New York bike share workers win first collective bargaining agreement

Workers at Citi Bike, New York City’ bike share program, have become the first workers in the rapidly expanding bike share industry to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their employer.

About 200 Citi Bike mechanics, technicians, dispatchers, and drivers joined Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 in September, and the union on July 9 announced a tentative agreement with Motivate, the company that manages the city’s bike share program.

Local 100, New York City’s public transportation union, called the new agreement “a ground breaking contract.”

In addition to a significant wage increase and new benefits, it provides eight weeks of paid parental leave.

“The provisions of the contract that are family oriented such as eight weeks of paternal leave are an enormous win for this workforce and an enormous win for workers everywhere,” said John Samuelsen, president of Local 100.

It also establishes a Workers Council that will meet regularly with management to discuss job related issues.

Samuelsen said that the Citi Bike tentative agreement, which is awaiting ratification by the membership, will serve as  a template for contract negotiations with other bike share programs around the country.

Local 100 has organized bike share workers in Boston, Chicago, and Washington and plans to continue organizing other bike share workers.

Bike share is an increasing popular public transportation program.

It allows commuters to bridges the gap between their public transportation drop off sites like subway stations or bus stops and their final destinations.

For a yearly fee, bike share users receive a code on their mobile app, which they use to check out bikes at kiosks near public transportation drop off sites.

They then ride their bikes to their final destination and drop them off at another bike share kiosk.

Most major cities in the US now have bike share programs, which have become increasingly popular among users.

For example, the Topeka, Kansas Metro Board of Directors recently reported that participation in the local bike share program had “shattered our expectations.”

In New York City, Citi Bike has been so popular that Motivate, the nation’s largest bike share management company, plans to expand the service to Long Island.

When Citi Bike started two years ago it had problems that frustrated customers and employees.

An ill-suited computer system caused bike kiosks to have too many or too few bikes, bikes broke down too frequently, and there were problems with the payment system.

Workers complained of a lack of communication between management and workers, the lack of pay raises, and scheduling problems that kept those who wanted to work 40 hours a week from doing so.

“I worked as a dispatcher in DC (where Motivate operates another bike share program),” said Dolly Winter, a Citi Bike dispatcher and an active member of the union organizing committee. “I saw a lot of the same issues that happened in DC happen in New York City, and that’s when I decided with other people that we needed to get together and form a union.”

After the workers joined Local 100, a new management team took over and renamed the management company Motivate.

Motivate management soon began addressing the bike share program’s problems including its labor relations problems. As a result, the company and union successfully completed negotiations of the first contract, which Samuelsen said will help improve customer service.

The contract includes an immediate 10 percent pay increase with additional pay raises during the life of the contract, paid health insurance, paid parental leave, a grievance procedure, a seniority system for picking assignments, eight paid holidays, paid vacation time, and differential pay for night work.

“At the end of the day, there was certainly a cooperative atmosphere (with Motivate) and an atmosphere of understanding that if the unionized workforce was well treated, they would be productive and they would propel the system forward for the benefit of the users of the system,” said Samuelsen.

“This contract is excellent for TWU workers at Motivate, (and) it’s good for the riders and users of the bike share system,” he added.

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