Bikeshare Workers’ Wage Protest Stops by Wrong Office
Capital Bikeshare workers feel they're not getting their due. They allege that they haven't been paid the prevailing wages and benefits they're owed, and the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating their claim. Last month, 16 current and former employees signed a letter to Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, Capital Bikeshare's operator, demanding back pay. And today, a group of current and former Bikeshare employees and supporters gathered to deliver a petition to the District Department of Transportation insisting on fair pay.
The only problem? They got the address wrong.
The crowd of about a dozen assembled outside the Frank D. Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW and held a short press conference to lay out their case. "We love Bikeshare," said former Bikeshare supervisor Anibal Apunte, who claims he was fired last year for exercising his First Amendment rights. "We love what it's done for our city. We just don't like the way management is handling it."
Apunte and the Employment Justice Center's Hannah Kane charged that Bikeshare workers were supposed to be paid more than $17 an hour as a starting wage under federal prevailing wage law, including benefits, but that most have been paid substantially less. "They're not paying fair," said Apunte. "They're not abiding by the contract."
The group then filed into the Reeves Center, took the elevator to the second floor, entered the small DDOT Transportation Management Center office there, and announced that they were there to deliver a petition to DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. The puzzled woman at the desk informed them that he was at DDOT's headquarters at 55 M St. SE, where the agency moved in 2011.
"So who's in charge of this office?" Kane asked.
"55 M," came the reply.
So the dejected group headed back downstairs, with plans to reconvene at the proper address. (Before heading to the Reeves Center, the group had gone by the Bikeshare warehouse on 2nd Street SW to ask the program's D.C. manager for Alta to come into compliance with prevailing wage law by July. For that stop, they got the right address.)
But snafus aside, the charges against Alta remain. The company has offered only a scant reply to the allegations and hasn't returned my calls.
"I do not have any benefits at all, and I've been there for 15 months," says Douglas Jones, the only current Bikeshare employee who stopped by the rally this morning. "It's been an ongoing struggle. I've been asking them for my benefits for the last seven, eight months." The response of management, he says, has been "'Not now,' or 'We need to talk to Portland.'"
Update 2:50 p.m.: I'm informed now that the group has successfully delivered the petition, with more than 1,400 signatures by members of the public, to the correct DDOT address.
Photos by Aaron Wiener