Cognition Issue 6

10-9 Day
Brothers and Sisters, October 9 has again been recognized by our city as Messenger Appreciation Day. Sup. Tom Ammiano wrote this year's proclamation, the Board passed it, and Mayor Willie Brown signed it. SFBMA is dedicated to making this Appreciation Day our best ever.
Some messengers have questioned whether 10-9 is an appropriate date for our Appreciation Day. As we all know, 10-9 basically means "what?" and some feel it's too tongue in cheek and should be changed to 10-4 or 10-8. They might be right and I hope we discuss this in the future. But this year our Appreciation day is on the 9th and SFBMA will do our best for that day.
From 12 noon to 1 pm on Friday october 9, we'll have music and lunch at the Wall - free for all messengers. Anyone wanting to pay their SFBMA dues or wanting to volunteer for SFBMA activities can do so. Supervisor Ammiano is expected to be there.
But the most important event will be our hour of radio silence from 12-1.
This hour of radio silence will be to respect the memory of our many departed friends AND to demonstrate ou commitment to improving the substandard working conditions that plague our honorable profession. At noon on Friday the 9th, we can unite the past and the future by honoring the memory of our departed friends AND by striving to improve the profession which they and we have built. On Friday the 9th we will tell the rulers of this city's economy that those who WORK in this city have every right to LIVE in this city - and not on the streets.
We call upon all messengers to come by the Wall for lunch and silence our radios. We call upon all dispatchers and office workers to respect this effort. We are not doing this to disrespect you or your work. We are doing this for our entire industry. We call upon all company owners and managers to remember the efforts of those who worked themselves to an early grave and to respect those working to improve things for EVERYONE in the entire profession.
Messengers, please indulge your president's religious beliefs for the time it takes to read this. I beleive that our departed friends are not dead. I beleive they've gone on to other places - hopefully better ones but even if they're in worse places I think they still care about us and we must do right by them. Let's not blow this tag. It might be the most important one of our careers. Thomas Meredith (run over by a bus on September 27th 1994), Don Carey (heart attack while riding in the mountains of New Zealand) and Markus Cook (passed away in 1996 after helping SF get the CMWC for that year) all supported collective and unionizing efforts. I beleive they'll be watching us on the 9th.
In my opinion the two biggest things people have done in my lifetime were the Civil Rights Movement and the Afghan Jihad (their resistance against the Soviet invasion). In both cases their success was based in largely on the fact that everybody did something. Some did more than others of course, but because everybody did at least a little they overcame the most awesome obstacles.
On Friday October 9 all of us have a chance to do that little bit.
Sincerely Howard Williams


What the %&# is going on at Express Network?
Hot Rumours and Innuendoes

Express Network just laid off two of their employees under shady circumstances and are trying to cut costs in some rather clumsy methods. Express is a legal courier service on 451 Hayes, that employs about two dozen bikers and drivers. They were bought out by Fidelity National Title. "They're used to running a business, not a messenger business," says one employee about FNT. Money is obviously their bottom line and they do not have experience in the Bay Area courier industry.
Rumor has it that that FNT has been comparing Express' SF office expenses to their LA office, where couriers make minimum wage. Here in SF a couple drivers make commission, while everyone else is paid hourly. The bikers start at $8 an hour, which might look good compared to the rest of the bike industry but is none too exciting compared to the rest of the legal industry.
Kali Berkowitz, a process server who had worked at Express for two-and-a-half years and who made $9.50 an hour, was laid-off "because she made too much money." Some of the messengers panicked for their own jobs and were worried that anyone making over $8 would be fired. Mike Holt, who trained three couriers to do his job at only $8/hour saw the writing on the wall and quit to find a better job instead of waiting to be replaced. Yet, other couriers, who make over $8, feel secure in their jobs and feel that the Express had some completely legitimate issues with Kali's job performance. Yet, Kali never received a warning about her performance. Express could have easily communicated with her, instead of laying her off, in what appears, in my personal opinion, to be a tactic to scare other bikers. Unfortunately, under California law, employers can fire their employees for any reason, except racism, sexism, or ageism, without warning.
Avril P., an office worker, was also laid off. If rumors are true, Manuel, an Express employee from LA wanted to move to the Bay Area so Avril was conveniently removed to provide him with a job. Avril trained Manuel, not knowing that he was to replace her. The laying-off was planned well in advance, to take place when office manager Hope, a friend loyal to Kali and Avril, was out-of-town on vacation.
Management met with their couriers on Thursday, September 22. "It was by the book," says one courier, describing the meeting as a big pep talk. The possibilities of moving the office downtown and starting a new office in San Jose were discussed. Bikers asked how secure their jobs were and if there would be any more lay-offs, to which Express management provided an incredibly evasive response, closing with: "No, the job is secure and again - is a team. We call it the Express Network team." Another representative added: "The major change is not going to be fewer people; it's probably going to be more people." Highly interesting in light of two recent lay-offs. One courier asked if bikers might move to commission and was told: "If tomorrow we decide, okay, let's put you on commission, you guys would not make a fourth of what your are making. That's a fact." If that were actually the case, Express must be charging less than Advanced!!!!
In the authoress' opinion, it seems abundantly clear Fidelity National Title cares about profit not people. As messengers, our interests are not served by multi-national corporations who see skimming off employees' salaries or downsizing as opportunities to increase their profits. That's NOT the only way to do business. Instead, it's a tried-and-true method of running a good company into the ground. Fidelity National Title would do well to look at the legacy of U.S. Courier, Corporate Express, Mayne-Nickless, Express Messenger, and the DMS and not make their same mistakes. -A


Your job just got more dangerous
(and we bet you didn't think that was possible)
It rained early this morning (September 26). Not a heavy deluge but just enough to remind us that the rainy season is on the way. The nights are now longer and it won't be too long before we're doing tags in the dark at the ends of our shifts.
So it's going to be a bit more dangerous out there. Unfortunately some recent trends in San Francisco will make things even more unsafe.
Last July the City government approved a plan to add over 300 MORE cabs on the streets. There are already over 700 cabbies on the streets. That's 300 ROOKIE cab drivers that will be learning how to drive cabs in the coming winter. Cabbies and SFBMA protested this "plan" but the City's attitude towards its awesome transit problems (Muni breakdowns, no downtown CalTrain station, more cars, lack of a comprehensive bike plan, etc., etc.) seems to be "Let them ride cabs."
On August 17, the SF "Examiner" reported : "Of the 12,747 blocks in The City, 4,369 blocks - or one in every three blocks - are scheduled for work over the next five years." So we'll be seeing MORE work on the streets as we approach the Millennium. More of that means more congestion - more smog to breathe and more cars fighting us for less space. And unfortunately none of this is real street repair; instead it's just the patchwork line work done by PG & E, the Water Department, etc., etc. These projects usually leave the street in worse shape than before.
This year saw the Environmental Protection Agency reported record air pollution levels for the Bay Area. So now we're breathing MORE smog.
Of the new cars sold in the USA each year, 47% are Suburban Utility Vehicles (i.e. OJ-mobiles) - wider with a wider door opening range. We all know what that means. These things are gas guzzlers too and that means MORE smog.
Here's probably the worst news : each day 150 MORE cars are added onto Bay Area streets. That's 150 each DAY.
MORE rookie cab drivers, MORE smog, MORE street "repairs", MORE and bigger cars... if we don't do something about these trends MORE of us will be going to the hospitals (or the grave) either from accidents or from respiratory diseases.
SFBMA will be looking into Health & Safety issues in a comprehensive manner with a Messenger-centered perspective in order to do something to make things MORE safe. Keep your ears on.


Advanced on Advanced
The effort to curb the substandard working conditions at Advanced continues. The struggle is frustrating but is advancing (pardon the pun) though not as fast as any of us would like. Well over 100 Messengers signed the statement not to scab on Advanced Messengers and no veterans have been seen at Advanced since then (except those already employed there).
Word is that Advanced has dumped its advance policy where a Messenger seeking an advance on his or her paycheck was charged 20% interest!! Maybe that's why they call it Advanced.
Some news has also been humorous and ironic. Here's something for Ripley's Believe It or Not. A few weeks ago Peter Olney of the ILWU was talking to some Advanced Messengers at the Wall when Matt Talmadge, boss of Advanced, showed up. Peter politely informed MT that according to the law he could not interfere with workers while they were considering union activity.
"You mean I can't even have lunch with my employees?" MT asked.
"Nope," Peter replied.
So not one but two amazing things happened there.
1. A Messenger Boss obeyed the law.
2. A Messenger Boss wanted to have lunch with "his" Messengers. Too bad these two miracles had to conflict with each other.