WORCESTER, Mass — Robert Powers is a former taxi driver who has been driving for Lyft and Uber for two years. Being able to work when and where he wants is part of the appeal of being a ride-booking driver.

"You're your own boss," Powers said. "I live here in Worcester. A lot of times, you end up wherever you end up. And it's good to stop when you want to stop. A couple weeks ago, I was in Fall River and I saw Battleship Cove. I stopped and I went and looked around the battleship."

Powers was one of a number of drivers behind Worcester City Hall advocating that he and his colleagues remain independent contractors and not employees​.

What You Need To Know

  • Ride-hailing drivers and advocates rallied behind Worcester City Hall Tuesday, asking to remain independent contractors and not employees​
  • In 2020, former Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit which looked to classify Uber and Lyft drivers as "employees" under Massachusetts law
  • Healey described the business model of Uber and Lyft as "unfair and exploitative" 
  • Drivers are looking for increased benefits like a guaranteed earnings floor of $18 an hour, paid sick time and occupational accident insurance

In 2020, former Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit which looked to classify Uber and Lyft drivers as "employees" under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.

In the lawsuit, Healey described Uber and Lyft's business models as "unfair and exploitative." Healey also claimed drivers could be penalized for not accepting rides and working certain schedules. 

"You know, my dad told me years ago, 'Why fix something if it's not broken?' This is not broken for us," Powers said. "We're not complaining."

Even local restaurant owners showed their support for the drivers Tuesday.

"Long time in the restaurant business, the bar business. These drivers are indispensable to our industry," said John Piccolo, owner of Piccolo's and the president of the Shrewsbury Street Area Merchants Association. "They support us. They keep us out of trouble."

Voters in November will pick a side, as a proposed ballot question would determine whether or not the drivers remain independent.

Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers says more than 85% of polled drivers in Massachusetts were in favor of the initiative.

Advocates are looking for a compromise though, as they're seeking driver benefits despite wanting to maintain the independent status.

"The proposal we're putting forward on the ballot would ensure that drivers can remain independent contractors while also granting them new benefits and protections such as a guaranteed earnings floor of $18 an hour, paid sick time, occupational accident insurance," said spokesperson Conor Yunitz.

Powers thinks his independence is a blessing. He hopes it will continue.

"In a taxi, if you got a job from Worcester going to Boston, you had to come right back," Powers said. "But now, you can work out there and make a little extra money out there."

Healey's lawsuit will be taken up in court next month. While months away from the November election, advocates still say they're very optimistic.