Ballot campaign makes point with name change

A Lyft ride-share car. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP File)
A Lyft ride-share car. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP File)

The coalition of labor and civil rights groups fighting a proposed ballot question to allow app-based tech companies like Uber and Lyft to continue to classify their drivers as independent contractors and not employees is getting a rebrand.

The campaign is now calling itself “Massachusetts Is Not For Sale.” The new name is meant to reflect the fact that tech companies behind the 2022 ballot effort spent over $200 million in California to pass a similar initiative, and already last year put up more than $17.2 million in Massachusetts, including a $14.4 million contribution from Lyft.

The opposition group that had been known as the Coalition to Protect Workers' Rights raised far less, pulling in $470,700 last year and ending 2021 with a balance of $682,658.

"These platforms want to undermine rights for more than drivers like me who are their employees. They are also trying to divide workers by forcing us to make false choices between flexibility and safety; between flexibility and health; between flexibility and the ability to earn a living wage," said Fatih Dinler, a Boston resident and rideshare driver, in a statement released by the campaign.

To help its cause, "Massachusetts Is Not for Sale" has brought on former Deval Patrick and Ayanna Pressley aide and advisor Wilnelia Rivera as a general consultant and hired Wes McEnany as campaign director.

Rivera has an experienced hand as a community organizer helping candidates and organizations, such as the Partnership for Democracy and Education, while McEnany worked on the founding of the Alphabet Workers Union at Google and also as an organizer for CODE-CWA, helping to unionize workers in the technology and online gaming sectors. He also participated in the national effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which was successful in Massachusetts.

"We will demonstrate the power of community and labor uniting to make it clear that Massachusetts will not be sold to the highest bidder," Rivera said in a statement. "We will not allow misinformation being pushed by Big Tech executives to become the foundation of our state’s civil, consumer, and labor protection laws."

A recent survey of Massachusetts drivers for app-based services like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash found that eight of every 10 drivers would prefer to remain independent contractors, indicating that they prefer the flexibility that comes with being their own managers. The poll was commissioned by Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the organization behind the ballot initiative.



More from WBUR

Listen Live