Spin scooters this week officially became the first company in the e-scooter industry to unionize. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Spin scooters this week officially became the first company in the e-scooter industry to unionize. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Spin hourly workers ratify first-ever collective bargaining agreement

Union contract awards e-scooter workers with higher pay, additional benefits and more paid-time-off

Hourly workers at Spin ratified their inaugural collective bargaining agreement Tuesday, the first of its kind within the e-scooter industry.

The 40 members of Teamsters Local 665 voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of a three-year contract that grants them an annual wage increase of over 3 percent per year, six paid holidays, increased vacation and sick leave, a $1,200 employee bonus and benefits accrual for part-time workers.

It also provides them with the protection and advocacy of the union.

“All this means a lot during the pandemic. We know our union will have our back if our boss or the city government tries to make changes. I can say, for sure, we’re proud to be Teamsters,” Shamar Bell, a Spin worker and shop steward, said in a statement issued by the union.

Members who hold the roles of shift leads, maintenance and operation specialists, deployers, collectors, and neighborhood ambassadors voted to join the Teamsters Local 665 in December 2019, making it the first e-scooter workforce to unionize in San Francisco, a bellwether for such trends nationwide.

E-scooter permit program

Joint Council 7, which includes Local 665, represents more than 100,000 union workers statewide.

Spin’s receptivity to unionization was believed to have helped the company in its bid last year for a permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to operate its e-scooters throughout The City.

Spin had been passed over the year before when applying for the pilot permit program, and the Examiner reported at the time that the company knew it was rejected, in part, because its business model used independent contractors rather than employees.

As the SFMTA moved to expand its scooter program, the Board of Supervisors also called on the transit agency to make labor rights a key part of the application process. The Board moved to make compliance with AB 5, a statewide labor law that compels ride-share, mobility tech and other gig worker-based companies to transition their workers from independent contractors to employees, a prerequisite.

At the urging of the Teamsters, Spin, owned by Ford Motor Company, signed on to a “labor peace” pact that essentially indicated to workers that unionization would be welcome in September 2019 as it was gearing up for that 11-company fight for e-scooter permits.

Doing so gave the company an edge for its selection in October and workers promptly organized before the December vote.

Labor harmony

Labor harmony is a radical move in the mobility tech world.

In fact, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have led the opposition to AB 5 with a more-than-$110 million ballot initiative this November that would largely exempt them from the law.

Local 665, on the other hand, has “aggressively advocated for our members not only at the bargaining table, but also with The City to ensure that e-scooter jobs are not temp gig work, that they are good union jobs,” Local 665 Secretary-Treasurer Tony Delorio said in a statement. “We welcome the expansion of scooter companies that follow the rules.”

Scoot, Lime and Jump — which was recently acquired by Lime — also received one-year e-scooter permits last year, though Spin was the only to continue operating throughout the entirety of shelter-in-place and, according to Delorio, remains the only e-scooter company to have forged such a pact with its workers.

“Scooters are fairly new all around the country, and we were the first ones to get the workers unionized. Everyone’s kind of got their eyes on it,” he told the Examiner. “We knew the pressure was on us to create a contract from scratch in an industry that’s brand new.

Though coronavirus delayed the negotiations, Spin and union members continued discussions through virtual meetings, outreach by mail and other means.

“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve worked with the Teamsters to ensure our company could continue servicing the City by implementing safety procedures to keep both our employees and riders safe. Despite these difficult times, we are proud to have negotiated this contract with the Teamsters,” Nima Rahimi, Spin’s legal counsel for regulatory and labor affairs, said.

According to Delorio, the union estimates there will be 20 union jobs for every 500 Spin e-scooters on the road, which is why there are currently 40 members for the originally-sanctioned 1,000 vehicles.

But Spin is expanding its fleet in San Francisco, thanks to an SFMTA permit for an additional 500 e-scooters awarded in early September, and the number of union jobs could grow with it.

Delorio said he expects the number of Spin union jobs to jump to as many as 60 “sooner rather than later.”

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