Cognition Issue 12
10-9, the traditional Messenger Appreciation Day, will be celebrated on Friday, 10-8 this year, at the Wall, Sansome and Sutter. This year we have many causes to cavort and congratulate ourselves! All messengers are asked to silence their radios from noon to 1.00pm to honor fallen messengers. Free lunch will take the form of pizza and other delicious snacks and Robert Joseph of Family Scott will entertain on guitar. Tom Ammiano will present the City’s official proclamation that declares this day Messenger Appreciation Day.
Dave Snyder of the SF Bike Coalition and possibly DA Terrance Hallinan will speak on road rage, bike injuries, and justice. UBADD President Marc Gunther and SFBMA President Howard Williams will both speak as well as representatives from the Jewish Labor Committee and Pride at Work, a gay/lesbian labor organization. Messengers from UltraEx, Professional Messenger, and DMS will discuss the achievements of the last year and the challenges to come. We are happy to welcome Robin of the Exotic Dancer's Alliance as a speaker, as well as da Mayor. We'll have an SFBMA booth, where you can join, pay your dues, sign ILWU cards, get SFBMA sweatshirts, grab flyers, and get your questions answered.
Last year, several companies voluntarily shut down during the 10-9 festivities, and clients were highly supportive. This year will be slightly different and will include the SFBMA President's Award for Outstanding Messenger and the Facilitator's Rookie of the Year Award. All messengers are certainly encouraged to show up, as well as their supporters in other occupations. You deserve at least one lunch break a year and why not make it a free one!
10-9 or Messenger Appreciation Day began in San Francisco in the 1980s as Bike Messengers' New Years. In 1991 King Brothers Nosmo and Parte convinced Art Agnos to officially proclaim the holiday in 1991. Since then 10-9 Day is now celebrated officially in Calgary, Chicago, Edmonton, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington DC. These cities may soon be joined by Seattle and Houston. Meanwhile, the holiday is celebrated unofficially in cities all over the globe.
Thanks to Tree of No Penny Opera for food, Erik Zones for bags, and Mike Ritchey of Lo-Fi Customs for silkscreening. - A
Couriers: An Overview
For a long time many SF courier companies have made it a common practice to limit the amount of experienced messengers on their crews - throwing inexperienced recruits on the job with little training. These new recruits have very little chance of longevity or making a decent commission, but every day an employee survives the company makes money. When the new employee gives up, another new one takes the place. How many have you seen on the sidelines try to fix a simple flat, that, with a little training, takes ten minutes to fix?
When I was hired for my first bike messenger job at now-defunct Speedy's, I remember how happy I was. A real job, eight hours a day, five days a week. I soon realized Speedy's sucked - the then-McDonalds of SF courier companies. Owner Carlos would stake you out. If he caught you breaking traffic laws or not locking your bike, you would lose your bonus. I worked really hard and thought it was unfair. Back then six months at Speedy's and you could get a job with one of the better companies, so I buckled down, did my time, and soon was able to get a job at a "Real Company."
Bay Area Rapid Delivery was then one the better companies. They even had their own mechanic. It was great. After a while at BARD I started to realize it wasn't all that great. One wrong move, you were gone - always some new guy trying to take your gravy. No security no benefits same old shit.
One day I came to work; the other messengers were out front. I was told we were striking. The owner Ritch Adkins had announced an equipment deposit to be taken out of our pay. We were all fired, then rehired (probably due to new coverage).
I soon realized most companies were the same. We see it every day. We go from one company to another hoping one will really appreciate us and not treat us as disposable.
I decided to start my own company in Santa Cruz, California - my hometown. What a hassle! All I wanted to do was be treated with respect, not run a business. After ten years of Santa Cruz bike messenging, I called it quits and returned to SF.
I was thrilled at the prospect of riding for somebody else's company. Just doing the job in its purest form. I had a job at Aero within two days. Within two months I remembered how it was and why I had left before. Soon Aero was bought by DMS. I saw the writing on the wall and quit.
Next I tried Silver Bullet: today's McDonald's of the delivery business. What a joke! Only one person on the crew has survived a year.
I heard UltraEx and Western Mess were the places to be and soon went to UltraEx, but it still had a feeling being looked down at by management and not being appreciated. When I when I was approached by Howard Williams to do something for messenger rights, I was happy to help.
The first eight months I was at UltraEx, I never saw the owner once. Howard and I met with Ernie Holbrook with a list of employees' ideas. We wanted a higher commission, higher rates, and 15-minute services among other things.
A month later Ernie held a meeting with Ultra employees. He announced the new 15-minute service and higher rates. Then the bombshell: Ultra was decreasing commission to 38% percent. What a slap in the face.
The whole Ultra union drive started with employees trying to work with management on their own and being looked down upon by management. Now our company does anything to make us happy, trying to weaken our resolve for a union contract. I see this happening industry-wide. Companies are now doing everything they can to make employees content, so they won’t unionize and be contractually bound in how they treat their employees.
All bikers and walkers need to care enough, to take matters into their own hands, and discuss - organize - contractually bind these companies now. If we don't, once the threat of unionization and a legally binding contract with their employees is gone, they will return to treating us as the disposable unskilled workers that they have always considered us. -Rak
"Before I’ll be any man's slave/I’d rather rot down in my grave" - Woody Guthrie