Union for 23,000 Massachusetts Frontline Workers Joins Warren in Push to Stop Prop 22 Copycat Measure, Protect Gig Workers, Hold Big Tech Accountable
BOSTON, MA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union for 23,000 Massachusetts essential workers in grocery, healthcare, and otherfrontline industries, joined U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren for a rally to demand that Big Tech companies, like Uber and Lyft, follow the law and abandon their expected $100 million ballot measure to undermine the rights, benefits, and legal protections of consumers and workers. Click here for photos.
Senator Warren: “Instead of following the law like thousands of Massachusetts employers do every day, giant tech companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart are trying to use their money and power to exploit their workers and shield themselves from liability. Let me say it loud and clear: these Silicon Valley employers need to follow the law, pay their taxes, and abandon their $100 million lobbying campaign.”
UFCW Local 1445 President Fernando Lemus: “Across Massachusetts, we need good, union jobs like we have it here at Stop and Shop. We need Big Tech to provide workers the benefits and wages that we deserve. During the pandemic, we have been providing essential services to our communities and now these Big Tech CEOs are trying to take away their workers’ rights. Uber and Instacart should not be allowed to take our rights away. We are calling on big Tech to follow the law and drop their initiative.”
At today’s event, Senator Warren announced her endorsement for the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights and called on Uber and Lyft to withdraw their recently filed ballot initiative that seeks to deliberately mislead voters, shield companies from liability, and continue exploitation of growing, app-based workforce. The event also featured app-based and grocery workers who are demanding that the big corporations simply follow the law and treat their workers with dignity and respect.
Stephen Levine, an app-based worker with Instacart: “The COVID-19 pandemic, over the past year, this work has become essential work to all those who are in need of our services. Everyone working in these stores, from the meat counter to the checkout, and to delivery deserve to earn a fair pay and benefits. These companies must follow the law.”
The rally at the Allston Stop and Shop underscored the threat of the copycat ballot measure to the livelihoods of grocery workers and other essential workers in Massachusetts. In California, many grocery store workers were laid off immediately after the Prop 22 ballot measure was passed, and their jobs were replaced by app-based workers, paid subminimum wages and without benefits.
Local advocates and drivers say Uber/Big Tech’s campaign would help multibillion Big Tech companies avoid hundreds of millions in tax liabilities, at the expense of Massachusetts residents and workers.
In Massachusetts, more than 70 percent of drivers, delivery workers, and other “app-based” workers are Black, Brown and immigrant workers. According to experts, the measure would allow tech giants to pay workers less than minimum wage, make no contributions to unemployment or Social Security, and remove app-based workers from legal protections against workplace injuries, sexual harassment, and discrimination.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is currently suing two of the largest “gig economy” companies, Uber and Lyft, for illegal “misclassification,” a scheme used by the companies to avoid paying taxes, avoid paying workers fairly, and escape liability to customers and members of the public.
Beth Griffith, Executive Director, Boston Independent Drivers Guild: “This fight is more than 220,000 rideshare workers in this state. We do realize that this Prop 22 clone that they are trying to bring to Massachusetts will hurt workers. This fight is about drivers – we deserve good jobs, social justice and equity.
Thomas G. Mari, Secretary-Treasurer, Local 25: “We will fight like hell to make sure that these people have basic benefits, because this is again, it’s not a benefits bill. This is a hurt worker bill, and that’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna fight for these people to make sure that they have the basic rights, like we have at Stop and Shop.”
The rally’s organizer, Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, also highlighted the troubling aspects of the Big Tech’s ballot language including extensive loopholes that perpetuates false choice on flexibility for workers and creates a subminimum wage for app-based workers.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, Attorney, Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights: “The voters in Massachusetts won’t be fooled. If we get out there, we can let them know what these companies are really doing. The purpose of this ballot initiative is to do nothing other than line the pockets of the Big Tech companies, of their CEOs, and hurt the working people of Massachusetts. And it’s not just Uber and Lyft and Instacart drivers, it’s everyone. It’s your job next. We can’t let it happen and we won’t let it happen.”
Uber and Big Tech attempt to buy a law $100M+ on misleading ads in Massachusetts: Leading up to Election Day in 2020, Big Tech companies spent over $210 million dollars on misleading ads to pass Proposition 22, a ballot initiative in California, that created special exemptions for Big Tech companies from civil rights, wage and benefits laws, and from legal liability to customers. The companies are following the same playbook in Massachusetts, where they filed nearly identical language on August 3, 2021. The Coalition is mobilizing to counter the anticipated $100M+ misinformation campaign and recently filed a complaint with state regulators over the companies’ illegal and undisclosed campaign spending.
In the aftermath of Proposition 22, gig company workers in California are making less money and have even less autonomy. More companies are also following Uber’s lead and eliminating traditional employees. Union supermarket workers were laid off and replaced with app-based drivers, without benefits. An early investor in Uber wrote that Proposition 22 made it possible to eliminate consumer liability and workplace benefits in sectors across the economy.
UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.