Local parking employees say that they are not receiving fair wages or raises based on their performance and are unionizing in an effort to achieve honest labor practices.

“Some who were getting written up for incorrigibility got high wages, while others who were doing a good job did not,” said Erin Sower, an attendant for Republic Parking Systems, the firm that maintains all of Ann Arbor’s parking garages.

“Some gave very high scores to their employees, but some gave low scores because they were biased.”

Employees of Republic Parking recently voted to unionize with the Teamsters Local 243, decrying Republic’s dishonest managerial practices and a lack of job security.

Teamster Local 243 organizer Jim St. Louis said that Republic employees are receiving less than the living wage of $10.20 an hour or $8.70 an hour with health benefits as set by city ordinance.

“The only workers I’ve heard of who have gotten the (living wage) are the meter collectors,” St. Louis said.

Employees attribute the unfair wages to unfair evaluation practices by managers.

Sower also said one manager at Republic denied his employees due pay for overtime, claiming that if employees worked overtime, often times the manager “would physically cross out the time (on their cards) because he believed they should have punched out at an earlier time. Employees weren’t getting paid for their hours.”

Republic management refused to comment on the accuracy of these statements.

Sower said that on top of resolving the wage issues, workers seek a contract with Republic that gives them “adequate equipment”, like bathrooms in their tollbooths and “chairs that aren’t falling to pieces.”

The Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances allows for an exemption to the living wage if the city contracts a subsidiary to purchase the services of another independent firm, like Republic Parking. In 2000, the Downtown Development Authority, an offshoot of the city government that operates independent of its auspices, contracted Republic to handle all of the city’s parking operations.

The DDA gave Republic Parking enough money to pay their employees the living wage though there are exceptions to providing it, DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said.

“A year ago, the board of the DDA voted to increase Republic’s budget … and they increased the wage levels beyond what the living wage is.”

But according to Republic employees and the teamsters, not all employees are receiving the living wage despite the funding from the increased funding from DDA.

“Who got the money?” St. Lois asked. “Did the city? Did the DDA?”

“The problem with the DDA is it’s kind of made up to avoid the employees becoming city employees,” he added. “The DDA is like a third party to avoid (the living wage).”

St. Louis said he is counting on the Ann Arbor community to challenge DDA and Republic’s hunt for loopholes in the wage ordinances.

“Why form the DDA in the first place?” he said. “There has to be a purpose.”

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