Massachusetts Supreme Court disqualifies app-based drivers initiative from November ballot

On June 14, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a ruling disqualifying the app-based drivers initiative backed by Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Uber, from the November ballot. 

A lawsuit was filed in January against Secretary of State William Galvin (D) and Attorney General Maura Healey (D) by several app-based drivers and voters arguing that the initiative ​​should not have been approved for circulation because the petition violates the state’s constitutional requirement that subjects of an initiative are related or mutually dependent.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs. Justice Scott Kafker, who wrote the opinion for the court, said, “The petitions thus violate the related subjects requirement because they present voters with two substantively distinct policy decisions: one confined for the most part to the contract-based and voluntary relationship between app-based drivers and network companies; the other — couched in confusingly vague and open-ended provisions — apparently seeking to limit the network companies’ liability to third parties injured by app-based drivers’ tortious conduct.”

Conor Yunits, a spokesperson for Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “A clear majority of Massachusetts voters and rideshare and delivery drivers both supported and would have passed this ballot question into law. That’s exactly why opponents resorted to litigation to subvert the democratic process and deny voters the right to make their own decision. The future of these services and the drivers who earn on them is now in jeopardy, and we hope the legislature will stand with the 80% of drivers who want flexibility and to remain independent contractors while having access to new benefits.”

Sponsors filed two versions of the initiative. Both versions of the initiative would have classified app-based drivers as independent contractors and enacted several labor policies. The versions are identical except Version A would have required paid occupational safety training before accessing a company’s platform or mobile application. The initiative was modeled after a 2020 California initiative that was approved by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4% but was later ruled unconstitutional by a county superior court. This ruling is being appealed.

Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers reported $17.8 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee were Lyft ($14.4 million), Instacart ($1.2 million), DoorDash ($1.2 million), and Uber ($1.1 million). The opposition campaign, Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, reported $1 million in contributions.

There are two other ballot initiatives related to alcohol retail licensing and medical loss ratios for dental insurance plans that are collecting the second round of signatures needed to earn a spot on the November ballot. The second round of 13,374 signatures is due July 6. 

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 29 ballot initiatives were filed for even-numbered year ballots in Massachusetts, and an average of three ballot initiatives made the ballot.

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