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Three Biz Groups Take Sides in Debate Over App-Based Drivers, Benefits In Massachusetts

A trio of regional business organizations in Massachusetts threw their support behind gig economy giants in the growing debate over pay and benefits for the state's more than 200,000 app-based drivers.

The Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, One SouthCoast Chamber and the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, together representing more than 2,300 members, on Wednesday joined the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work fighting to keep ride-hailing and delivery drivers designated as independent contractors.

With the addition of the three chambers, the coalition funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart now counts a total of 15 members including other statewide business groups such as the Massachusetts High Technology Council and the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

A car with a sticker on the windshield that indicates it participates in the rideshare community.
Credit Minneapolis Public Works / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/gompls
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/gompls

Amid Attorney General Maura Healey's wage and hour lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, chamber leaders said they support the companies' push to keep their existing driver classifications in place while offering some more benefits.

"Many of our students and much of our workforce rely on app-based drivers to get to class, work and appointments, so the gig economy supports our community's workforce needs and the economic growth of our business community and our region," Springfield Chamber President Nancy Creed said in a statement. "We understand that app-based workers rely on flexibilities, which allow them to work on their own schedules, and support policies that will ensure they are able to maintain that freedom."

Marie Oliva, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber, said her group represents "countless small businesses that were able to succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of app-based meal and grocery delivery services."

The coalition launched in March, less than six months after some of the companies involved secured changes to California state law through an expensive ballot question campaign, advocating in favor of legislation that would update state law to enshrine app-based drivers as independent contractors while offering some additional benefits.

They face vocal opposition from the labor-backed Coalition to Protect Workers' Rights, which formed last month and argues that app-based companies are violating existing state law by denying drivers employee benefits and safeguards.

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