RAM Board Stakes out Positions on Potential Ballot Questions


On May 16th, the RAM Board of Directors gathered in Boston for the Association’s Spring Board Meeting. One of the items on the agenda was discussion of the various initiative petitions currently making their way towards the November 2024 ballot.

Of the forty-two petitions that were initially filed last August with the Attorney General’s office only ten proposals, covering six topics, remain in play. Proponents of these petitions successfully gathered and submitted the first round of necessary signatures last December. With the Legislature choosing not to address any of the petitions, the proponents now must collect and submit an additional 12,429 signatures by July 3rd to have their questions placed on the ballot in November. Two of the proposals will also have to survive pending legal challenges to their certification before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court is likely to rule on those challenges in mid-June.

Although it will not be known until mid-July which of the initiative petitions will definitely be on the statewide ballot, the Board established recorded positions for the Association on three of the potential questions in the event they do make it through the process.

The RAM Board of Directors voted to oppose An Initiative Petition for a Law Requiring the Full Min. Wage for Tipped Workers with Tips on Top. This proposed law would gradually increase, over the course of five years, the minimum hourly wage an employer must pay a tipped worker, on the following schedule: to 64% of the state minimum wage on January 1, 2025; to 73% in 2026; to 82% in 2027; to 91% in 2028; and to 100% in 2029.

Also under the proposed law, if an employer pays its workers an hourly wage that is at least the state minimum wage, the employer would be permitted to administer a “tip pool” that combines all the tips given by customers to consumer facing service workers and distributes them among all the workers, including non-consumer facing service workers. Current law prohibits such tips from being distributed to non-service workers.

Opponents of this question have challenged the constitutionality of this measure before the SJC, arguing that the wage increase and tipped pooling reform are not reasonably related enough to satisfy the requirement that ballot measures contain only subjects that are related or mutally dependent.

Passage of this law would result in increased labor costs for businesses utilizing the tipped wage and a reduction in the amount of tips available to currently tipped service workers, at a time when high inflation continues to impact profitability for many businesses.

The Board voted to support An Initiative Petition for a Law Establishing that App-Based Drivers are not Employees (Versions B, G, H, F, I). These proposals seek to make the app-based transportation/delivery model more sustainable by establishing a regulatory framework that maintains the current flexibility in scheduling enjoyed by app-based drivers. Specifically, the law codifies the independent contractor status of app-based drivers by clarifying that rideshare and delivery drivers who accept requests through an online-enabled application are not “employees” and that rideshare and delivery companies maintaining such applications are not “employers” under Massachusetts law. The proposal also provides for alternative minimum compensation and benefits for drivers.

After a similar effort last election cycle was prohibited from advancing to the ballot by the SJC on constitutional grounds, proponents elected to file a total of nine versions of the proposal this cycle in an effort to avoid a similar outcome. Of those, five versions presently remain in play but once again face constitutional challenges before the SJC. Proponents have been clear that they ultimately intend to pursue only one version of the proposal for placement on the ballot.

RAM has heard from a number of members about how the services provided by app-based drivers play an important role in supporting their business, workforce and consumers, as well as creating additional economic opportunities across the state.

And the RAM Board voted to oppose A Law Requiring that Districts Certify that Students have Mastered the Skills, Competencies and Knowledge of the State Standards as a Replacement for the MCAS Graduation Requirement. This proposed law would eliminate the requirement that a student pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests (or other statewide or district-wide assessments) in mathematics, science and technology, and English in order to receive a high school diploma. Instead, in order for a student to receive a high school diploma, the proposed law would require the student to complete coursework certified by the student’s district as demonstrating mastery of the competencies contained in the state academic standards in mathematics, science and technology, and English, as well as any additional areas determined by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The potential for this proposal to result in a patchwork of inconsistent graduation standards across the state has given rise to workplace development concerns among many in the employer community.