A Massachusetts court ruled Tuesday that the proposed voting criteria regarding Gig drivers’ job status violated state law and did not qualify to place voters this fall.
The criteria, backed by companies such as Uber and Lift, would classify gig drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, a long-term goal of companies. The ruling effectively ended a .8 17.8 million campaign by gig companies to support the initiative.
The ballot measure had two “fundamentally different policy decisions, one of which is buried in obscure language” violating the state constitution, which requires all parts of the ballot measure to be relevant, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote in its ruling.
The court raised the issue with the action provision stating that the drivers were not “employees or agents” of the Gig company, as it was an attempt to protect Uber and Lift from liability in the event of an accident or crime. That provision was unrelated to the rest of the proposal, which, according to a seven-judge panel, was about the benefits to drivers as independent contractors.
“Petitions burying separate policy decisions in vague language raise concerns that voters will be confused, misled and deprived of meaningful choices,” the court wrote.
The campaign from gig companies to lock the labor status of their drivers in Massachusetts was like an attempt in California two years ago. It would have given drivers some limited benefits but eliminated the need for companies to pay for full health care benefits, time off or other employee benefits.
Gig companies successfully persuaded California voters to pass Proposition 22, a voting criterion that locks drivers’ independent contractor status; It was later overturned by a judge.
Opponents of the Massachusetts ballot measure welcomed the court’s ruling.
“Millions of Massachusetts drivers, passengers and taxpayers can rest on knowing that this unconstitutional bid by Big Tech CEO to tamper with Massachusetts law has been rejected by the Supreme Judicial Court,” said Wes McKenzie, who Wrote in one. Email “The ballot question was written not only as an attempt to curtail the rights of drivers, but also to endanger the rights of passengers and the public.”
Uber and Lift declined to comment, but the organization running the measure expressed frustration and argued that it would have received widespread support in the fall.
“A clear majority of Massachusetts voters and both Rideshare and Delivery Drivers supported and would have passed this ballot question into law,” Connor Units, which is leading the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Action, said in a statement.
The group hopes the state legislature will still take action on drivers’ job status before the end of the summer. “We expect the legislature to stand with 80 percent of drivers who want flexibility and want to be independent contractors with new benefits,” he said. Units wrote.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.