Update below: If you have visited DIA recently, and either taken a SuperShuttle or watched them pass by while waiting for your ride, you might not think anything is out of the ordinary.
They are coming and going as frequently as ever.
But behind this, "everything is normal" facade lies an ongoing conflict between drivers and management that may lead to a strike.
Right now, just under one-hundred of the Denver SuperShuttle drivers are waiting to hear back from management to see if they can come to a final deal to end a conflict over wages that's lasted for more than a year. If an agreement isn't reached, there may be a strike.
The conflict between drivers and the company started back in 2009, when the drivers voted to unionize through Communication Workers of America. According to Al Kogler, the CWA District 7 organizing coordinator who represents their union, this decision created issues, as the drivers are basically independent contractors -- paying for their own vehicle, insurance and other fees. But in 2011, they were able to form a union.
Since the drivers unionized as if they were employees, SuperShuttle decided to start treating them likewise, cutting their hours and wages. As independent contractors, the drivers could work as many hours as they wanted, taking a commission from every ride. With that system, the drivers worked an average of sixty hours a week, taking home over $30,000 a year. But, in January 2012, when the union took effect, SuperShuttle (correction) wanted to institute a new business model -- one that restricted drivers to working forty hours a week at an hourly wage of $11.50 an hour. According to Kogler, the change would ultimately cut wages by almost 30 percent.
"This wouldn't give them enough to put food on the table in many cases," said Courtney Law, colorado communications director at Strategies 360.
Kogler said at first the negotiations over this change went well, until the pay came up.
"When we get to economics, the drivers very much wanted to keep their model," Kogler said. "The company refused to go that route."
After many back-and-forths, SuperShuttle presented what's referred to as a final offer. But the contract was just voted down by the union, and, "the same vote authorized a strike if that made sense at some point," Kogler says.
We've reached out to SuperShuttle for comment, and will update this post when and if a representative gets back to us.
As of now, the drivers continue to shuttle passengers to and from their destinations, uncertain how long they'll be doing so.
"They don't want to strike," Law says. "They're hoping SuperShuttle comes back with a better deal."
Update: SuperShuttle responded to Westword's request for comment about the driver's dispute in Denver with the following statement:
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After accepting their contracts to become franchise owners for SuperShuttle, our franchisees decided...to petition the National Labor Relations Board to be declared employees as opposed to franchisees. They had to do this in order to gain union representation. The company did not initiate this change in the business model, the franchisees of SuperShuttle did and our contract offer reflects the changes necessary to implement the NLRB's decision to treat them as employees.
Under our contract offer, total driver hourly income (including tips) will approximate $16.50 per hour. This represents an annual income of more than $34,000 per year, which is more than their stated average income under the franchise model.
In addition, drivers will now have many benefits unavailable to them before. These benefits include medical and dental insurance, vacation pay, sick pay and paid holidays, among other forms of new benefits.
During the entire period of contract negotiations, the drivers have continued to operate under the exact same terms of their franchise agreements as existed before the union vote. This means they have continued to determine their own working schedules and income levels while contract negotiations have been underway.
Al Kogler, who represents the union, disputes the pay claim above. According to him, "The deal that has been offered is $11.50 an hour for 40 hours per week." He claims it was the union that proposed the $16.50 an hour rate, but SuperShuttle rejected it.
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