Cognition Issue 4

Charles Ruiz, better known as "RKO" and holder of the all-time consecutive attendance record in the Messenger Industry, was rehired at DMS/RMS on July 7 in response to a polite yet impassioned demand by SFBMA representatives at the June 19 meeting between SFBMA, DMS/RMS Messengers and Management. He was assigned to the DMS Warehouse Shipping & Receiving Department and many Messengers have come by to welcome back the veteran whose attendance record overshadows Cal Ripken's.
Well into the 90s RKO showed up for every scheduled Messenger work day at Aero and other companies through rain, shine and injury. This record of over 3,000 dates in a row stands at the top of the Messenger Industry in the Bay Area if not the world. For the last two years he had worked at Aero's downtown "statue." There, in emulation of San Francisco's patron Francis of Assisi he was often seen feeding birds straight from his hand.

This past May RKO's "statue" position was eliminated and his longtime tenure was ended until the SFBMA took up his case.
Credit to SFBMA's persistence and solidarity has been acknowledged by Messengers and others in the industry including management. A day after RKO's return RMS Bay Area Director Tom Finley thanked SFBMA President Howard Williams for the Association's attention to RKO's situation. -H

Lickety Split Splits
Lickety Split Delivery has left the DMS to form a working-partnership the newly created Not Ordinary Business Services (No-BS).
Lickety was created in 1991 by Lynne Breedlove as an a positive environment for women and especially lesbians to work. They joined up with the DMS three years ago and remained unique in that they did not hold an ownership interest in DMS, but rather paid the DMS a fee for their services.

In February the DMS went public and the riders were paid according to the Universal Price Grid (UPG) as opposed to commission. Previously, Lickety Split riders had enjoyed a 60% commission. "The daily earnings of Lickety riders under employee/upg reality were abysmal," writes Greg Austin.

"It is incredible how much less $$ they made during the dms ordeal," writes Kali Berkowitz. "I guess the conformity might work for some, but for the smaller co.'s whose tags are way far out and spread apart, the upg just doesn't work!"

Lynne did not agree with the UPG or with being part of an international corporation. LSD has prided itself on being grassroots and community-oriented, and their clients tend to be non-profit, socially conscious, and woman- and lesbian/gay-owned businesses. So, in the interest of staying true to their ideals, the company left DMS to move into its new Mission office with No-BS.

A negligible amount of clients was lost in the change over, but those that have stayed are happier with LSD's service. Anyone calling DMS in the past could expect to be put on hold for a matter of minutes, whereas now phones are answered within seconds. And deliveries are much more likely to be performed by women. Couriers still operate on the free-call system, but have returned to a commission-based pay.
Recently, after the move, LSD riders have changed from being independent contractors to employees. This next pay period will be the first reflecting the change in income. Couriers now can opt for medical and dental coverage.

Both Ken of LSD and Greg Austin wish to make it clear that there are no hard feelings between companies during the break-up. -A

!We CAN'T do it! ... and other myths
Joseph Goebbels (the German Minister of Propaganda during the Nazi rule), in a rare moment of honesty, once explained his success in convincing people of his lies. Start with a Big Lie - the more outrageous the better - then just keep repeating it. Don't debate it. Don't explain it. Just repeat it. I am reminded of this propaganda tactic when I hear some of the "reasons" why Messengers have not yet effectively united to solve our problems both on and off the job. This is not to say that people stating these reasons are Nazis or liars, just that they are repeating things that've been repeated more than they've been discussed. So at the risk of being disgusting I'd like to get some things discussed.
"We can't do it." Now just how rich would we all be if each of us had a penny for every time we've heard this one? The client doesn't think we can go far or fast or handle an oversize. But we do . . . time and time again. Those are cases we face on the job as individuals. Then there's the collective issues we face as a community. When we faced the September 1989 crackdown many of us really didn't think we could resist the power of the city government. I didn't think we could either, but I also knew that we sure as hell were going to try. And we won. The next month the Quake closed the Bay Bridge and many of our employers didn't think we could handle the out of town tags. But we did and now it's common at many companies for us to get on BART or CalTrain or just ride across the Golden Gate or down the Peninsula. And in 1996 even our own brothers and sisters in other cities were nervous about our ability to organize the CMWC. Yet we put on the best ever Championships and made many innovations in the CMWC that remain to this day. And this year we've just succeeded in doing tags through a record rainfall season.
Now some people say we can't organize ourselves to increase our incomes and improve working conditions. Organizing a union in the 90s is a tough challenge but before we say "We can't do it" let's remember all those times we heard that in the past.
"Unions make you take drug tests and wear uniforms." Not even close. Company owners and managers make you take urine tests and wear uniforms. If you have a union you have a chance to stop that. Without a union a company can force you to take tests and wear a uniform.
"Messengers are too individualistic to form a union." The implication here is that individualists don't join unions. Give me a break. It takes guts, brains, heart and more than a little nerve to form a union, especially in these days. Harry Bridges, Cesar Chavez, the Reuther brothers and Dolores Huerta were not sheep or automatons. They were rugged individualists in the fullest sense of the term. The dockworkers and sailors who won the 1934 S.F. General Strike had nicknames like Suitcase, Patch 'em Up Red, Ape, Pelican, Spike, Overcoat, One Round, Forty Fathoms, Left Rudder, T. Bone, Hamburger, O'Hoolee How Red, Lantern Jaw, Soap Box, Ham & Eggs, Fine & Dandy, High Hat, High Pockets, Coconuts, Long Nose, Moon Face, Kokomo Kid, Freddy the Trout, Lord Love A Duck, Scrapper and Diamond Stew. Don't some of those names sound familiar? In other words those were guys like us! They were sea dogs and we're gravy dogs.
We're San Francisco Bike Messengers. We can do it . . . and we should.
Your President,
Howard Williams

Messenger Brutally Murdered in NYC
Messenger Brutally Murdered in NYC
A New York messenger, Eli of Elite Couriers was stabbed in the chest three times earlier this year. Those who knew him say this was a completely unprovoked act of violence but, as a result, Eli was braindead and kept alive for months only by life support systems. SFBMA, represented by Kali Berkowitz, raised $126 in matter of hours to give to Eli's girlfriend Corinne Rhodes, to help defray their medical bills. Additional donations can made out to Corinne and sent care of Elite Couriers, 158 Crosby St., NYC NY 10012. Thanks to everyone who contributed! -A

Advanced? ...Not!
Messengers at Advanced Courier have been often earning under minimum wage. New messengers start at the inexcusably low rate of 40%, while veteran riders can only expect 47%. This is while doing tags as cheap as 75 cents! The couriers created a petition making the modest request of being given a base price list. 95% of the riders signed it and the petition was presented this week to management, along with a petition signed by SFBMA members saying that they would not seek jobs at Advanced or do Advanced tags in the event of a strike.
Advanced Courier was, until recently, the bike board of Special T Messenger Delivery Service, Inc., owned by the Talmadge family. Joseph "Chief" Talmadge, who also owns Gold Gym, gave Advanced to his son. An ex-Special T rider speculates that the Chief gave his son Advanced to beat the alimony he has to pay.
Special T began as American Indian Delivery Service and changed its name to Special T in the 80s, when the AIDS epidemic came to national awareness. In 1991, Chris Neil took over ownership of the bike board to form Zap Courier. Zap separated from Special T and joined the DMS. Special T rebuilt its bike board and within the last year started Advanced as a new company for the bikes, while keeping the trucks under the name of Special T.
Their new clients tend to pay full price but the older clients are heavily discounted to retain their loyalty. Riders also undergo the indignity of not being allowed in their own company's office and out of communication with the office workers. They have no lounge, storage space, or mechanic, which is ridiculous at such a large company.
Official response to the petitions is still forthcoming, although a rider told me Matthew, who received the petitions, was "really pissed." The company representatives said they did not want to print detailed pay-out information for bikers, because then they would have to do the same for trucks. And the problem with this is...?! Special T had no problem giving riders complete pay-out information with their checks when I worked there in 1991, and there is no reason why they can't afford their messengers this basic service today. -A