Free Speech For People filed an amicus brief today in El Koussa v. Campbell, in support of voters who have asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to block placement of five petitions on the November 2024 ballot that would exclude app-based drivers in Massachusetts from state benefits and protections. The petitions were introduced by representatives of delivery and transportation companies, like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, for the second time in three years, that are attempting to strip their worker of valuable protections through confusing, misleading petitions, and are willing to spend big to garner public support to push these petitions onto the ballot and into law. 

In September 2023, representatives of delivery and transportation companies gathered signatures on five certified petitions that exempt app-based drivers from being designated “employees” under Massachusetts law. All five petitions seek to carve an exception for the companies from responsibilities and obligations otherwise required of employers under various chapters of Massachusetts law, costing their workers the protection of labor and social safety net laws. Three of those petitions offer in return only subpar benefits that most drivers will not qualify for. Two of them would provide their drivers with no benefits at all.

Free Speech For People’s amicus brief argues that the petitions are unconstitutional because they violate an important limitation on petitions, known as the relatedness rule. The Massachusetts Constitution requires that all petitions put before voters are coherent with provisions that are related so that voters can make a meaningful choice on election day. The delivery and transportation companies’ multiple, partially overlapping petitions instead are each dense and complex, with serious consequences that are not apparent to voters.

The petitions are misleading because they bury unrelated policy decisions in obscure language. Voters may believe that by voting yes, they are securing benefits for drivers. But in reality, the petitions strip app-based drivers of protections otherwise afforded under Massachusetts laws, give them benefits more limited than those they will lose, and offer those limited benefits to only a small fraction of drivers.  

Furthermore, the relatedness rule was specifically designed to block powerful, deep-pocket entities from manipulating the ballot process to benefit their “selfish interests.” All four companies– Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Doordash– are significantly owned by powerful foreign entities, and each have spent unprecedented amounts of money to influence the petition process– approximately $45 million dollars total in the past three years. And they are spending money on petitions designed to mislead voters. 

Foreign-influenced corporations that spend massive amounts of money to confuse voters with Petitions that violate the relatedness clause illustrate the danger of “selfish interests” that may corrupt the “peoples’ process.” These are the exact dangers that the related-subjects rule was enacted to prevent. This Court should once again construe the related-subjects requirement closely in line with the drafters’ intent, and enjoin certification of the Petitions for the ballot,

Free Speech For People argues in its brief. 

This is not the first time that delivery and transportation companies have tried to introduce measures to declassify drivers and limit employer responsibilities to their own workers and to the general public under state law.  In 2022, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected company-backed petitions similar to the ones introduced here because they violated the relatedness rule. And in California, the companies led the most expensive ballot measure in state history to overturn worker protections for app-based drivers. 

“The purpose of a ballot petition is to restore lawmaking power to the people,” said Amira Mattar, Counsel at Free Speech For People. “The drafters of the Massachusetts Constitution understood the dangers that deep-pocket corporations posed to the process, and built-in safeguards to protect voters from the kind of misleading, money-backed petitions that the transportation and delivery companies are trying to place on the November 2024 ballot. Transportation and delivery companies should not be allowed to run roughshod over its workers, the Massachusetts Constitution, or voters in this state. Neither history nor law supports this.”

To read the brief, click here

To follow the ‘MA Not For Sale’ campaign, visit here.