Massachusetts’ highest court on Tuesday threw out a ballot measure that would have put gig-worker classification before the state’s voters in November, handing gig companies another setback in their efforts to change labor laws to suit their business model. The measure, which was backed by Uber Technologies Inc.
and Instacart, promised some new benefits to app-based drivers and delivery workers but would allow them to continue to classify those workers as independent contractors and not employees. The companies were successful in passing a similar version of the ballot measure in California in 2020, but are currently appealing a court decision deeming that law unconstitutional.
The Supreme Judicial Court found that the proposed measure, of which there are two versions, failed to comply with the requirement that measures address related or mutually dependent subjects. “We conclude that the petitions contain at least two substantively distinct policy decisions, one of which is buried in obscure language at the end of the petitions,” Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the decision in the challenge brought by labor groups, adding that the state attorney general’s certification of the measure was therefore “in error.” Those two policy decisions, according to the court decision, involve the relationship between app-based workers and the companies, and also the network companies’ liability when third parties are injured by app-based drivers’ conduct. Opponents of the proposed measure, which include drivers groups, civi …