On Saturday Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Lydia Edwards, announced their support of “Massachusetts Is Not For Sale”, an alliance of workers, consumers, civil rights, immigrant, faith, labor, community organizing, racial and environmental justice groups organized to oppose legislative efforts by major corporations like Uber and Lyft aimed at narrowing workers’ rights in the state. At the rally Pressley and Edwards argued that these big tech companies undermine the rights of gig economy workers in Massachusetts.
“Every worker in Massachusetts – and across the country – deserves a job that provides good wages, strong benefits, and safe working conditions,” said Pressley. “The fight for workers’ rights is deeply tied to the fight for racial and economic justice. We cannot accept the false choice between flexibility and critical workplace protections, and we cannot allow major corporations to strip away the rights of thousands of workers – disproportionately Black, brown, and immigrant workers – in order to improve their bottom line. This is an issue I’ve led on during my time in Congress, and I’ll continue to work alongside workers, advocates, and the members of Massachusetts Is Not For Sale to safeguard the rights of every worker in our communities.”
Under Massachusetts law “employees” working in the private sector are entitled to rights and protections including minimum wage, paid sick time, and paid family leave, unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation, and protections against sexual harassment and racial discrimination at work. At Saturday’s rally both Pressley and Edwards argued that rather than complying, Big Tech has proposed rewriting longstanding state laws to exclude their workers entirely, filing legislation that “an app-based driver is an independent contractor and not an employee.” According to Massachusetts Is Not For Sale, the Uber/Lyft-backed legislation would exclude hundreds of thousands of workers in the Commonwealth from the employment rights and protections set forth in Massachusetts law. Principally, it would significantly narrow who is an “employee” under Massachusetts law.
Current Massachusetts law includes the critical presumption that any individual “performing any service” on behalf of an employer and is working under that employer’s control, doing work that is performed in the usual course of the employer’s business, or is not holding oneself out as a business that is independent from an employer is in fact an “employee.” “It’s always a good day to fight for workers rights,” said Edwards at the rally. “I would not be here but for workers rights. I would not be a Senator, I would not have been the City Councilor but for workers rights. I’m going to stand tall and in solidarity until we win. In this stage in our recovery we are headed in one direction and Big Tech wants to take us backwards.
The fact is being an employee is a matter of access to filing a discrimination case, getting unemployment, getting workers comp, getting minimum wage–that is the title of an employee and you get those things naturally. The fact of the matter is we have the hardest fight in front of us. They targeted Massachusetts because we sued them because we said “you’re violating our laws”. So they turned around and said we will change the laws on you and if we can change them in Massachusetts, we can change them anywhere.
That’s why we’re a target. Want to be clear that we have a target because we have some of the best workers rights in the country.” During both their time on the Boston City Council Pressley and Edwards fought for the rights of workers and led efforts to expand paid leave policies for every worker, introduced legislation to protect part-time workers, and advocated for the right of every worker to join a union. Pressley recently introduced the historic Federal Job Guarantee Resolution, which could ensure access to a good job with dignified wages, safe working conditions, health care and other benefits for every person who wants one.