- Forty workers who manage Spin's scooter fleet in December voted for a union.
- Even before the decision was made, Ford's startup had classified employees as employees rather than independent contractors and given them access to the related benefits related to the employment.
- In an interview, the founder of Spin explained why investing in training and services can help the company win in the long battle against its competitors Bird, Lime and more.
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Contract work is perhaps one of the most controversial issues among transportation companies, and Spin – Ford's scooter startup – has largely opted to treat the workers who load and manage their fleet as employees rather than contractors.
In an interview with Business Insider, founder and president Euwyn Poon spoke out roughly for the company 40 workers who voted to join the Teamsters union in December, Contract negotiations are ongoing as part of this decision, but even before the vote, many of Spin’s employees were already classified as employees rather than contractors employed by key competitors such as Bird and Lime.
"We have found that working with trained people has really helped our bottom line as they make better decisions out there," he said.
"It helps because they apply this knowledge locally while managing the fleet."
Spin has now grown to 600 employees, said Poon.
Despite the current classification, workers said in a press release distributed by the Teamsters organization that they are targeting wages, health care, and old-age security. Poon did not disclose details of what type of contract the company could support.
Regarding the tax forms that contractors receive, as opposed to the W-2s that full-time employees submit, Poon said, "1099 chargers can sometimes get spotty results because they are by definition on and off and not really trained."
"They cannot be trained as well because they are contractors," said Poon.
Contract work is widespread in almost all parts of the new mobility industry – a loose conglomerate of hail shipping companies as well as operators of scooters and bicycles. Lime and Bird, the other two major scooter companies, use contract work to recharge and move their fleets.
Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, use employees to move their fleets of bicycles and scooters, but rely on contract work to provide their core hail service.
The debate between employees and contractors has continued in Silicon Valley. A new law, passed by California lawmakers to support exactly when companies can and cannot employ workers, has been violently contested by people like Uber, Lyft, and others. A consortium of so-called gig economy companies has pledged tens of millions of dollars to repeal the law in favor of their own service package.
For scooter companies in particular, the use of contractors often requires some level of gamification of incentives to ensure that fleets are properly maintained. This includes bonuses for chargers at specific times and locations or for chargers that work on a specific number of consecutive days. The payment is usually made per scooter or per fee, in contrast to hourly rates.
And as spin grows in new markets like Washington, DC, and San Francisco, where it defeats rivals with lucrative contracts, it will need every leg it can find.
"There is a certain limit to how well this can work," said Poon. "We have found that investing in the training of our employees has been a key benefit. I can't even track the 60 markets we operate in. They give constant feedback and what is happening locally that we might miss."