San Francisco area bike-share employees consider unionizing
- Employees for Ford GoBike, the San Francisco Bay Area's regional bike-share program, are considering unionizing, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Motivate — which operates GoBike — has about 90 employees in the Bay Area.
- The business' mechanics and bike service workers will vote on whether to join the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU). TWU unionized bike-share workers in five cities, starting with New York in 2014, closely followed by Boston, Chicago, Jersey City, NJ and Washington, DC. It also represents about 2,000 of the Bay Area's municipal bus and train operators.
- Ford GoBike employees will vote on March 28.
Although the bike-share industry has its own associations — such as the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) — it does not yet have a dedicated union. However, many cities consider bike-share part of the greater transit system, so it makes sense for workers to join a union in which other types of transit workers are members. Three years ago when Jersey City became the fifth city to unionize Motivate workers, a TWU representative told Next City that it was just the beginning and he expected bike-share workers to organize into a national union across the country.
Union contracts in these cities have led to changes for bike-share employees including stronger safety language that allows them to refuse dangerous work, maternity and paternity leave, higher wages and more advanced knowledge of scheduled shifts.
Generally speaking, workers don't tend to unionize right away in new or emerging businesses or industries. They usually take up the issue later in response to owner or managerial practices, and due to the desire for better working conditions. Bike-share has been considered a disruptive industry since its first organized program began in Washington, DC in 2010. But by 2014, bike-share employees in certain cities had accrued enough time on the job to assess how the businesses operate over a sustained period.
Now, nearly a decade in, the newness has worn off of traditional bike-share businesses and more employees are examining the possibility of unionizing. Some consider San Francisco late to the game considering its progressive and transit-forward ideologies, but workers are expected to vote in favor of unionization next week.
- San Francisco Examiner Bay Area Ford GoBike workers to unionize
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