December 15, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Brooklyn, NY—The lead organizer for the Transport Workers Union’s bikeshare initiative said in the accompanying video that bikeshare workers in Boston and Chicago shrugged off a vicious anti-union campaign by the notorious union-avoidance law firm Jackson Lewis and voted to join the union.
The National Labor Relations Board conducted an election in Boston on December 4 where 74 percent of the bikeshare workers working for Hubway voted to join TWU. And in Chicago on Wednesday, bikeshare workers also voted to join TWU despite a strong anti-union campaign. New York’s bikeshare workers voted to join TWU in September and there’s an upcoming election in Washington D.C. this week.
Nicholas Bedell is the TWU’s lead organizer for the union’s nationwide initiative to organize bikeshare workers. In the accompanying video interview near the union’s offices in Brooklyn, we asked him about how the bikeshare workers overcame the anti-union campaign.
“In Chicago there was a more robust effort by the employer to divide workers [with] a strong anti-union campaign, but the bikeshare workers organized very hard, they had a great team out there and at the end of the day when the ballots were counted TWU is going to be the union representing bikeshares nationally,” said Bedell.
Bedell said the bikeshare companies in all four cities unfortunately hired Jackson Lewis.
“They hired the firm to try to convince members that it would be best not to unionize. This conversation can be very destructive and divides the workforce. Management then starts playing favorites and conducting closed door meetings by telling workers that the union only wants your money. But when workers are well organized and start thinking about their interests and management’s interests, they realize if they want a voice the only way to do that is to form a worker’s organization and become a union on the job,” Bedell said.
With an upcoming vote in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the Transport Workers Union is looking to represent bikeshare workers around the country as the union expects there’ll be thousands of bikeshare workers in the coming decade.
“They’ll be a bikeshare starting in Philadelphia, they’re doubling the size of the bikeshare in Miami, and they’ll be opening one in Seattle as well as in Los Angeles. This is a burgeoning and growing industry of public transportation; it solves the last-mile problem [e.g. public transit riders can avoid a crosstown corridor clogged by traffic by using the bikeshare to get to their final destination.] We want to start setting standards for employees in the industry so that they can be paid decent, livable wages, can make a career out of it and retire with dignity,” said Bedell.