Driver Benefits, Happy Hour Among Certified Questions For 2022 Massachusetts Ballot
Sixteen initiative petitions were given the green light Wednesday to continue advancing towards the 2022 statewide Massachusetts ballot.
They include measures related to voter identification, the status and benefits of drivers for app-based transportation companies, reviving happy hour, legalizing the sale of fireworks, and the state's participation in a regional carbon emission reduction program.
Attorney General Maura Healey ruled that the 16 initiative petitions and a proposed constitutional amendment that could go before voters in 2024 to authorize excuse-free absentee voting met constitutional muster, allowing supporters to begin collecting necessary signatures and opponents to contemplate legal challenges.
The question that appears poised to be at the center of an expensive and hotly contested campaign — the proposal to declare all app-based drivers to be independent contractors and grant them access to some minimum pay guarantees, sick leave and other benefits — was among those given the green light to proceed.
Healey certified two versions of the Massachusetts initiative filed by a group funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart. The effort comes on the heels of a similar and successful measure in California.
"We believe that Massachusetts voters will support what drivers are asking for: to remain independent contractors, in control of our own schedules, while gaining new benefits," Brittney Woods of Boston said in a release from the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work. "That flexibility and control is why we drive."
Opponents of the app-based driver petition, led by the Coalition to Protect Workers' Rights, slammed the potential ballot question as a "racially discriminatory, anti-worker, anti-consumer" copy of the California proposition.
"The Uber/Big Tech ballot measures cheats workers, shields these massive companies from liability to customers, and makes Massachusetts taxpayers pick up the tab," coalition Director Mike Firestone said. "Massachusetts voters and app-based workers just want these multi-billion dollar companies to pay their taxes and follow the law. We believe their California copycat bill is unconstitutional and will carefully consider our litigation options..."
For any of the questions, actually securing a spot on the 2022 ballot is still a ways off.
The proposals that Healey's office certified Wednesday will be filed with Secretary of State William Galvin's office and the activists, campaigns and interests behind each measure can then begin to collect the 80,239 voter signatures that must be filed with local election officials in November and then with Galvin by Dec. 1.
Opponents can also appeal Healey's certification rulings through the courts.
The Legislature will also have a chance to act on the issues addressed by the proposed questions themselves. If the Legislature chooses not to, petition supporters will have to collect another 13,374 voter signatures by next June to lock in a spot on the November 2022 ballot.