Employees with the Hubway bike share system in Boston and its surrounding communities are moving to unionize.
While Boston owns Hubway equipment, those communities’ bikes and stations are maintained by Alta Bicycle Share out of Portland, Ore. Boston’s Alta employees are the ones looking to unionize.
Alta operates Citibike in New York City (through subsidiary NYC Bike Share). Employees there joined the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents New York’s public transit workers, this summer.
Hubway workers are looking to join the same New York-based union, citing the familiarity it already has developed with Alta and bike sharing in general, but would be independently represented. (Nick Bedell, a TWU 100 organizer, says the collective bargaining agreement reached for the New York workers will likely serve as a template for other cities’ programs.)
Alta employees at Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, are also organizing, according to TWU 100 spokesperson Jim Gannon.
Hubway employees presented authorization papers from a majority of workers to management Monday afternoon, starting the unionization process. Hubway employs 39 non-management workers, working in positions such as mechanics, technicians, dispatchers, and customer service reps. Thirty of the 39 workers signed authorization cards, according to a source at Hubway who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Workers are asking management to voluntarily recognize TWU 100’s representation, but will prepare for a National Labor Relations Board vote in the event that doesn’t pan out. In New York last month, Citibike opted to voluntarily recognize the union shortly before the vote was scheduled to occur. New York’s system employs about 200 non-management workers.
In a statement, Hubway workers said they sought unionization due to concerns about “unsafe working conditions, unpredictable scheduling, benefit reductions, training, and just cause.’’
Since launching in 2011, Hubway has expanded to include 140 stations in the Boston area, with more than 1,300 bikes on the road.
Alta directed questions to Hubway’s management team, which did not immediately respond to inquiries from Boston.com.