Jitneys have roamed San Francisco’s streets for a century. But a modern, tech-enabled private bus company — Chariot — may be the first in The City to unionize.
The Teamsters Union filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday to allow Chariot’s some 140 drivers to vote form a union.
“The wages are really not sufficient to live in the Bay Area,” said Mark Gleason, a Teamsters representative. “We’re talking about drivers making in the $13-14 an hour range.”
“That used to be a lot of money to make in the Bay Area,” he said. “But it isn’t anymore.”
Ford Motor Company bought Chariot in September 2016 for $65 million, according to a report from Business Insider. That relationship with Chariot signaled to the Teamsters that unionization may be welcome.
“We have been contacted by Teamsters Local #665 and will respond as appropriate.,” Chariot wrote in a statement. “Since our inception, Chariot has been committed to delivering competitive wages and benefits, on-the-job training and meaningful career opportunities for our drivers.”
Chariot noted Ford has “represented and non-represented” employees around the world.
“Ford Motor Company has a strong history of labor relations,” said Doug Bloch, political director of the Teamsters Joint Council 7, a body of the teamsters who represent 100,000 workers in Northern California, Nevada and the Central Valley.
The Teamsters also organized many commuter shuttle drivers, who ferry tech workers to Silicon Valley from San Francisco.
Chariot is also the subject of new regulations being crafted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which does not have a modern set of laws to govern private bus services. Questions remain, for instance, about Chariot’s ability to serve passengers with disabilities, or whether it can legally use Muni bus stops.
As first reported by the San Francisco Examiner, that proposed regulatory structure was announced only last month and is still in development.
The SFMTA was not immediately available for comment. The Teamsters, however, have worked with SFMTA previously on building labor-relations into the regulations for commuter shuttles.
Based on that past relationship, Bloch said, “We’re getting strong support from MTA and City Hall on labor harmony” being built into jitney regulations.
The Teamsters await an election date from the NLRB, which Gleason said may be held as early as two to three weeks based on past decisions of the labor board.
As to why the Teamsters are bringing yet another tech company into the union fold, Gleason said it simply makes sense.
“I know people in the Bay Area have various opinions about the tech buses, but the reality is the transit model Chariot has and tech buses, they’re the future,” Gleason said.
“We’re recognizing where that work is going.”