Opponents of Uber, Lyft-backed gig worker ballot intiaitve allege campaign finance violations

Opponents of a ballot initiative that would codify gig-worker status for drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash as independent contractors is alleging a rasher of campaign finance violations and asking state regulators to investigate.

“On Tuesday, August, 3rd, after months of careful planning and political expenditures outside of public view, a Big Tech lobbying group, funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, known as the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work (MCIW), filed ballot language with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and only then formed a ballot question committee,” states the complaint filed by the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights which was filed on Monday and shared with the Herald.

Coalition director Mike Firestone accused ballot rivals of being in “violation of Massachusetts labor, civil rights, and consumer protection laws” in the letter to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

A spokesperson for the rival camp, called the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work refuted the complaint, saying it includes “false claims” intended to distract from the question.

“Last week, drivers spoke up in favor of this ballot question because they support the flexibility and benefits it provides by an overwhelming 7:1 margin,” spokesman Conor Yunits said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that others would try to draw attention away from what drivers clearly want by making false claims based on their willful misunderstanding of Massachusetts campaign finance law.”

The state Office of Campaign Finance is statutorily prohibited from acknowledging complaints and a spokesman declined to confirm or deny whether the complaint shared by the Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights had been filed.

Firestone alleges the Coalition for Independent Work has a history of working “to undermine the labor and civil rights protections of Massachusetts workers and the consumer rights of Massachusetts customers” and recently spent $220 million on a similar initiative in California.

Uber and Lyft also face a lawsuit from Attorney General Maura Healey over their classification of workers which she said boosts profits by deeming drivers independent contractors rather than employees.

“These out-of-state Big Tech companies are currently in violation of Massachusetts labor, civil rights, and consumer protection laws. Now they are apparently in violation of our campaign finance laws as well,” Firestone wrote in the letter. “Given the industry’s record of unprecedented corporate spending on misleading advertisements, more than $220 million in 2020 alone, we ask that OCPF hold them accountable.”

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