This rather nondescript building currently houses the DC warehouse of Mo-tivate, the company that operates Capital Bikeshare. Behind this building, as you’ll see on our way out, is a salvage yard cooperative. The warehouse was originally located about a block to the east, wedged between a cement pro-cessing facility and PEPCO diesel generating plant which makes conversations like this inaudible on hot days when everyone in the city is drawing power for their air conditioners. Keep the image of this mixture of cement dust, diesel particulates and fumes from occasional incineration at the salvage yard in mind when we get to Foggy Bottom later, as it would have been many times worse in its heyday. This neighborhood of Buzzard Point is one of the last remaining industrial areas within District boundaries, and this one, too, will disappear, as we are standing on what will become the bleachers of the new DC United soccer stadium in a few years.
Recent bicycle industry organizing
In 2012, employees working for Alta Bicycle Share, the company that then operated Capital Bikeshare, discovered in the company’s contract with the Dis-trict Department of Transportation, that they were supposed to have been get-ting paid a federally-mandated prevailing wage with benefits. With the help of the Employment Justice Center, they made a claim with the Department of Labor, and the case is still ongoing (some current and former workers have been given back pay, but there has not been a full settling of accounts).
Last year, after Alta workers with the CitiBike system in New York City won union recognition, and driven by mounting concerns over job security, arbitrary discipline, safety and other issues, Capital Bikeshare workers also decided to organize with TWU Local 100, followed shortly thereafter by their colleagues in Boston and Chicago. At the same time, the company was in the process of being taken over by a group of hyper-wealthy real estate and “lifestyle indus-tries” investors in New York. While previous management had decided to voluntarily recognize the union in New York, the new owners were vehemently against unionization and retained the services of notorious union busters Jack-son Lewis. Workers in DC, Boston and Chicago ultimately prevailed, however, with those in DC voting 75% for the union, with 90% turnout.
Contract negotiations are ongoing, and concerns remain that the new owners plan to use Capital Bikeshare as a vehicle for latter-day “urban renewal” (more on that in the next stop) and real-estate profiteering.
- Fhar Miess