October 12, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – TWU bikeshare workers in the nation’s capital ratified their first-ever contract last Friday, solidifying an almost five-year deal that not only raises wages, guarantees benefits and provides job security — but also serves an another indication that while significant obstacles remain, the American Labor Movement is on the march.
“We are proud of the solid worker-led contract victory,” TWU Executive Vice President John Samuelsen said in a statement. “TWU continues to advance wages and improve working conditions for bikeshare workers, and we continue to organize in cities not yet under contract.”
Bikeshare mechanics and technicians here in New York City set the stage for that ongoing campaign when they became the first such workers in North America to successfully secure a contract last summer.
At the time, Samuelsen told LaborPress that the newly-minted contract would, indeed, become the template for other bikeshare contracts around the country.
“The bikeshare industry is in its infant stages right now, perhaps a few thousand workers,” Samuelsen said. “But within the next 20 years, there’ll be tens of thousands of workers in the industry. We’ve broken down the door so to speak in the bikeshare industry with a collective bargaining agreement. We expect that the 200 workers in New York that are covered by this first contract will lead to thousands and thousands of workers being covered by COBs around the country within the next decade or so.”
The D.C. contract covers 75 workers and boosts employees’ hourly pay rates up to 16 percent by the time the agreement expires in 2020. By then, lead bicycle mechanics can expect to earn $22.50 an hour. Workers stocking the system’s docking stations will see their salaries grow between $18.16 and $19.91 depending on how long they’ve been at the job.
Whether in NYC, Washington, D.C. or some other busy metropolis, successful bikeshare programs consistently attract former bicycle messengers and other cycling enthusiasts who are especially devoted to the bikeshare concept and enthusiastic about helping it grow.
“We’re trying to help management see the benefit of prioritizing the lives and needs of the workers because if the workers have a good quality of life and are treated well by the company, everything will be better for all of us,” 33-year-old CitiBike mechanic Laurel Leckert told LaborPress last winter.
So far, TWU represents bikeshare mechanics, rebalancers, technicians and dispatchers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago. A single operator — known as Motivate — runs each of those systems, as well as others in San Francisco, Columbus, Chattanooga and Melbourne, Australia.
Earlier this fall, New York Central Labor Council President Vinny Alvarez cited TWU’s trailblazing organizing as an example of a “re-energized Labor Movement.”
“The New York City Labor Movement, the nation’s largest, has a proud tradition of standing up for the rights of working men and women, and these new union members are continuing that tradition by bringing a voice to a new generation of workers,” Alvarez said.
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