App driver campaign claims first paid ad of 2022 season

Boston Statehouse

(SHNS Screenshot)

BOSTON (SHNS) – A group funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart will spend tens of thousands of dollars to promote a new video advertisement touting its proposed 2022 ballot question, an early volley aimed at swaying voters as the bruising campaign kicks into gear.

The committee behind the industry-backed ballot question, which could reshape worker status and benefits for hundreds of thousands of Bay Staters, on Monday rolled out a nearly two-minute video in which speakers describe the “flexibility” they enjoy in the current system and voice opposition to the lawsuit at the center of the consequential fight.

The campaign said the ad will run on social and digital channels. Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, the video argues, “could take away the flexibility from app-based drivers” and consign workers on those platforms to “set schedules and flat wages.”

Healey alleges gig economy giants are illegally inflating profits by treating drivers as independent contractors rather than employees and denying them access to basic protections and benefits. With the fate of that court case still unresolved, the companies are hoping to stave off a decision against them by convincing lawmakers or voters to act. The ballot question and similar legislation would permanently define drivers as contractors and offer them new benefits such as paid sick leave and an earnings floor. In a press release highlighting the new advertisement, the Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers committee backing the question called it “the first paid ad of the 2022 election season.”

A spokesperson said the committee will spend “less than $50,000” to promote the video on digital platforms. Opponents of the initiative petition, which include organized labor leaders, on Monday replied that the companies behind the effort would rather run an expensive campaign “than pay their drivers a livable wage and provide them with the benefits they deserve.”

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