Notice: This statement has been updated as of June 28, 2024  

On June 27, 2024, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a ruling in El Koussa v. Campbell, finding that five petitions seeking to exclude app-based drivers in Massachusetts from state benefits and protections comply with Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which governs the ballot initiative process. But later that day, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced that the state had secured a historic settlement with two companies backing the petitions, namely Uber and Lyft, which does not cut workers out of state employment laws and protections, requires the companies to provide workers with important benefits, and effectively ends the corporate campaign to place these petitions on the November 2024 ballot. 

The settlement is an important win for gig-economy workers in Massachusetts. It ensures that app-based companies with a track record for insufficient pay and benefits cannot create legal exceptions for their industry and must meaningfully compensate app-based workers. Without this agreement, the court decision– which demonstrates that the SJC is willing to reduce the Massachusetts ballot election from a “people’s process” to a race instead easily won by tremendous corporate spending, including from foreign-influenced corporations– would have greatly jeopardized the future of drivers in Massachusetts and their access to benefits and protections.

This ballot campaign has been ongoing for several years, but restarted in September 2023, when representatives of delivery and transportation companies sought to place on the November 2024 election ballot five petitions that exempt app-based drivers from being designated “employees” under Massachusetts law, costing their workers the protection of labor and social safety net laws. A group of drivers challenged as unconstitutional the Attorney General’s certification of those petitions in the Supreme Judicial Court. And Free Speech For People, joining as amicus curiae, argued corporations like Uber and Lyft, each that are significantly owned by foreign entities and governments, have spent massive amounts on unconstitutional petitions that mislead and confuse voters with provisions that, in reality, offer workers less benefits than before. 

The Supreme Judicial Court did not deny that the petitions exclude drivers from “important and far-reaching rights, privileges, and protections to which employees are entitled under existing law” and “gives [them] limited benefits in return.” But the acknowledgement did not prevent it from narrowly ruling that the petitions– some with the effect of impacting all laws in Massachusetts– pass the relatedness test of the Massachusetts constitution.  

This is not the first time that foreign-influenced companies like Uber and Lyft have used state ballot processes to absolve themselves of legal responsibilities owed to workers. They have spent historic amounts in California to pass similar ballot measures. They have now broken corporate spending records in Massachusetts to do the same. 

While the Attorney General has reached an agreement requiring certain companies to make right with its app-based workers, similar ballot campaigns will likely continue. Free Speech For People will work to ensure that the ballot process is not captured by corporate interests but instead determined by the will of the people, in Massachusetts and elsewhere. 

To read the Attorney General’s statement, click here

To follow the MA Not For Sale campaign, click here

To read the ruling, click here