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Fifty-seven Capital Bikeshare employees—-or more than 80 percent of the work force—-submitted paperwork Thursday to the National Labor Relations Board to become a union, the Washington Post reported today. The employees are organizing to be a part of Transport Workers Union Local 100, the same union of New York’s Citi Bike’s workforce.

Capital Bikeshare employees wanting to take this step isn’t all that surprising. Just last year, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated the bike share program over allegations that it failed to pay its workers the proper wages. Capital Bikeshare, along with Citi Bikes and other systems throughout the country, is operated by Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bike Share. The company signed a contract with the District Department of Transportation and agreed to pay employees federal prevailing wages.

When employees felt they weren’t getting what they were promised, they organized—-well tried to anyway—-collecting signatures and making their grievances public.

As the Post’s Lydia DePillis notes, bikeshare workers represent a rare opportunity for the TWU to grow with a whole new type of profession that could get unionized while the bike share industry is still fledgling.

“And for a nascent form of urban transportation trying to gain traction with citizens and local governments alike, it doesn’t hurt to have a powerful union on your side,” DePillis writes.

A spokesperson for Alta told City Desk says there’s still a ways to go before the workers become unionized, including the National Labor Relations Board agreeing to the employees’ request and then a subsequent secret ballot election so workers can vote for or against the unionization.

“Alta Bicycle Share highly values the health and safety of our staff, and our wage and benefits packages are generous for the industry,” the spokesperson said.

The Post reports that Alta eventually recognized New York Citi Bike employees’ membership in a union voluntarily. 

 

Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post misstated the name of the National Labor Relations Board.

Photo by Aaron Wiener