Understanding the Ballot Question That Could Reshape Rideshare and Gig Driving

How should Massachusetts classify drivers who work for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other gig driving platforms? As employees? Independent contractors? Or maybe something in between?

It’s a big, contentious question, and this November Massachusetts voters may get their say as part of a big-money ballot initiative pressed by leading rideshare and delivery companies.

The initiative would give gig drivers a number of new and valuable benefits, but it would also deny them the full suite of rights and protections granted to regular employees.

Opposing the ballot question, however, won’t necessarily stop change from coming. The Massachusetts attorney general has brought a separate lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, arguing that drivers must be treated as regular employees under current law — a shift that would have major implications for drivers and users alike.

To help voters understand these issues — and give legislators a chance to pursue their own solutions — we at the Center for State Policy Analysis have assembled this nonpartisan analysis.

We find that:

  • This ballot question is unusual because it lacks a definitive “keep the status quo” option. A “yes” vote introduces a new framework for gig drivers; a “no” vote is effectively a bet on the ongoing lawsuit.
  • While a “yes” vote would give gig drivers some valuable new protections — including a minimum pay guarantee and paid sick leave — drivers would still lack many benefits traditionally associated with employment, including overtime, unemployment insurance, retirement savings, and reimbursement for business costs.
  • Both the lawsuit and the ballot question are targeted at a small part of a bigger challenge, which is the lack of clear rules and protections for gig workers at large. (The ballot question focuses exclusively on gig drivers; the lawsuit is even narrower, targeting just Uber and Lyft.)
  • There is still time for lawmakers to resolve this situation through legislation, without need for a ballot question or lawsuit.
  • This battle in Massachusetts is part of a broader fight over the status of gig drivers and the gig economy, a fight that spurred a similar ballot question in California along with legal and regulatory challenges around the world.