Cognition Issue 16
at Ultra Ex
On Monday June 5 the first ILWU contract for Messengers took effect at Ultra Ex SF operations which became Speedway once again after a bloodless coup d'etat . Showing their eagerness to work harder for the locally owned union shop Speedway, many Messengers arrived early for work.
On May 17 Messengers at Ultra Ex had overwhelmingly approved a contract granting commission increases for Bikers and Drivers, major hourly pay increases for Walking Messengers, more paid time off, minor health plan improvements, available printouts, overtime pay, a safety committee, ILWU credit union access and other gains making Ultra the nation's first union messenger shop since the early 90s. The secret ballot vote was 22 to 1 to ratify the one year contract.
Bike Messenger commissions increased from 38 to 40.5 % -- the highest rate for Ultra bikers since 1996. Driver commissions went from 45 % (SF) & 35 % (out of SF) to 41 % for all tags. Because Ultra/Speedway Messengers will be paid legal overtime rates, many will make over their commission. Also $ 7 per day of each Biker's pay will be for bike maintenance and thus will not be taxed (with receipts). Ultra's tag rates increased on April 17 for the third time since February 1999.
The biggest increases went to Ultra's lowest paid and more senior workers -- the Walking Messengers. Walker pay went from $ 5.75 and $7.40 per hour to $ 7.25 and $ 8.20 respectively. Solidarity by Bikers helped reinforce the effort to get the big pay raises earned by the Walkers. This marked the strongest effort by Walkers in the three year struggle for better working conditions in the Bay Area's Messenger Industry.
The contract honors the four major improvements sought by Messengers in the 1998 SFBMA survey : higher pay,health plan improvements, holiday pay and vacation pay. While all four issues are improved in the contract, Ultra Messengers know that this is a first step and that we all have a long way to go -- at our company and throughout the industry.
The contract was also significant for what it did NOT have: drug tests. The fact that tests were proposed by management and eliminated in the final contract wipes out that problem.
The agreement capped a long, hard but not really bitter struggle. No violence occurred on or off job actions at Ultra and people who yelled at each other one day were polite and even friendly the next. Nevertheless quotes by Ultra CEO Sal Grassia show that the ever increasing class polarization of this City and the whole world is no stranger to the Messenger Industry. In the "Examiner", SG said the union effort provided little in pay. However Walkers will be making 10 to 26 % more each week thanks to this " little " increase. In the "Chronicle" SG -- a former Fed Ex driver -- was quoted saying that Messenger work was unskilled. With Messenger Industry bosses having such a low opinion of the value of their companies' services, it is no surprise that tag prices remained so low throughout the 90s and began to rise only after we ourselves began to fight back.
Furthermore the lawsuit filed by the ILWU on behalf of current and former Ultra Messengers was settled out of court. Ultra agreed to compensate the plaintiffs for pay practices that still continue at other Messenger firms.
In addition Ultra transferred SF operations to Branch Manager Lori O'Rourke and Chief Dispatcher Charlie Lutge changed the name back to Speedway. Lori and Charlie have decades of real Messenger service between themselves and they have a respectful attitude toward all aspects of Messenger Industry work.
So a "Win" situation can become a "Win - Win" one.
the Pro Side
At the moment, talks between pro's management and union negotiating committee are on hold. This was a mutual agreement decided between both party's before last meetings adjournment. The reason...although untimely, their main man, pseudo-ace negogiator of the firm you love to hate: Lil' Mend... made prearranged blackout dates starting the end of May til the first/second of June.
Without going into details the talks have been lengthy and frustrating. Each meeting has been baby-steps of careful tip-toeing of minor/major issues on both sides: a pawn for a pawn. Contract proposals have been written, discussed, and edited, and exchanged between the committees.
So where does that leave us? Until the next decided negotiations, hopefully set for the second/third week of June, we'll/we've be in touch with all participating Pro-Bikers & Drivers about what we will be taking action on.
Let's hope with all our wheels lined together that we can push for a fair and abiding contract. Just like our brothers & sisters at Ultra Ex...oh I mean Speedway. From the curb, Kwai
First I thank the Membership for your votes. Also I'm looking forward to a great year ahead for all of us.
At the beginning of May, the SFBMA balance was $ 275.59. Since then $ 920.00 was collected in dues and contributions. Bernie's Alley Cat was a great success, thanks Bernie. A total of $ 365.40 was spent for printing new membership cards, ILWU working agreement dues and office, and office keys. This leaves us with $ 830.19 as we go into June.
There will be a new system of dues payment for SFBMA members starting Monday June 12. Dues will be payable to SFBMA officers (Damon,Kwai, Howard and Rak). Each officer will have new membership cards and dues logs. We look forward to see how this new system works.
I am also in the process of setting an account with a bike parts wholesaler so that SFBMA members can buy parts at cost. More on this next month.
Well that is it for this month.
Ride safe, Rak
in the Hell Wants to Ride the HANX Russian River Ride after Working All
I've always looked for a good excuse, not to myself, I mean like Memorial Day weekend's supposed to be a holiday ? Ain't it ? Damn, when I get home the bike goes on the hook and it stays there till Monday, let alone ride to Guerneville.
But hey this is the Russian river Ride. Close to a hundred Messengers celebrating another year doing what we do. A weekend of Reckless Abandon for the Abandoned Reckless.
And that's why most of us usually go. Not so this year.
Last year's party almost ended our welcome in Guerneville. Bullshit static from locals crashing the campsite. And too many Messengers dying to beat their ass. The owner of the beach came down, the police came down. If the shit came down we were no longer welcome. After spending a fucked nite doing HANX security, I swore "Never again. " Looks like I wasn't the only one.
About a month ago II got a call from Cat. you all know Catty-- Old as Fuck School HANX. "Meow !"
Well Cat hasn't really ridden since he got fucked up by a bus years ago. He used to ride his Aero tank bike up to the Russian river. So one day he calls me.
"Hey Rak you know the Aero tank in your basemnt, the one we raffle off every year and the loser has to ride it up to the Russian River ? Well this year I'm riding it up. When can I come pick it up ?" All I can say is " No fucking way, you're crazy !"
I'm finding the whole thing very amazing. I'm thinking: "Like sure, Cat's going to ride his old ass up to the Russian River on an Aero tank after not riding for years. Yeah right.! "
Then cat starts showing up downtown on the Aero tank. He's riding it to work from Daly City to Pier 29 every day. He says to me "Hey HANX you gonna ride too ? "
Now I met Cat at Speedy's 18 years ago at our first messenger job in the City. Do you see where this is going ? "Hey HANX you gonna ride too ? "
Danny Crew and I were to meet Cat at Pier 29 at 6 in the morning to leave for the river. We get there at 10 after. No Cat. So I call him, cell to cell."I'm at the entrance to the Golden Gate," he says."I'll wait here." Of course when I get ther he's gone. To make a long story short: we met in tiburon. And he ain't stopping till Guerneville.
Well Cat made it to the river screaming "I have returned !" at the top of his lungs. About 16 others returned this year too. And if you looked, all but a few were way Old School HANX. A good 150 years of Messenger experience. Definitely a good time was on. There must have been a good 200 years of party experience but still not enough to stop me from falling 8 feet on my noggin and waking up in a hospital in Sebastopol. And missing 4 days work. Classic Russian River. Who in the Hell wants to ride the HANX Russian River Ride after working all week anyway ?
Editor's response to the question in Rak's article above: A lot of us also wanted to ride up to the Rusian River after working all week but we couldn't for various reasons. Many thanks to Cat, Rak, DC and all the other veterans who kept it alive this year so that we can do this some more in the new century !!