Cognition Issue 16

Win-Win 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.


From 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


Treasurer's Report
by Rak
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



President's Report

Big cheers and congratulations to our brothers and sisters at Ultra-Ex and the I.L.W.U. for their hard won victory! Their patience and hard work is an inspiration to us all. Months of meetings, negotiations, and even striking has sent a powerful message to the courier industry nationwide. TODAY S.F., TOMORROW THE WORLD!
The story was covered in The Examiner and also The Chronicle, where Sal Grassia, (Ultra-Ex partner), was quoted as saying "We're not talking about skilled labor here. We're not talking about computer wizards." He also called the vote to go union an act of betrayal and disrespect, then blathered that his Messengers were among the best paid in the city, adding further insult to injury. Well Sal, I don't know of too many Silicon Valley computer pros who can ride long hours, sometimes without lunch, and dodge cabs in the rain while schlepping huge file boxes day after day, and year after year either, eh? Hmmmmmm.
ONWARDS... On May 13th at the AFL CIO Transport Union local headquarters, the S.F.B.M.A., represented by a delegation comprised of Kitty Pietygra, Howard Williams, Paul Kazemi, Damon Votour, Joel Metz, Clive Lightwood, Paul Holt, Richard Bervick, and Carey Dall of the I.L.W.U., met with Muni Drivers Union reps plus a good bunch of bus drivers and rail car operators. In all, 22 individuals sat down to the table; 13 Muni on one side and 9 messengers on the other. Before the meeting we all introduced ourselves and ate the food Muni provided, but once the meeting started it was all business, and somewhat tense as everybody in the room well understood the strained and sometimes even violent relationship our two sides have had. The purpose of this meeting initiated by Muni was to open a dialogue, address issues, find a common ground, and attempt to work closer in the future towards finding solutions. I don't have the space to mention all of the points and counter-points, but the underlying theme was understanding of why we as bikers and they as drivers act and react to certain traffic situations and conditions. There was a blackboard in the room on which we could grpah different traffic scenarios. For our part, I think we opened up some eyes. Some of the drivers openly said, "I never realized that", or "I'll have to watch out for that". We also listened to some of their trials and tribulations of driving a hulking awkward monolith through a chaotic maze with human cargo that talks back. One messenger pointed out that if his packages could talk back, he would throw them out of his bag. This brought laughter to the whole room. The meeting wound down on a much lighter tone, with messengers and Muni drivers sharing both humorous and serious tales of the road concerning cabs, peds, rude customers etc. Will McManus, a safety director from Muni, will be our guest at the SFBMA meeting on the 8th of June at 7pm, as will Stuart from the SFBC - let's make a special effort to welcome Will.
Also keep your eyes open for news concerning the SFBMA in the Pride Parade on 6/25 and a Team Satan alleycat later that month. Thanks to Bound Together Book Collective at 1369 Haight St. for donating $200 to the SFBMA. These guys are the longest-running all-volunteer anarchist book collective in the US - 22 years! Congratulations to Stephanie and Matt (Broiler) Royston on the birth of their beautiful baby girl, Xia! Bon Voyage to America Meredith, our loss is Philly's gain - good luck!
P.S. - the benefit show at the ILWU hall raised $500 for CMWC. Thanks to all the people who volunteered, Fred Pecker and the ILWU, Los Cerveceros, Mouthful, Blue Streak, and yes, even Nappytime Junction. Also, America donated 23 different messenger company uniforms from her collection to the SFBMA archives.
Proudly, Your President
Damon Votour

Who in the Hell Wants to Ride the HANX Russian River Ride after Working All Week Anyway?
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 !!



Book Review
"Tecumseh : A Life" by John Sugden (405 pages) is a biography of perhaps the greatest person born in Ohio -- the magnificent Shawnee tribal chief Tecumseh (1768-1813) whose valiant defense of his homeland and eloquent pleas for a union of Native American tribes stalled the US frontier expansion, frustrated the invasion of Canada and nearly changed the course of American history.
British author John Sugden writes an admiring but even toned story of the fabulous tribal hero who was both a civil and war chief of his people (a rare accomplishment in the Shawnee tribe). Although Sugden is English he admits that British leaders in what is now Canada often failed to back up the Indians (especially Tecumseh) in their alliance against the US. Indeed he points out that General Henry Procter (the commanding British officer at the Battle of Moraviantown where Tecumseh was killed) was a coward who was found guilty in a court martial after the battle. Sugden records the many acts of honor by Tecumseh especially his courageous and successful defense of white American prisoners at Fort Meigs, Ohio.
However he avoids even mentioning some of the most famous legends about the chief so that the reader has no clue that Tecumseh was believed by many pioneers to have proposed marriage to Rebekah Galloway ( a white woman from a noted pioneer family) or that after his death in battle his body was saved from desecration by the old frontiersman Simon Kenton. Other authors have commented on these legends but Sugden neglects them.
Sugden gives a respectful account of Shawnee religion and the central part it played in their resistance. "God gave us this country !" was a common refrain by Shawnee leaders -- both to remind the tribe of their responsibility to defend the land and to tell whites of the righteousness of Indian claims.
By the time of his death at the age of 45 Tecumseh was so formidable an opponent of pioneer expansion that whites who fought him in any battle were generally admired throughout the frontier. Richard Johnson,the man believed to have killed Tecumseh at the Battle of Moraviantown, became Vice President of the US. William Harrison, US general at Moraviantown, became President 27 years after the battle. Sugden notes that veterans of that battle included one president, one vice president, 3 state governors of Kentucky, 3 lieutenant-governors, 4 United States Senators and 20 Congressmen. For white men in the early 1800s fighting Tecumseh was a good career move -- if they survived.
Tecumseh nearly succeeded in uniting the tribes of what is now the central USA. With British help he took Detroit while allied warriors took Chicago and threatened US military positions in the Deep South. However some chiefs and warriors avoided the effort to unite. When the union of tribes did not happen the Native way of life was doomed.
Sugden mentions Messengers numerous times throughout the book and rightly so. Before the invention of the telegraph (the fax machine of the 19th century that was supposed to wipe us out) Messengers were the only way to send information across a long distance. We played key roles on both sides in many important battles especially in beseiged forts and in crossing vast wildernesses.
The book also has lots of cool illustrations.