Tired of working for low wages with no benefits or protections, workers push new bill that includes union rights, discrimination protections, unemployment insurance, higher wages, and more
New legislation backed by SEIU 32BJ, International Association of Machinists, would secure more rights for rideshare drivers than anywhere else in nation
BOSTON, MA – Unwilling to continue waiting for the basic rights and protections they deserve, rideshare drivers across Massachusetts are taking their demands to the Massachusetts State House, in the form of a landmark bill backed by a growing coalition including Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and the International Association of Machinists.
This coalition has organized meetings and events with thousands of drivers, including a recent car caravan to the Massachusetts State House, where workers outlined their immediate demands for change. Now, those demands have been enshrined in a bill that workers endorsed during a series of meetings that brought together drivers organizing with 32BJ SEIU, and those organizing with the International Association of Machinists through the IAM-supported Massachusetts Independent Drivers Guild. This bill will give the workers a path to organize a union in order to bargain with rideshare companies over the issues they care most about: their pay, their benefits, and receiving fair treatment while working.
Thousands of rideshare workers in Massachusetts currently live at or near poverty levels. Last year, a coalition of worker and community groups fought back and prevailed in court against a ballot initiative proposal put forth by rideshare companies that would have further lowered standards for rideshare workers in Massachusetts. As the courts continue to consider various issues with regard to regulations on the emerging industry, drivers are taking to the streets, and now to the State House, to demand immediate action be taken to improve their standards of living and to secure a process for workers to organize. In the bill, drivers are emphasizing rights that they have nearly unanimous agreement on, including the need for higher wages, discrimination protections, and a clear path to unionization in order to collectively bargain for additional improvements with the companies.
This is the first time in Massachusetts that two union organizations of this size have teamed up to help drivers organize and pass legislation. In recent years drivers have made clear their demands for higher pay, union rights, and stronger benefits through a variety of forums and protests. 32BJ SEIU historically has represented thousands of airport workers, janitors, and security guards, many of whom also work as Uber or Lyft drivers, or who have family members doing so. The International Association of Machinists also represents many workers at Boston’s Logan Airport which is a hub of regular activity for countless Uber and Lyft drivers.
The SEIU has previously organized large groups of disparate workers who don’t share a central worksite location in Massachusetts, including personal care attendants and child care workers who, much like the Uber and Lyft drivers, were not able to effectively form unions until reforms were passed legislatively at the state level that smoothed and clarified their path to do so.
If passed into law, the new bill would make transformative changes to the rideshare industry in the state – making Massachusetts the nationwide leader for worker rights within the deeply exploitative App industry. The bill would enshrine the rights of rideshare workers to access and enjoy the protections of unemployment insurance, minimum compensation, discrimination protections, and the right to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Bill HD 2071 and SD 1162 are sponsored by Massachusetts State Representative Frank Moran and State Senators Jason Lewis and Liz Miranda.
“Unions are the best way to eliminate poverty pay, and rideshare workers need the right to organize. I’ve seen people’s pay and benefits improve at the airports when they were able to join 32BJ SEIU. Without the right to unionize, I’m paid below the Massachusetts minimum wage after my expenses. I don’t get the protections nearly every other worker in our state takes for granted. We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary – simply fair pay and dignity at work,” said Uber driver Lisbeth Lopez.
“I sometimes work 60 hours a week just to pay my car insurance, gas, and other work expenses. While other workers in our state have protections at work and the freedom to organize a union, right now rideshare drivers like me are denied those rights. Drivers deserve to have a voice on the job and the chance to improve our safety and working conditions,” said Uber driver and Massachusetts Independent Drivers Guild member Ehab Hilali.
“For far too long, those who work for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have been working with little to no voice. They deserve to have a clear path to having an organized voice, just like other workers,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This ‘Wild West’ ridesharing system needs to end so that drivers can earn a living wage and have safe working conditions right away — not years from now. Massachusetts can lead the way here.”
“I know drivers. I have family members who are drivers. I’ve been speaking directly to rideshare drivers who live in my district and too many are making below the minimum wage with little to no recourse,” said Representative Frank Moran. “This is why I was proud to file this legislation in the House of Representatives, so that Massachusetts has a chance to be the first state in the nation to remedy this crisis for tens of thousands of drivers and their families.”
“I am proud to support legislation that will ensure rideshare drivers have the voice on the job that they deserve,” said Senator Liz Miranda. “Right now, drivers have very little protection and can’t earn enough to put food on the table. The inability of drivers to secure very essential rights, that should be inherent for all workers in the Commonwealth, has made it nearly impossible for immigrants and people of color to climb the economic ladder within the industry. By winning stronger protections for drivers, we will help strengthen families in my district and across the Commonwealth.”
Various bills have been introduced in prior sessions in Massachusetts and other states that would have secured piecemeal rights for these workers, but none have been as comprehensive as the new bill that workers have banded together to introduce in Massachusetts with the support of 32BJ SEIU and the International Association of Machinists. The new legislation is the first-of-its-kind and unlike some regulations or laws passed in other states, it would give workers their first chance at making improvements through the formation of a labor union, while also gaining other immediate rights while they formed a union and began collective bargaining negotiations with the companies.
Last year, Uber revenue hit $8.1 billion over three months ending in June, more than doubling from the year prior. In the company’s quarterly earnings report, UBER stated the number of consumers and drivers using its platform was “at all-time highs.” Uber recorded 122 million people using its platform each month, up 21% from 2021.
With over 175,000 members in 11 states, including 20,000 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, 32BJ SEIU Service Employees International Union is the largest property services union in the country.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is the largest and most powerful airline union in North America, representing more than 100,000 air transport members in North America. The IAM is one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.
The Massachusetts Independent Drivers Guild is a statewide affiliate of the largest rideshare driver organization in the nation and proud to be affiliated with the International Association of Machinists. We are a driver-led and driver-powered advocacy group fighting for the rights of drivers across the country. Our primary mission is to unite drivers in the fight for the right to collective bargaining, which is the only way to stop driver exploitation by giving drivers the power to negotiate equitable work conditions for themselves. We are workers united for a fair industry.