labor groups, who are pushing several different proposals to reform the industry, argue that many drivers earn less than minimum wage after accounting for on-the-job expenses and work without protections and benefits associated with employees.

Drivers who both support and oppose the status quo packed Gardner Auditorium for the hearing, a sign of the pressure lawmakers might feel to craft a compromise and avert a series of expensive, complicated ballot questions campaigns in 2024.

Financial Services Committee Co-chair Sen. Paul Feeney said at the start of Monday's hearing that 275 people signed up to testify, adding that "if you do the math at three minutes of testimony, [that] is going to put us to a 12- to 13-hour hearing."

Written by Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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