Bikeshare Showdown Possible as Workers’ Deadline Approaches
Two weeks ago, a group of former Capital Bikeshare workers and allies delivered a petition to the program's general manager and—eventually—the District Department of Transportation, demanding back pay and higher wages. The current and former employees who signed the petition charge that the company operating Capital Bikeshare, Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, isn't complying with federal prevailing wage laws. The petition gives Alta until July 3 to take action on the allegations.
Today is July 3. If Alta hasn't responded appropriately by the end of the day, the petitioners are threatening "escalating actions next week," according to former employee and petition organizer Samuel Swenson. Swenson says the group behind the petition, which includes the Employment Justice Center, hasn't yet decided what those actions might entail, but he didn't rule out an eventual strike among Bikeshare workers.
"Nothing is off the table," Swenson says. "People are entertaining all options, including a strike. But a very big priority for the Bikeshare workers is that customers are able to continue to enjoy the system."
Only 12 current Bikeshare employees have put their names on the petition, plus two who signed anonymously, out of about 50 total Bikeshare employees, according to Swenson. But Swenson says other Bikeshare workers are involved and supportive of the campaign, even if they don't want to sign the petition. "We have definitely have majority support among the workers," he says.
Bikeshare workers will be handing out flyers by bike corrals on the National Mall tomorrow, Swenson says.
The Bikeshare workers claim Alta, which has a contract with the District Department of Transportation, is not paying the wages and benefits required under federal law. The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the matter.
Alta hasn't returned several phone calls, but the company released a statement on June 20 addressing the allegations. "Most of our jobs in this cutting edge industry are not currently listed in the prevailing wage guidelines," Alta says in the statement.
Swenson argues that Bikeshare jobs like "medium truck driver" are explicitly listed in the prevailing wage guidelines. "They’re bullshitting," he says. "What they’re saying is dishonest. They’re waiting to see if the Department of Labor gives them a ruling that gets them out of full back pay."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery