Last year, lawmakers in Washington state – led by Representative Liz Berry – passed landmark legislation granting benefits and protections to rideshare drivers while maintaining their flexible independent contractor status.
On September 12th, we held a discussion with Rep. Berry, as well as Nicholas Johnson, Lyft’s Director of Public Policy West, and Ramona Prieto, Head of Public Policy and Communications for the Western United States at Uber, about how Washington state was able to secure a gig worker compromise.
During the discussion, Rep. Berry highlighted the importance of bringing all parties to the table in order to reach an agreement, recognizing that no solution would be found without input from everyone involved.
Though the pressure of a potential ballot initiative was highlighted as a motivator to reach a deal, Rep. Berry, Nicholas, and Ramona all stressed their reliance on creating connections in order to facilitate frank – and necessary – discussions:
Reflecting on what made Washington state successful, Ramona discussed how they avoided common pitfalls that led to failures in other states. In previous discussions, she noted, “we got lost in nomenclature…people would walk away because we weren’t all speaking the same language.” Ramona praised Rep. Berry for her “masterful job in reminding everybody that we shared a value system in terms of what we were trying to solve.”
Nicholas also stressed the importance of acknowledging differences among states when trying to broker a deal. “We’re going to have a formula of certain things that we’re going to talk about – like the activation and minimum pay – but it may be different from state to state.” Centralizing worker needs while simultaneously recognizing the pressures local groups face is crucial for finding a solution that fits.
Reflecting on her success, Rep. Berry reiterated the need to engage with all parties involved, but encouraged outside-of-the-box thinking on who those parties may be. Non-profit organizations that advocate for workers or the drivers themselves can be just as valuable to bring to the table as labor unions.
Concluding the event, Rep. Berry also encouraged any lawmakers seeking to find compromise in other states to reach out to her directly for some off-the-record tips on how to get it done.