I want to live my life the way I want

Unfortunately, the SJC blocked a ballot question that would let me do that

I GOT MY KIDS off to school the other day. I made some deliveries with DoorDash. I ran some errands, made some more deliveries, went home for a bit, picked my kids up from school, fed them dinner, then made some more deliveries. It was a pretty typical day. I put my family first, and earned extra money when I could, around my own schedule. I did things my way. Then IO woke up one morning this week and learned I won’t be able to do things my way for much longer.

This week, trial lawyers and activists successfully blocked a ballot question that would have protected drivers like me and the independence and flexibility to live life the way we want. They used the courts to prevent drivers – 81 percent of whom supported the ballot question – from telling our stories to voters. Instead, these activists want to force us to become employees. They say to trust them, that being employees will be good for us. They say they know better than us; that we just don’t understand what we actually want.

I wish they would stop talking down to me. I have been an employee. I know what employment means. It comes with benefits, yes. It also comes with shifts, schedules, bosses, vacation requests, sick day limits, and – often – minimum wage pay. As a driver, I earn about $26 an hour – well above minimum wage. I keep all my tips. I decide when I want to drive, when I want to take time off, where I want to work, and how often. I never have to call in sick, or make excuses when my family needs attention.

The activists say, “Don’t worry – these companies can make the flexibility work.” So, give me an example. Show me where, anywhere in Massachusetts, in America, or in the world, companies give their employees the kind of flexibility I enjoy now. Where does that exist? Not for taxi drivers – they are independent contractors. Not for bus drivers – they don’t set their own schedules or routes. Not for waitstaff, or baristas, or clerical staff, or nursing assistants, or teachers, or factory workers.

We drivers have been all of those things and more. We know what we are talking about. Are there problems with the gig economy? Of course there are – just like in any other industry. Can they be fixed by trying to apply the same rules that govern every single other job I have ever had? I highly doubt it. Was the ballot question a step in the right direction? Absolutely.

The ballot question that was stripped away from us this week would have protected our freedom, but it also would have addressed so many of the concerns of the activists. It would have created an earnings guarantee, healthcare stipends for those who need them, paid sick time and paid family & medical leave, anti-discrimination protections, safety trainings, occupational accident insurance – all paid by the companies. Most importantly, it would have improved the lives of drivers like me, which is more than I can say for becoming an employee.

There is only one path left for us drivers now, and only two groups of people who can help us: our representatives and senators at the State House. They have the power to create a new law that will protect our flexibility and secure our new benefits. They have heard our stories, but they have not yet heard our pleas.

So, I will continue to get my kids off to school. I will make my deliveries. But instead of running errands, I will be calling my legislators, and urging my friends and family to call theirs. Because without this ballot question, my life is about to change for the worse, and the only people who can help are those we elected to do just that.

Vennetia Prevost works as a driver for DoorDash.