A Ford GoBike location at Steuart and Market streets on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Bay Area Ford GoBike workers to unionize

Ford GoBike is often noted for its technology-laden features: unlocking bikes via a mobile phone app, docking them in futuristic-looking curbside stations and even electric motor assistance.

In this industry known for “disruption,” however, Ford GoBike’s workers are taking a cue from previous generations — they’re forming a union.

Ford GoBike mechanics and bike service workers will vote March 28 on whether to join the Transport Workers Union of America.

“(With) this tech mobility sector there is potential for rapid change, and we’re well positioned to organize as it evolves,” said John Samuelson, international president of the TWU.

This is especially key, Samuelson said, as Ford GoBike is poised to “grow dramatically” in San Francisco. It has plans to eventually deploy 7,000 rentable bikes in The City.

Those workers are the Bay Area staff of Motivate LLC, and are not part of Lyft, which bought Motivate last year and operates Ford GoBike in the Bay Area and other bike share operations throughout the U.S. When Lyft purchased Motivate, a separate operations company called Motivate LLC was formed as a subcontractor to Lyft.

Lyft declined to comment. Motivate did not respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco is relatively late to unionizing its bike share workers. TWU has previously organized Motivate workers in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, and Jersey City. They started with New York City five years ago.

More than half of the 90 workers from Motivate in the Bay Area have signed pledge cards filed with the National Labor Relations Board, which scheduled the union election, according to TWU, which include workers in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.

While unionization seems popular with Motivate workers, Ford GoBike hasn’t proven popular in all sectors of San Francisco.

Some neighbors in The City have fought hard against the expansion of Ford GoBike docks, citing increased traffic congestion and car parking loss, the San Francisco Examiner has previously reported.

Samuelson said if unionized, the TWU would help push those projects forward.

“Bike share has become a vital part of inter-modal transit,” Samuelson said, allowing bike share users to connect to bus and trains for everyday commutes. “We would certainly take on an active role in expanding in San Francisco.”

That’s music to the ears of Patrick Traughber, co-founder of the advocacy group Our Bikes, which pushes for bike share rollout across The City.

“It is great to have more people and organizations pushing for faster expansion of the bike share station network,” Traughber said. “Faster station rollout will help promote and grow bike ridership in the city and especially in neighborhoods which are currently underserved by this increasingly popular form of transportation.”

TWU is also hardly a stranger to San Francisco — the organization also represents about 2,000 Muni bus and train operators.


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