Bikeshare workers turn up volume on wage complaints

June 19, 2013
Hannah Kane, left, holding the Capital Bikeshare bike is an organizer for the Employment Justice Center. Former Capital Bikeshare employee Anibal Apunte, in the background, is giving an interview to a television reporter after a small press conference outside DDOT's M Street office. Khalil Brown, right, is also a former Capital Bikeshare employee. (Stefanie Dazio/The Washington Post) Organizer Hannah Kane, left, and former Capital Bikeshare employees Anibal Apunte and Khalil Brown demonstrate outside city offices on 14th Street NW. (Stefanie Dazio/The Washington Post)

Several current and former Capital Bikeshare employees delivered petitions to city and company officials on Wednesday, applying new pressure as they call for a response to their allegations of unfair pay practices.

Capital Bikeshare, which is operated privately through a contract with the District’s transportation department, is under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division for alleged violations of a federal law requiring District government contractors to pay employees certain wages and benefits.

The workers — who were joined Wednesday by employees of the Employment Justice Center, Jobs with Justice, Our D.C. and Mintwood Media — claim that they have not received proper benefits and wages from Capital Bikeshare, a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Ore.

“It’s not a bad job, it’s not a hard job. I take pride in my job,” said Zeek Manago, a current Bikeshare employee. “I want what’s owed to me.”

Some workers had complaints unrelated to the Labor Department probe. Khalil Brown, a former employee, said his supervisors never scheduled him for work after winter 2012, despite saying he still had a job.

“I didn’t get laid off, I didn’t get fired and I didn’t quit,” Brown said. “Never got a call, never got an e-mail saying, ‘Come to work.’”

The group of 17 first delivered a packet of letters and a petition with about 1,400 signatures to Eric Gilliland, director of Capital Bikeshare, while chanting and clapping, “Play fair, Bikeshare!”

“We know you have the power to do the right thing,” John Farmer, a current employee, said to Gilliland.

“We’ll make it work,” Gilliland replied.

After a small news conference where former employee Anibal Apunte read a statement about the group’s allegations, the activists tried to approach transportation department officials at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center on 14th Street NW. But they learned that location did not house the department’s top managers.

When they reached the agency’s executive offices, on M Street SE, a customer service employee took the petition and told the activists it would “get to the right people.”

In a statement, the transportation department said it is aware of the workers’ allegations, as are officials in Arlington and Alexandria, where Capital Bikeshare also operates: “The jurisdictions are following this closely and await any outcomes from the U.S. Department of Labor.”

Alta Vice President Mia Birk said in a separate statement Wednesday that the company is “working diligently” with federal investigators to provide requested information and has “undertaken an exhaustive review” of its contracts at Capital Bikeshare and other locations “to further ensure we are treating our employees with the respect they deserve.”

“From rebalancers and bike mechanics, to our station technicians and support staff, we value the hard work of each and every employee and the contribution they have made to our successes,” she said. “A bike share system is nothing without the staff to make it work.”

A final resolution of the investigation, she said, “will depend on the Department of Labor.”

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