F S OF EXPLOITATIVE WORK PRACTICES IN THE BICYCLE MESSENGER COMMUNITY by ELOISS HULSBRINK B.A., University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 2013 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Anthropology Program 2017
ii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Eloiss Hulsbrink has been approved for the Anthropology Program by Sara h Horton, Chair Steve Koester Marty OtaÃ±ez Date: December 16 , 2017
iii Hulsbrink, Eloiss (MA, Anthropology Program) Bicycle Messenger Community Thesis directed by Associate Professor Sarah Horton ABSTRACT Studies of neoliberal policies have shown that the prioritization of unregulated markets and privatization have been associated with downward pressure on wages, job security, and responsibility are . The present study uses qualitative methods to understand the effect of macro level structures on individual workers in precarious industries, specifically focusing on the occupational subculture of bicycle messengers. Messenger culture rejects societa l norms and the formal economy; yet, resistance to mainstream society and the internalization of hegemonic structures creates a position of contradiction for messengers . In maki ng sense of their contradictory social identity and structural positionality, b ike messengers reproduce the very features of corporate culture they resist. However, the exploitative work practices they reproduce are obscured by the rhetoric of kinship in the messenger social network, which engenders loyalty the courier community. As a result, bike messengers justify their marginalization and low wage lifestyle as necessary sacrifices for the freedom of cycle courier work , thus compromisi ng their overall quality of life . The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Sarah Horton
iv For Cameron , who has been there for every step of this thesis. Thank you for being the first bike messenger, my biggest fan, and for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.
v ACKNOWLEDG EMENTS d other messengers who accepted me into their comm unity with open arms and minds; t his thesis would not have been possible without their kindness, enthusiasm, and acumen . A special thank you to the participants who trusted me with their personal stories and opinions; I hope to do your words justice in this writing. I am grateful for the insights of my peers who have aided in teasing out the ideas in my head. Thanks to Thomas Malaby for inspiring my passion in anthropology and my desire to learn more about peoples and cultures of the world. I greatly appreciate the enthusiastic support and praise from my thesis committee members, Steve Koester and Marty OtaÃ± ez. I would like to thank most of all my advisor and committee chair , Sarah Horton , for her commitment to and engagement with my research ; her insight and direction helped produce my greatest achievement to date . Love to my mom and dad, Muriel and Bart Hulsbrink, who have always supported and enc ouraged my pursuit of education I would not be where I am today without you. This research, protocol number 17 0062, was approved by the Colorado Multiple In stitutional Review Board in June , 2017.
vi TABLE OF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION ..................... ................................................... ............... ................ ................ ........... .. ...... ...... .. ............1 II. LITERATURE REVIEW.............................. ........................ ... ................... . ........... .. . ..... .. ......................................... .....8 III. METHODS ................................................ ........... ... ........................ ........ .............................................. .... .............. .. ....30 IV. RESULTS ............. ....................... ........................ ........................... ................ ...................... ................................. . . . .....37 : Rejection of the Formal Economy ........ .. ............... .... .... . .. ..37 ........ . . . ...49 ................ . ....................... ........ ... .... . . ... .59 Employee Owned Business Models and Ind ependent Contracting: A Contradiction . . . . 66 V. CONCLUSION .............................. ........................ ................ ........................... ... ............................................... .............73 Reproduc ing Features of Corporate Cult 73 Making Sense of Resistance: Social Capital and L Policy Recommendations . . . ENDNOTES . APPENDIX A . Sample Bicycle Messenger Indep . . APPENDIX B . . .. REFERENCES ..................... ......................... .................... ................. ..... ............ ............................................. ............ .....132
vii ABBREVIATIONS BMEF Co op DMM C DIY IC (s) LLC MHMC NACCC NCEO NELP Bike Messenger Emergency Fund Cooperative ( Employee Owned Business or Corporation) Denver Metro Messengers Collective Do It Yourself Economy, where individuals are self employed Independent Contractor (s) Limited Liability Corporation Mile High Messenger Cooperative North American Cycle Courier Championships National Center for Employee Ownership National Empl oyment Law Project
1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Purpose of Study Recent studies of neoliberal policies have shown that the prioritization of unregulated markets and privatization have been associated with downward pressure on mobility, job security, res ponsibility for welfare, and wages (Crowley and Hodson 2014; Rolston 2010). There is emerging evidence in ethnographic studies that capitalist structures particularly affect workers in precarious occupations, or jobs distinguished by low wages, job insecur ity, high risk for injury, and a lack of employer provided benefits (Jaffe and Bensmen 2016). These processes have been qualitatively studied, especially in the agricultural and construction industries (Horton 2016; R I t Yours elf (DIY) economy , or the rise of self employment across a broader range of occupations , has normalized the hiring of independent contr actors (ICs) in precariou s occupations, which represents an even more dramatic shift in personal responsibility for work ( Matthews 2015; Jaffe and Bensmen 2016). As a result, many workers are misclassified as ICs and, thus, are excluded from Research on the econo mic implications of independent contracting has implied that the misclassification of ICs has been increasing in popularity in the DIY economy to carry out tax evasion under the guise of contracted labor (Bauer 2015; Weatherington 1992; Bernhardt 2014); ye t there is a large gap in qualitative studies determining the socioeconomic implications of misclassification for workers at an individual level. There is recent evidence that delivery workers, in particular, are subject to misclassification as ICs and, thus, are not covered by the majority of labor protec tions and employment policies; t he National Employment Law Project ( NELP 2010, 1) states that while
2 including in a in other low wage precarious positions. 1 This study aims to fill the gaps in the literature on independent contractor misclassification and the effects of neoliberalism o n the individual worker by collecting ethnographic data on a distinct population of bicycle messengers in Denver, Colorado. Bike messengers are often misclassified as ICs, and further, they are typically unaware of their legal employment rights . 2 As a resu lt, many bike couriers are victims of wage theft and other occupational injustices. This study will add a unique perspective to the literature on DIY economies, the micro level effects of neoliberal policies, and the increasing on individuals. For the purposes of this study, ne oliberalism is defined by features of corporate culture, including the shift security, as well as the loss of collective bargaining to protect the rights of employees (Rolston 2010; Crowley and Hodson 2014). The negative effect of neoliberal policies is particularly visible in industries that rely on low wage workers, typically in more dangerous occupations. Shifting responsibility to the worker through independent contracting misclassification allows employers to decrease Furthermore, employers th at hire ICs are able to avoid providing health insurance coverage, misclassification in the emerging DIY economy has the potential to negatively impact the health and ec onomic status of workers, especially those in precarious occupations, such as bike couriers. This study aims to trace the causa l pathway between pervasive corporate structures, the shift to a DIY economy and misclassifying employees, and the impact of stru ctural forces on
3 Finally, this study attempts to uncover the strategies bike messengers employ within the occupational subculture to overcome some of the barriers imposed by their particular risk environment (Rhodes 2002). T he messenger population of Denver represents a vocational subculture, a unique community demarcated by an ideology of kin ship and practices of trading social capital, which ultimately rejects the formal economy for which they explicitly work. The tensions created as this occupational subculture rejects the larger consumer economy and yet must exist within it reveal how even oppositional subcultures may ina dvertently reproduce features of corporate culture , which inevitably constrain the lives of even those who work against the capitalist regime. In making sense of their contradictory social identity and structural positionality, bik e messengers rep roduce the very features of corporate culture they resist within their own microsocial structure, represented by the hierarchical nature of both the courier industry and their social network.
4 Scope of Study This study will use both in depth interviews and participant observation to better understand how the bicycle courier s of Denver, Colorado are affected by larger macro level structures, and how this in turn shapes their occupational subculture. Interviewees were recruited through snowball and convenience sampling strategies, using key informants that were established before research commenced. Participants w ere included if they had worked or were currently working as a bike messenger in the Denver area for more than a year. Ten in depth inter views were conducted, with eight men and three women. One of these interviews was conducted with two participants simul taneously to create a conversational atmosphere, so responses , similar to that of a focus group . Participant observation occurred at alley cat races, messenger events, a weekly femme social bike ride, and spending time at known local courier hang outs. I learned of these locations, typically bars, through key informants or participant interviews. I also participated in a national courier competition to gain more insight into the broader messenger population, as well as how Denver messengers fit into the overall population. This offered me an opportunity to build rapport with participants in this study, while also personally experiencing the physical work of messe ngers the race was structured to emulate. The data presented here was collected over nine months, which includes three months of preliminary data collected for a different (course related) research project. Over the course of these nine months, I have es tablished rapport and built relationships with the participants included in this study. I competed in a handful of alley cat races, even winning a few and gaining my own reputation in the messenger community of Denver. The strength of these relationships h as shown me the social support one gains when accepted into the messenger community, and thus the appeal of the community for those who reject the individualism of corporate culture.
5 Being able to establish this level of rapport was essential to gaining th e insight necessary to complete this project. It is not always easy eliciting experiences that could potentially place the courier industry in a bad light. It was vital to build trust with participants by stressing my belief that their negative experiences were a result of pressures from macro level forces. Many of my participants, by the end of their interview, felt comfortable expressing their frustrations with the company for which they work. Some, like Jenna and Walter even expressed feeling cathartic a fter the interview, stating they felt positively about finally expressing these tho ughts. This in itself illustrates the norm of loyalty to the messenger community, a theme that emerged in my sent here is based on my experiences conducting participant observation and interviews within the specific context of Denver; though, t here is some evidence the observations presented by this data might extend to other courier populations in the United Sta tes, since the national community is united through shared experience s and bo nds of fictive kinship. However , f urther research on the effects experienced by different groups of workers as a result of downward press ures stemming from capitalist practices wo uld require identifying the particularities among courier populations within varied environmental contexts.
6 Limitations This study was limited in terms of finding a significantly representative sample of participants. For one, the ratio of male to femal e couriers in my sample does not accurately portray the underrepresentation of women in the courier industry in Denver. While my sample had a n 8:3 ratio of male to female messengers, there is typically only one or two women who work at a single courier com pany of thirty or more workers. Due to my own gender, it was easier to establish rapport with female bike messengers because of the female camaraderie in messenger culture. Second, my sample is overwhelmingly Caucasian, with only two Hispanic messengers an d one black messenger representing the minority messenger population. The courier population in Denver is more diverse than my sample, however there has been a demographic shift in the last decade in the Denver messenger community that may account for the overwhelmingly white sample this study procured; Luther, a black male who has worked as a messenger in Denver for nine years revealed that when he started, the messenger population was mainly comprised of African American and Latino felons who had difficul ty finding work in the formal economy. Now, however, messenger work has a growing appeal to a less diverse group of individuals who rej ect the formal economy and features associated with corporate culture , a process described in Chapter IV . Thus, my sample is more representative of the new, young courier gene ration that has rejected the formal economy by choice , rather than by forced exclusion. The sample for my data provided a unique perspective since most workers who are victims of wage theft and misclass ification come from male and immigrant dominated occupations such as agriculture and construction work. data in qualitative and ethnographic research. Ethnographi c methods are sometimes seen as too focused on one specific population and not generalizable to the broader population. This study, however, will uncover certain particularities that can be extrapolated to other
7 occupational groups that experience independ ent contracting misclassification or other the same time, bike messengers hold the unique property of straddling the formal and informal economies, since they wor k in an industry that praises the efficiency and convenience of urban consumerism while simultaneously working to resist the constraints of the capitalist regime. Many studies regarding the nuances of neoliberal effects are centered on industries that are more isolated from the formal economy, such as truck drivers, coal mine rs, and agricultural field workers (Jaffe and Bensmen 2016; Rolston 2010; Horton 2016). Because of their close proximity, bike messengers are a unique population that illumin ates the pr essures of capitalist macrostructures that affect workers in low wage and dangerous occupations.
8 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW The field of anthropology has seen an increased focus on how specific occupational s their working conditions and health. Recent literature in the anthropology of work and labor conditions has focused on agricultural, mining, meat packing/processing, and trucking industries (Horton 2016; Rolston 2010; Ribas 2015; Jaffe and Bensmen 2016 ; Stuesse 2016 ); 2016, 58). P recarious industries try to externali ze production costs , effectively removing precariou s workers from the context of urban centers of consumerism which are arguably even more affected by neoliberal policies. The present study aims to further the analysis of precarious work conditions among the bicycle messenger population in Denver, Colorado . Bike couriers fit within the framework previously laid out in studies of precarious work, since they generally hold low socioeconomic status and experience increased health risks on the job compared to non precarious positions. Like coal miners (Rolston 20 10) and migrant farmworkers (Horton 2016), messengers work in unsafe conditions while simultaneously facing barriers to affordable health care . Understanding the micro level risks of the bicycle messenger population within the context of urban consumeris m will provide a unique perspective of the political economic structures that have an indirect effect on health and socioeconomic position for indiv iduals in precarious occupations . The following section will review the (meager) literature currently availa b le on bicycle messengers; s tudies in social sciences have widely ignored the bike messenger subculture that has carved out a particular niche in the delivery service industry. After exploring the current literature on bike messengers, I will explain the t heoretical approaches from which I draw my anthropological conclusions.
9 A Review of Academic Studies on Bicycle Messengers In the absence of anthropological research on bike messengers, there are several studies within the field of sociology that focus on couriers as an occupational subculture. A noteworthy Hermes on Two Wheels: The Sociology of Bicycle Messengers addresses the economic in fluences on the risk behaviors of couriers. Wehr (2009, 8) argues that messengers draw the attention of outsiders based o abs ent in the current society, which or a dissatisfaction wit h the ingenuous faÃ§ade of mainstream society. He defines the search f or authenticity among messenger populations by the riskiness of their wor k and leisure activities ( 37), which stands in , or the monotony, that plague s postmodern culture (8). Wehr notes that the messenger population is bonded together through their shared experiences, especially those on the road. Moving quickly through congested urban efficiency. This study touches on the capitalist system that molds the courier industry into a consumer focused occupation, where the delivery companies earn more than the worker, who is, in turn, for ced to compete with other messengers for tip s. Thus, this study showcases the competitive nature of courier work and how this, in tur n, perpetuates risk ( 25). The analysis provided by Wehr ( 2009) provides evidence of the distinctive messenger culture , ro oted in common experiences, the shared risk of harm, and their exposure to the capitalist system. However, the focus of this study is too broad to make any specific analysis of a localized cycling cour ier population. Wehr primarily on his own personal experience as a bike messenger in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as all of North America, and also sprinkles in mentions of messengers from Japan, China, India, Mexico City, Guatemala City, and Europe. Thus, We sample does not represent an
10 ethnographic approach, and places a premium on his own personal experience as a messenger with some sections largely resembling an autobiography. As a re sult, Wehr does not provide a convincing analysis of how individual c ouriers in a single population are individually affected by the larger structural forces of corporate neoliberalism as it pla ys out in the context of the United States . The analysis in Hermes on Two Wheels (Wehr 2009) fails to address the most pertinent is sues related to the larger capitalist structures that guide Western consumer markets such as independent contractor misclassification and pressure from delivery conglomerates at the local level . Rather, Wehr places the bike messenger on a pedestal, likening him to Hermes, a Greek god, and therefore downplaying the level of exploitation that occurs in relatively dangerous occupations that typical ly abuse low wage workers (NELP 2010). Frequently, this abuse takes the for m of independent contractor misclassification, which excludes workers from myriad of occupational rights that are intended to protect employees. rights is only one way in which bike messengers are exposed to potential risk. In Ben Fincham's (2006) article on risk and bicycle messengers, he outlined several external factors that increase risk of harm for messengers. The discussion of misdirected blame from motorists, exposure to vehicle related injury, and the 'demoniz ation' of cy clists found in Fincham's article offers detailed proof of the risks to which couriers are exposed that are not directly rooted in their own personal behavior . Statistically, Fincham finds that bike messengers experience the highest risk of occ upa tional related injury, more than any other job (215) . Even though most messenger ride upwards of 50 to 80 miles a day, which is two or three time s that of the average cyclist or driver, Fincham finds that only about one messenger dies from an accident e ver y three or four years in the UK ( 212) . Al though the rate in the U . S . is slightly higher, with some sources noting one bike messenger death per year in New York City alone , it is still relatively low considering the majority of bike messengers report
11 bei ng involved in an accident requiring hospital treatment at least once in their career . A survey determining the frequency of accidents requiring medical treat ment involving bike messengers found that in the UK and Ireland, about 61 percent of bike messenge rs report ed visiting the hospital at least once, and more than half of those had reported two or more hospitalizations due to to accidents. A similar study replicates these results in Boston, where 70 percent of bike couriers were found to have experienced an accident that led to not only hospitalization, but 212). Furthermore, the study of Bost on cycle couriers calculated the annual i ncidence rates of injuries resulting in lost days of work , revealing an average incident rate of 51 lost work injuries per 100 bike messengers; the national average for lost work injuries is only 3 per 100 workers. To further contextualize the excessive amount of lost work injuries in the bike messenger population, the highest lost work injur y rat e reported thus far has been work injuries per 100 workers in the meat p 213). Not only are couriers involved in a disproportionate number of accidents, but as many as 68 percent of accidents were reported as not the cyclist's fa ult, showing the misrepresentation of bike messengers as 'risky' individuals. Fincham (2006) suggests , alternatively, that messengers are particularly susceptible to the hazards of inattentive drivers and road rage. There is a distinctive tension between c yclists and motorists, specifically in rela tion to urban infrastructure , an ongoing marginalization of cycling ( 210). In this regard, the demonization of cyclists is reflected in some recently passed state policies ; one example that directl y affects Denver cyclists is a proposed tax on newly purchase d adult bicycles ( Cit y and County of Denver 2017). While cyclists do use roads, their use hardly puts wear and tear on the roads as motor vehicles do. With the proceeds from this tax, Denver has also recentl y begun a project that places barriers between the bike lane and the road ( City and County of Denver 2017) . These barriers limit exit strategies cyclists must employ if placed in danger by motor vehicles, other cyclists, or pedestrians. Furthermore, the law does not r equire
12 cyclists to stay exclusively in the bike lane since the road is 'shared' between bikes and motor vehicles. Cyclists are thus relegated to an even more liminal space than they already hold . a demonization of the cyclist as an There is a messengers who bear th 212, 213). Fincham describes several external factors that produce an increased risk for harm, yet bike messengers are typically not compensated by employers for injuries whic h occur on the job , which threatens to further marginalize messengers financially . J further outlines the relationship bike messengers have with the urban setting in which their work takes place and emph asizes that the urban setting itself is a contributor risk of injury . He argues that messengers not only occupy a liminal space at the edges of the road, but also that messengers often appropriate the space of the city in creative and useful ways. Drawing from t he work of Giddens that suggests space is other than those intended by the architect. There are several motives bike messengers have for appropriati ng space, t he f messengers are typically paid per delivery, it is economical to deliver packages quickly. This entails running red lights, biking the wrong way down one way streets, using sidewalks, and other semi illegal maneuvers that can help a messenger get from point A to point B much more efficiently than a car in the city. Kidder (2009) argues that by occupying a liminal space in the away with minor traffic violations with unusual ease. For example, one female messenger received her first ticket for running a red light a year after she had started working as a courier after running about 10,000 red lights she estimated (313). The se cond reason bike messe ngers appropriate urban space is their
13 disenfranchised, disillusioned cultural stance. Seeing themselves as outsiders to mainstream culture, their actions on the streets mirror their objections to mainstream (318). F inally, Kidder ( 317) states that messengers appropriate space in order to create meaning for their urban experience, and thus, the messenger sees their job as a series of Furthermore, Kidder ( 2009 , 319, 321) argues that the ways in which messengers appropriate space exhibit the complex relationship between structure and agency. Not only are , ( 319) . In this way, the constraints of the city enable messengers to perform edgework speeding through dense urban traffic to mee ; edgework performed by messengers include weaving in and out of stand still traffic, riding the wrong way dow n streets or bike lanes, and using inextricably tied to the physical structure of the city, and utilize the spaces and constraints that Innovation of, according t o Kidder , who describes the messenger culture as a blurring of lin out (322). Kidder's analysis shows how studying bike messengers as an occupational subculture can offer a unique perspective of bei ng confined by consumerism, ye t simultaneously utilizing the structure in unintended ways for their own advantage. Finally, Kidder ( constraints of the consumer values they reject, but rather co opt the limitations of the urban structure for their own cultural practices. Thus, K idder's study will inform my analysis as I attempt to understand
14 how bike couriers overcome systematic barrie rs imposed by the physical environment in which they work.
15 Effects of Neoliberal Policies on Occupational Groups There is an ever growing index of research on the effects of neoliberal policies on national economies and work organization, which has recen tly shifted to include the effects on regulation, remove constrai nts on the flow of goods and money, privatize state functions, and emp loyers ( 92). In the promotion of reduced corporate regulation in lieu of relying on market mechanisms for the generation of economic growth, there is an erosion of job quality and workplace relationships. The courier industry reflects these neoliberal work polic ies by relying on temporary or short term employees, such as ICs, which tends to increase profits for the company in the short term. There is a growing industry of high turnover delivery conglomerates, producing increased competition for locally owned cour ier companies. The high that produces mediocre workers, rather than encouraging communal sharing of knowledge that can increase the productive quality of each worker ( 9 2). In addition, bike messengers categorically fall into what Cro wley and Hodson term "boundary less carriers," driven by the preference for employees to develop an ongoing skillset, which they will be able to apply as "economic o pportunities change " (93). It has become necessary for bike messengers to be adaptable as the courier industry shifts to appease current consumer demands. This is often represented in the tensions between paper and food couriers, as well in the reliance on ICs. However, the Denver messenger community attempts to overcome the negative effect s of working in a corporatized, consumer based industry through fictive kinship ties and the exchange of social capital.
16 There are contradictions of corporate neoliberalism, some of which lie i n its actual destructive nature of neoliberalism on lower classes and minorities. Some examples of fir st approach to urban development, development (Peck and Tickell 2002, 394). F urther, Peck and Tickell can only be addressed after there is gro wth seen in jobs and investment (294). This provides an environmental context that produces risk for individuals who rely on social welfare programs to survive. Similarly, bike messengers face difficulty in obtaining employment that provides h ealth insurance compensation, due to the industry's reliance on ICs. Bike part of IC as off eri internalizing the idealization of deregulation and . However, this comes at a cost: no health insurance or overtime pay, higher taxes, and an overall decreased quality of life due to their exclusion from these rights. The normalization of market logics is dispersed throughout capitalist rhetoric that favors efficiency a rivatization, and are imposed in the urban centers, which are controlled through political p ressures o f resource allocation and unequal municipal lending, which could be considered hidden policies of e xtortion . The federal government con trols local policy by rewarding subsidies to citi es that comply with their neoliberal ideology . Bike messengers play an i mportant role in this urban environment by encouraging fast paced transactions for business, fueling the growing delivery consumer base. By circumventing dense city traffic, bike messengers advance urban capitalist ideals, specifically the preference for e fficiency and instant gratification.
17 Peck and Tickell (2002) also indicate that neoliberalism adapts to its environment, and neoliberalism is the dominant ideology economic and socio describe how the reproduction of corporate culture and hierarchical organization reinforces the exploitative natur e of precarious work, which is obscured by the rhetoric of loyalty to fictive familial relationships. market compe titiveness into traditionally local, non corporate industries, creat es internal conflict for individuals who prefer to operate outside the confines of the formal economy ( 394); this study explores how individuals make sense of their contradictory position in both adhering to and resisting the consumer logic of corporate ne oliberalism. neoliberal policies in trucking and warehousing industries. The se industries operate within precarious labor market conditions characterized by low wages and a lack of benefits paired with a high risk for negative he alth outcomes ( 58). Precarious work conditions are, accord ing to Jaffe and Bensmen ( 58, 59) . The competition of corporate neoliberalism, in essence, produces downward pressure on wages due to the minimizatio n of labor costs. Jaffe and Bensmen provide a detailed history of the drayage trucking industry, in which they poi nt to the misclassification of independent c ontractors as the driving force of neoliberal ideology. They argue that the deregulation implement ed with neoliberal policies allowed nonunion and low cost firms to enter the trucking industry, which led to increased competition and subsequent pressure on shifting employer a ccountability to the individual worker. By hiring IC s , trucking firms could avo id the obligations associated with
18 compensation, health benefits, pensions, a nd compliance with occupational health and safety and nondiscrimination sta 60). F urthermore, classifying workers as ICs restricts them from participating in unions and collective bargaining for improved wages or working conditions. There is evidence that drayage truck drivers are misclassified as ICs, since employers restrict for whom d Bensmen (2016, 61 ; IRS 2017 ) draw upon the common law categories for determining IC versus employee eligibility: behavioral control, fin ancial control, and type of relationship. The analysis of independent contracting in the trucking industry provided by Jaffe and Bensmen (2016) offers a particularly useful framework for identifying worker misclassification, which will inform my analysis o f the implications of neoliberal policies for bike messengers. Furthermore, t he present study of bike messengers strengthens the analysis of the delivery of services from the point of production to that of consumption within the context of the urban center urban consumerism places even higher amounts of pressure on messengers to perform edgework efficiently within the constraints of the city, which in turn increases their risk for harm. In addition, the perspectiv e of bike messengers provides the opportunity to study how individuals make sense of their position as IC s , while struggling to overcome the downward pressure they experience as a result of neoliberal policies involving deregulation, the shift of responsib which prioritizes employer interests over that of the worker. Another example of the emerging studies of the micro level effects imposed by macro level neoliberal struc Business: Neoliberalism and Workplace Safety in Wyomi article details
19 how one mining community fought against the neoliberal tendencies entering the industry by forging a discourse of familial and kinship ties that enforce loyalty and fraternity. Rolston states free markets to solve both nd that this is done in an attempt to governing, individualized and entrepreneuria l subjects (332). In r egards to miners, Rolston points out that state policies regarding worker safety often shift responsibility to small companies, or even th accomplished by the state through behavior wit h equipment s afety procedures. Rolston provides evidence that behavior based safety programs do not hold managers or companies accountable for maintaining equipment, and proper working condition. However, there is also a high premium placed on part time workers to This increases risk for the individual operating the faulty equip ment, as well as the entire crew. Thus, behavior based safety programs result in punishing the worker for being pressured both to impress management for gainin g upward mobility. based safety programs of fictive kinship between coal ed by management ( 336). The bonding relationships between coal miner co workers is effective in gaining trust, which in turn promotes collective methods for maintaining the safety of all
20 workers. As a result, managers who attempted to individualize risk co opted the rhetoric of age workers to identify employees involved in accidents and who engaged in 336). This tactic was unsuccessful in drawing attention away from external environmental risks, however, since coal miners prioritized the trust b etween co worke rs, producing to neoliberal policies nonetheless shape their ability to safely inhabit a dangero 338). The current study will draw upon these i deas presented by Rolston and attempt to show how bike messengers are affected by the normalization of neoliberal practices, mainly the shift of blame and responsibility, in favor of consumerism, and how they attempt to overcome these systemic pressures through the forming of fictive kinship bonds.
21 Social Capital and the Moral Economy Cyclists who work in the realm of the formal economy have also carved out what their populatio n. Bourgois and Schonberg position their theory of the moral economy in terms of homelessness and heroin addiction on the streets of San Francisco. Here, homeless injection afford to purchase the drug before withdrawal symptoms returned, or individuals who could afford heroin would they were in need, knowing their friends will be more likely to return the favor when the time comes. Bourgois and 18) analysis operates as a critique of the formal economy, which marginali zes addicts and impoverished minority populations are rejected from the legal labor market, excluding them from pursuing upward mobility to escape their life on the streets. Homeless these structural barriers which prevent homeless drug users from leading a higher quality of lif e ( 6). The economy of sharing is distinct from the formal economy in that it provides the homeless population with a method of defining their community and providing access to resources necessary for survival outside the formal economy. Finally, Bo urgois and Schonberg argue that the internalization of oppression produced by neoliberal rhetoric of personal responsibility normalizes and legitimizes social inequalities, which are then reproduced by the l c ategories shared within classes (17). In other words, marginalized populations blame themselves for their position in society due to social norms that depict their inequality as natural or deserv ed . The present study will apply the theory of the moral economy to messenger culture, offering a unique addition to the moral economy framework, as messengers
22 work within the confines of the formal economy, while essentially rejecting the premise of consumer logic associated with the formal economy. The moral economy of bike messengers is often tied to their attempt to acquire social capital when they lack adequate economic capital. The theory of social capital has been studied by a plethora of social scientists since it was introduced by Pierre Bourdieu in 19 86 (Bourgois 1996; Lin 1999; Smart 2008; Bourgois and Schonberg 2009; Stablein 2011; Berkman et al. 2014; Naughton 2014 ). Bourdieu conceives of social capital as the socially embedded obligations expected between individuals of a certain group (Smart 2008) . Furthermore, social capital, depending on the amount and composition, directly affec ts social position ( 565). In messenger culture, this social position can translate into access to better economic opportunities, such as being scheduled for the better sh ifts or being offered a position higher up 470) theory of social resources , which establishes a macrosocial structure in which fewer occupants hold higher positio theory of social capital draws upon this macrosocial structure to describe the relationship between gains in social capital and upward social mobility. Lin ( 1999, 471; 2005, 4) argues that social capital is used both instrumentally and expressively to access resources available through social networks, and that these resources are frequen tly associated with mobility within an occupational context. The instrume ntal purpose of action , according to Lin (2005, 4), is employed with the purpose of obtaining resources such as wealth, power, or reputation. Instrumental action is also applicable when social capital is associated with an individual being promoted or bein g hired for a better job. On the other hand, expressive purpose of action is operated in the interest of preserving the extant r esources of a group in the form of cohesion, solidarity, or group well being. Expressive purposes of action provide insulation f rom external pressures, but they can also constrain member behavior,
23 resulting in individuals maintaining group loyalty even at a negative cost to the individual. aims the group cohesion. The negative outcomes of expressive action are addressed more in depth in Chapter V, regarding the use of social capital in maintaining cohesivenes s within the bike messenger occupational culture. Lin (2005) also offers a unique framework for understanding the levels of social relationships and how these different types of relationship groups further contextualize the purpose of social capital. The , is the inner most, and therefore (12) hare (12). However, not all members with in this group interact directly experience and interest, between individuals who hold several different positi ons within the group ( is instrumental to creating a sense of membership and belongingne ss in the group ( 12). Not every member in the outer later is directly connected, but their relationship is defined by their inclusi on in the collectivity or institution with which they identify. These concepts are population would be the messengers who work at the Mile High Messenger Collective (MHM C), the main focus of this study. As we will see, the members of MHMC are expected to reciprocate resources when necessary, and are bound through loyalty to the company and ties of kinship, messenger fa mily ) who call each other
24 messengers who work for courier companies in Denver. Some messengers in Denver have strong ties, while some have weak ties, and these are depe ndent on a number of factors, such as members of the Denver messenger population maintain relationships based on shared experience and the diffusion of knowled experiences of aggressive drivers, unfair law enforcement off icers, and accidents that cause s from Denver across North America, and even to Europe and Asia. The messenger population extends its value of kinship and reciprocity throughout the outer layer, providing bike courie rs with a sense of belonging in any city. Based on their shared identity , bike messengers offer jobs, lend bikes, and open their homes to other messengers who are traveling, attending a race, or moving to a new city. The bonding and binding relationships in which messengers engage are further detailed in Chapter V to contextua lize the expressive actions of social capital observed during the course of research. There is a vast amount of academic studies, in a wide range of fields and paradigms, that 2014; Stablein 2011; Berkman et al. 2014). Thus, my purpose is not to argue that bike messengers fit nicely into the theory of social capital as des cribed by Bourdieu (Smart 2008) and Lin (1999, 2005), but rather to argue that messengers uniquely access resources through the use of social capital, and employ these resources for creative expressive and instrumental purposes. Bike messengers incorporate extensive fictive kinship networks into their use of social capital, apply their own moral economy, and use the social resources to which they have access to overcome barriers of the courier industry caused by the normalization of neoliberal
25 practices. Fu rthermore, I argue that bike messengers engage in expressive actions to enforce not only social cohesion, but also loyalty to the company for which they work. My data offers a unique perspective to understand the connections between social and occupational dimensions of social capital, which strongly overlap in the bike messenger community of Denver.
26 Resistance to and Social Reproduction of the Formal Economy The conclusions of the present study are largely informed by work from Pierre Bourdieu (1977), Philippe Bourgois (1996) , and Ruth Gomberg MuÃ±oz (2011) regarding how marginalized populations resist, and are subsequently rejected by, the formal economy and mainstream culture. Further, how these population s understand their position in society and in t he work place reveals the contradictions that reinforce neoliberal values, and as a result, actually reproduce aspects of the culture they attempt to resist. Bourdieu (1977, 57) first developed the theory of cultural and social reproduction in the context o f education, stating that cultural capital among classes (and sections of a class 58) argues that implicitly endow their children with resources to understand messages transmitted by educational institutions, thus providing them with the proper tools to maintain the monopoly of the dominant culture when exposed to the not have the instruments to appropriate capital will not be able to transmit the necessary knowledge to their offspring, who then are unable to receive the message transmitted by the educational institution. As a result, Bourdieu concludes that educational institutions reproduce the class structure found in hierarchical societies. Since Bourdieu (1977) conceptualized the theory of social reproduction, there has been a significant interest in ho w marginalized populations, who seem to resist the values of mainstream culture, may unintentionally reproduce aspects of that culture through constraints they experience in navigating structural oppression (Bourgois 1996; Gomberg MuÃ±oz 2011). My analysis of how the bike messenger subculture reproduces the structure of the formal economy rests upon the theoretical frameworks provided by Philippe Bourgois (1996) in his ethnography of street culture, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, and Ruth
27 Gomberg stereotypes in Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network. These ethnographies both reveal how individuals cope with the structural forces that oppres s them, and how marginalized groups co opt rhetoric of their oppressors to creatively overcome systemic barriers they experience to increasing their quality of life. Finally, these studies provide evidence of internalized hegemony, a concept I turn to in m y analysis of the messenger population, which occupies a unique position within the formal economy, since their community actively resists the neoliberal values of the corporate economy. Bourgois (1996, 17) is successful in revealing how crack dealers us Individuals who find themselves working in the underground economy of Harlem ad opt a rhetoric of opposition to legal jobs, traditional manage ment subordinate relationships, and making the minimum wage. However, Bourgois argues that the populatio n in his study was as a method of preserving dignity in the face of marginalization. As such, the participants in El Barrio di unde rground economy ( 115, 119 ). In doing so, Bourgois argues that individuals who are excluded from the f ormal economy and legal labor market pursue acceptance within street to their social marginalization (143). In creating a drug culture that fashions itself as the antithesis of white mainstream culture and yet still embraces ind ividual ec onomic success, Bourgois shows that they cling to the same ideal of rugged individualism that underpins the formal economy they reject. As a result, drug dealers in El Barrio reproduce the very destruction and suffering imposed by the oppressive forces of mainstream society they are attempt study provides an example of the contradictions rife in
28 Ruth Gomberg graphy of Mexican migrant service workers provides another narrative of the contradictions that reproduce and reinforce hegemonic structures. The population of migrant busboys at Il Vino are constrained by their undocumented status in regards to employment opportunities in the formal economy. Thus, compete for low wage positions in industries that overlook lacking papers in return for cheap, effective labor. Adoptin being undocumented. However, this social identity is contradictory when it comes to Mexic an work to maintain a level of control in the manager subordinate relation ship. The collective social identity provides a group orientation that can protect individual employees from incurring the wrath of management. Yet, the potential alienation a busboy can experience encourages the undocumented workers to gain a reputation a inuously increasing workload as they work to maintain th eir image. Gomberg MuÃ±oz argues that, as a of reproducing vari ous exploitative aspects of their work, including intensification of their labor (100). A ccording to Gomberg MuÃ±oz , this reproduction of Mexican migrant stereotypes represents the internalization of hegemonic structures that posit undocumented migrants as undeserving of equal wages and employment opportunities. The present study aims to add to the literature on social reproduction by pursuing these frameworks through the lens of bicycle messengers, who must negotiate their position within the formal econo my, like that of the Mexican migrants in Gomberg resistance to mainstream culture, such as the street culture analyzed by Bourgois
29 (1996). The next few chapters will detail the unique characteristics of the bike messe nger population represented in this study, as well as analyze their social identity as it stands in oppositio n to the corporatized features of mainstream society. In resisting the formal economy, bike messengers ultimately internalize their social marginal ization and reproduce the structural oppression they inherently reject in conforming to the social identity of bicycle messengers.
30 CHAPTER III METHODS The present study uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to unveil the pathways between the env ironmental pressures messenger experience, neoliberalism in the courier industry, and the application of social networks to overcome pressures from the corporate courier industry . A combination of in depth interviews and participant observation were used t o understand the bike messenger culture from their perspective. Data Collection Recruitment Participants were recruited through snowball sampling and convenience sampling, which I did in person during participant observation. Snowball sampling was done th rough key informants, with whom rapport had been established during preliminary data collection for a class project on the risk environ ment of bike messengers (Rhodes 2002). These key informants had been introduced to me through a few personal contacts who m I met at a local cafÃ©, Mischief. The key informants agreed to give my information to acquaintances they thought would be eligible for my study. Upon receiving contact from a potential participant, I established my intentions as a researcher and explained my project. Then, I asked the potential participant if they were willing to give consent, after which, I screened for eligibility. Once consent and eligibility were established, I set up an interview with the participant. Sampling was also done in perso n when I participated in alley cat races, messenger events, or hung out with key informants at local courier spots. For this convenience sampling, I established my intentions as a researcher and explain ed my project. Then I asked if the individual was will ing to participate. Once I got consent, I screened the participant for eligibility. If eligible, I exchanged contact information to set up an interview to follow. Some interviews
31 were held on the spot if the participant was available or if we could not det ermine a future time to meet for an interview due to scheduling conflicts. The Participants get along better with the restaurants, they like us more, and we are able to take more jobs than fewer. the fast paced IC bullshit. Walter of Denver are careful to establish themselves as distinct from messengers often work at locally ive to their mes based on their appearance, their social activities, and their social network. Messengers who engage in the lifestyle are often clad in da rk clothing, which hides the dirt they accumulate during the hours they spend biking the streets. Further, career ccording to Luke), steel racks attached to the front of their track bike, either clipless pedals or platform pedals with straps to stop their bikes in lieu of brakes, a hat of some kind (bicycle cap, baseball cap, or beanie), and often either a cigarette o r beer can in their hand. Messengers in this category can typically be found at one of the messenger bars after work in the area, like Mischief. Messenger bars are typically cheaper establishments, where a messenger can pick up a beer and a shot of whiskey for five bucks. On a day off, career messengers may find a local alley cat race to tout their speed and skill at navigating city traffic. The career messengers represent an idealized figure in the messenger community of Denver. They occupy high status p ositions within the messenger social hierarchy, largely because of their jobs at locally owned courier companies, such as the Mile High Messenger
32 Cooperative (MHMC) or Denver Metro Messenger Collective (DMMC). Beginning riders who seek the social support p messengers, except for one, who at the time of the interview was not working as a courier but has since been hired at MHMC. Thus, my research participants all work at locally owned courier companies, make the majority of their inc ome as a bike messenger, and engage in the bi ke Some of my findings concern the organization of the local courier company, the Mile High Messenger Cooperative (MHMC). Several, but not all, of the participants in this study are members of MHMC and shared their experience, whic h I describe in Chapter V. MHMC is by name an employee owned cooperative, but legally operates as a Limited Liability Company company, and as such have a vote in the decision making process. However, the weight of each of the total vote. T They are expected to take on extra responsibilities, such as positions in human relations (HR) or payroll; they earn an extra sum on t heir paycheck for their increased duties. While ea ch Tier One employee controls about 11.5 percent of the overall vote, each Tier Two controls about two thirds of one percent of the overall vote. Thus, the power balance between Tier One and Tier Two members is skewed such that Tier One essentially holds m ost of the decision making power. Furthermore, the LLC structure was established such that three Tier One members are interviews with MHMC workers, Tier One membe rs decided to operate as an LLC on the advice
33 of legal counsel, who argued that the autocratic decision making process would make The eleven interview participants all come from a variety of messenger com panies. Eight of the interviewees currently work in Denver, while two had worked as couriers in Denver in the past. One had only worked outside of Denver but was included to gain an outside perspective of the messenger community and how the Denver populati on is situated within the broader messenger network. Most of the participants were members of MHMC, while some had worked there in the past. Other participants worked at different locally owned courier companies, such as DMMC or Speed City. There was a mix ture of individuals who were classified as independent contractors and/or W 2 employees. Some participants worked for multiple companies, which allowed them to cover their taxes incurred as ICs with taxes taken through their W 2 job. The variety and divers ity of participants allowed me to gain a better understanding of the local courier industry, while turning the research focus to issues deemed important by interview participants. MHMC became a focus of this study based on the narratives provided by messen gers who work at MHMC. Their narratives revealed the reproduction of corporate structures that contradicted the communal rhetoric of bike Participants also made a clear distin ction between food and paper cour iers. Food couriers make food deliveries for local restaurants; p aper couriers, on the other hand, deliver packages and files for local business es, government offices, and legal firms. There is a competitive nature between food and paper couriers, and this is often expressed by paper position in the courier community. Although the reason for this was not clear du ring the course of my research s ince my participants wer e almost exclusively food couriers, I got the sense that
34 The popularity of food messengers a nd the small amount of paper courier positions in Denver indicates a level of exclusivity for paper couriers , which then drives their sense of superiority over food couriers. In Depth Interviews Interviews were held where ever the participant felt co mfort able; this usually included local bars, cafes, or at home. The interviews were semi structured to allow for a conversational atmosphere. This would allow the participant to be comfortable and elicit topics that the interviewer had not explicitly addressed. Interviews typically lasted an h our to two hours and were audio recorded for the author to reference during data analysis. Interviewees could exit the interview at any time, yet most were eager to share their stories and would extend the interview to allo w for greater sharing of information. Ten interviews were conducted in total, with 8 men and 3 women. One interview was conducted with two key informants to elicit style interview. (See Appendix B for sample interview guide). Participant Observation Participant observation occurred on a weekly basis for thirteen consecutive months. Cycle Courier Championship (NACCC), and several local messenger events, such as fundraisers or parties. These events were opportunities for networking within the messenger community, as well as observing the particular social patterns in which bike couriers enga ge. Many of these events were also opportunities for me to personally experience and embody what it means to be a bike messenger. I experienced the adrenaline of rushing through busy traffic, the rush of winning a race, and the support received from others in the bike community. Alley cat races were a great opportunity to engage in par ticipant observation and build rapport with the community. These races are unsanctioned, and therefore technically illegal,
35 plying with cultural norms, such as that of where racers must either take a picture, check in with a checkpoint moderator, or complete a task of some sort (wh ich represents droppin checkpoints are completed, riders race to the finish to compete for prizes. Prizes are awarded in a number of different ways depending on the host of the race and the prizes donated by sponsors. While alle the messenger c ommunity, these races are also a method for messengers to build their reputation and, thus, accrue social capital in the messenger community. I par ticipated in these races to physically experience what a bike messenger experiences in a given day, but I also found that participating garnered respect from the community, especially since there are few women who race alley cats. What is more, is that I w as able to show my uncanny abilities on a which was even more valuable to my research than the physical prizes.
36 Data Analysis All interviews were transcribed in fu ll by the author. Coding was done on all interview transcripts, as well as with all notes taken in the field. Coding was done both by hand and with NVivo, a qualitative data analysis program. Codes used were both inductive and deductive. Deductive coding w face in Chapter IV, since they identified the environmental influences on bike messengers t hat perpetuate or increase risk for harm. The results reflected the complexities of the messenger subculture and the environmental influences that comprise their particular risk environment, revealed by the macrostructural forces that affect individual mes sengers at the micro level; yet during coding analysis, the emphasis on the physical and economic pressures of the courier industry emerged as the most prevalent types of environmental factors. This redirected the focus of research to understand how these physical and economic pressures are created and p erpetuated by undesirable work policies of corporate culture . Inductive codes emerged from the core themes messengers raised in their interviews that engaged with the literature on neoliberal industry, prec arious occupations, and social reproduction. As the project became more defined, relevant themes emerged that pointed to a desire for autonomy, yet messengers found themselves constrained by the same downward pressures found in corporate culture. For examp le, one inductive code centered on the term included the organization of MHMC and how messengers accrue and use social capital within their community. The inductive co des were useful in determining which issues were most important to the bike messengers of Denver, and how they themselves wanted to be perceived.
37 CHAPTER IV RESULTS It just seemed reall y suited to me because I had been riding my bike in Denver , just to go ride around. So when I found out a job like this existed, it was perfect. My scholarshi Walter se why many individuals become bike messenger s ; they are individuals who typically do not subscribe to the normative ideals of a career trajectory. The social norms of career trajectory typically dictate, in this era, completing a 4 year degree or the formal ec onomy, either through an internship (sometimes unpaid) or entry level position. From the bottom, individuals are expected to strive for upward mobility within the corporate hierarchy , increasing their income and, therefore, quality of life. Preferring to r ide a bike over sitting in class, losing financial aid, and being rejected by the school system, like Walter, is just one example of how bik e messengers are confronted by myriad compounding environmental pressures, which breed an underlying rejection of th e formal economy, mainstream culture, or both. The constraints on younger generations are often financial, stemming from raising rent prices and increased costs of living, while simultaneously being excluded from salaried jobs, many of which call for degre es obtained from expensive formal higher education institutions. These pressures are amplified in Denver, which has recently seen an enormous increase in rent and cost of living in a very short period of time. The external factors that push individuals int o messenger jobs are not always explicit, yet some messengers implied their rejection of mainstream culture when I asked them about how and why they got started in the courier
38 structural and social norms that accompanies worki ng as a bike messenger. A common theme in the interviews with bike messengers was th e preference for working as an i ndep endent contractor because it was easier to carry out tax evasion. Walter, when asked how he feels being classified as an IC, explains, messengers I interviewed who currently live in other cities, prefer to be classified as an IC in order to avoid the formal processes of filling out tax forms , keeping track of write offs, and , most of all, paying taxes. Paul learned this practice early in the industry, when he started as a pedicabber 3 at 19 years old; Pau workers and Paul himself policy has been passed now requiring employers to offer health insurance coverage to ICs, and contractors are in turn taxed for this provision. However, Paul states that he would prefer to that even the practice of paying ta xes in exchange for benefits is inherently rejected in the messenger community. In this sense, I argue that bike messengers remove themselves from positions where they have to live within the constraints of the formal economy. Another particular example account. negative balance. And then I go t Academy bank in Wal mart and it got negative, but then wher e my negative funds were like negative $113, I went back again and they were like, Thad
39 aving money troubles, Thad dis covers that the balance he owes has nearly doubled, making it even more difficult to reconcile his debt. Furthermore, Thad rejects corporate banks, such as Chase, due to the rumors of high fees and low quality custome r service participating in the formal banking system hinders his ability to work in many jobs that require direct deposit. As an IC, he can request his pay in paper check form and continue avoiding of mainstream financial institutions was unique in represent how bike messengers reject the formal economy and the values it is based upon. ments at the opening of this chapter, messengers do not only reject the formal education system and the formal economy, but they also reject what social norms dictate to be an acceptable career trajectory. Desirable positions are typically based on the pot ential for upward mobility; positions at the bottom of the hierarchy are considered temporary and not meant to sustain long term employment, yet these positions are in abundance due to th e tendency to rely on temporary workers , a feature common in corporat e culture (Crowley and Hodson 2014). Couriers, however, have very little potential for upward mobility. Therefore, bike messengers are not particularly drawn to the job for the money. Paul puts is perfectly: a lot of other jobs for me. Paul is not alone in expressing this sentiment. Thad tells me that when he became a bike Throughout the interviews I conducted, a clear theme that emerged riding their bike and for their job. While some, like Jenna, did recognize that each individual company can have its downsides and make the job frustrating at times, all the messengers I
40 talked to discussed how much they appreciated that they could earn money by engaging in an activity they loved. The underlying reject ion of traditional career trajectories is present in these proclamations, since mainstream society does not typically view a career as directly correlated to happiness, but rather indirectly correlated through the proxy of salary and profit. The fact that these messengers reject the inherent notion that money will bring them happiness is paired with a normalization of the low wages they bring home. Many bike messengers see happiness in their work as a trade off for living on a sustainable wage. However, thi s perspective becomes problematic since many individuals in other occupations and industries do enjoy working at a job where they make a wage which can support their lifestyle. Paul recognizes this pitfall of the courier industry. this. Paul In a service based economy, like the one currently operating in the United States, individuals wh o work service jobs should be able to make a sustainable wage. However, due to the pressures rife within corporate culture that prioritize employers and produce the shift of s are not able to make a long compromised; they either continue to lower their standards of living to balance making low wages in an inflating market, or they leave their courier jobs behind to work in an industry that does not provide them with job satisfaction. Many messengers choose the former, deferring their family and lifestyle goals until after they dedicate several years to doing what they love. For example, Luther tells m learned to live on means spending y.
41 Luther is not alone in these sentiments. Simon, for example, explains to me that many T here are a few that do just this, and they might not tell you, but they have some other side hustle, wheth er mostly just do th no way, Simon Similarly, Rachel questions how many messengers manage to survive on their courier job alone. You work so hard, and especially with the way the prices in Denver have shot up, the cost Rachel Bike messengers, as these examples portray, would rather work f or less pay than work in a position that did not give them personal satisfaction. Unfortunately for messengers, their benefits, worsening the precarity of the me ssenger population in Denver. The social norm of working in a salaried or hourly position is rejected by most on their bike or working as an independent contractor . Thus, the messengers in this study high importance to bike messengers ; every single interview participant mentioned freedom, and most often in relation to being classified as an IC. at the same time every morning. I have a lot more freedom. If they give me a job in one area, , I can reject it if I want to. If I want to go hang out with my friends n lot more freedo m. Tiger Paul similarly acknowledges the freedom he finds as an IC, while also indicating his increased personal responsibility for his equipment and maintaining employment as a contractor.
42 A lot of times we have an enormous amount of freedom as an IC; you come and go when you please, you wear what you want, and it is my responsibility to get to work; it is my responsibility to maintain my bike, and they just offer me the work. Paul Meanwhile, Walter notes his preference for indepen dence from manageria l authority while simultaneously indicating that he is misclassified as an IC , due to the pseudo management of Tier One members in the MHMC organizational structure. I like the independence of it. Being an IC, by definition, although there are grey areas because we have management of a sort being an IC means you can work for multiple companies, you can do the job however you choose to do, you have a great amount of Walt er Denver. The data reveals that independent c ontracting has become a method of classifying workers which messengers employ in order to work outside the constrain ts of corporate employer employee relationships. As ICs, couriers can avoid being associated with a corporation, as well as exercise individual agency to attain a sense of happiness and satisfaction in their work. Furthermore, messengers prefer working as an IC to avoid feeling oppressed as a subordinate within the hierarchical organization of corporate culture. Essentially, bike messengers resist the authority associated with corporate management , and instead opt for independence from capitalist structures through self employment as ICs. Bike messengers are also notorious for resisting the formal economy in terms of as Walter puts it, messengers are often not afforded the pro vision of health insurance coverage through their employers. This leaves messengers personally responsible for obtaining health insurance, which they cannot usually afford anyway. Of all my participants, only two had their own health insurance, and those w messengers I interviewed had amassed hefty medical bills that they claimed they would never
43 b e able to pay off. Luther, for example, tells me he is $70,000 in debt due to a medical emergency he experienced more than five years prior and that he never plans on paying the hospital. Tiger additionally owes over six figures in medical debt from a seve re accident, which he claims he will never be able to pay off. Barely able to survive each week financially, messengers find it difficult to afford health insurance, and simply impossible to pay medical bills they incur when they are not insured. The lack of health insurance coverage provided in the courier industry is astonishing considering the inherently dangerous nature of the job, safety. Thus, messengers reco gnize the dangers of their job and, in turn, manage their lack of health care coverage by refusing to pay their medical bills. As m essengers eschew working in the formal e conomy in favor of the freedom of working as an IC, the conditions in which they wor k further reproduce their exclusion from it. The job is inherently dangerous and dirty. Bike messengers prefer, and many times even enjoy, the sometimes extreme weather conditions they must endure in comparison to being Simon feels , working inside every day. Simon explains his experience working to sell sunglasses; he says he would rather be outside in the winter wor king on his bike than working in an hourly position. Just looking out the window all day with nobody coming in. You definitely start to crave that being out side Simon Meanwhile, Thad tells me he is often perceived negatively due to his appearance, which he points out directly correlates to the extreme conditions and nature of his job. , like our whole job is to ride our bikes and suffer, fuck, work in the sn ow and rain, 105 degree weather; re out here no matter what , so the conditions get to us. You know, it is w hat it is; 8 to 10 hours a day. So I think everybody, if you really pay attention to it, might have that stereotype. Thad
44 The experience of both Simon and Thad are frequent in the bike community. T here are many jokes made by messengers themselves or how they look ants for too many days in a row, and Jenna also spoke about being perceived as ho meless on numerous occasions due to her appearance. There is, however, a functionality in their choice to ignore some norms concerning hygiene; messengers spend countless hours working outside on their bike , collecting dirt and soaked in sweat, and thus ca nnot always easily conform to societal norms of cleanliness. This leads to a negative stereotype of bike couriers, as Thad pointed out above, Connor, among others, ment ioned being asked by building security to wait in the lobb y rather than enter the offices to deliver packages , impeding their efficiency on the job . The image and stereotype of bike messengers creates a feedback loop of rejection; when bike messengers reje ct the socially accepted hygiene standards to conform to the functionality of their occupation, they are subsequently rejected by the co rporate industry based on their appearance. Some messengers, like Walter in the opening passage of this chapter, find t hat they are not equipped to enter the formal economy due to a lack of education or experience, yet they (1996) ethnography, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack i n El Barrio , almost all of the bike messengers in my study had experience working in the formal economy or attending a university. Yet, their experiences were less than favorable. Luke, for example, finds himself struggling to conform to the expectations o f higher education, leading him to feel that he has been unable to reach his full potential. Connor and Jenna, on the other hand, feel that they are not cut out for work in the formal economy. Jenna had worked at a corporate firm before working as a bike c ourier, where she had been expected to wear skirts and nylons on a daily
45 basis. However, Jenna found herself unwilling to compromise her preference for working in more comfortable attire, and thus left her salaried position with benefits to work on her bik e. At one point during the course of research, Connor had set up an interview for a position as a music teacher where he could finally put his B.A. in Music to use. The day befor e the interview came to pass, Connor, based on his fear of rejection from the formal institution, engaged in self sabotage by drinking until five in the morning. This form of self destruction is a met hod discussed by Bourgois , who noted that individuals attempting to make sense of their marginalization from the formal economy often engage in behaviors that ultimately further exclude themselves from the formal economy, which forces them into precarious industries. It is also common for individuals to seek employment on their bikes if they have a felony. Luther, when asked why he beca me a bike messenger, describes the messenger scene nine years prior; most of his friends and acquaintances had been arrested for minor or petty crimes and had difficulty finding employment with a felony. As IC s , individuals with felonies could make money r iding their bike while circumventing their exclusion from the formal economy. Being unable or unwilling to conform to the social norms of the formal economy, higher education, and career ideals encourages individuals to enter the DIY economy as self employ ed bike messengers, while also prolonging their time working in the courier industry. Simon, for example, has found exiting the courier industry difficult for the same reason the thought of re entering the school system and formal economy is daunting and difficult to reconcile when he has spent so much time dedicated to cultivating his social capital in the moral economy of bike messengers. The factors that incite bike messengers to reject the formal economy encourage messengers to create their own alter native community based on a feeling of kinship that ties all feel rejected by the formal economy, or who do not fit in with mainstream culture and the
46 social ly nor mative career trajectory. In a corporate society largely based on individualism and offers protection and a sense of belonging based on strong bonds of share d experience. For example, Jenna left her job in the formal economy, where she was making 40 to 50 thousand dollars as a yearly salary. She explains to me: guys are my bro fulltime, because I want to hang out with my friends. lues that Rolston (2010) described among coal miners; m trying not to die. Jenna The difficult and dangerous experiences couriers share on the job, such as navigating traffic risks and resentful drivers, engenders a deep c onnection through commo nality among bike draw individuals to the messenger community, as wel l as perpetuate the community. Luther, for example, was not partial to riding his bike for work, but grew to rely on the relationships he formed in the community, as his fellow messengers taught him the ropes and helped get him on his feet. Now Luther is a more than eight years. knowledge sharing (Crowley and Hodson 2014). Walter sums up the way the human an d social capital shared through bike messenger relationships give career messengers an edge in competing with corporate courier industries.
47 A t this stag e in the game for couriers s kids working for Post Mates, DoorDash, workin g for uberEats. Some of them ar e doing all three, triple dipping. They are still not making as much money as we are, and that is because we maintain a culture. Like I was saying about DoorDash their whole business is based on turn over. They have someone taking their first delivery, the first one he ever r t have that fast paced bullshit. Walter As career messengers cultivate a culture of pride around their lifestyle, they distinguish themselves from the individuals who work f or high turnover corporations. Career messengers tout their knowledge of the streets in alley cat races and show off their riding skills on track bikes 4 with no brakes. These messengers are noted for their risky, yet skilled bike riding practices both on a nd off the job. Career messengers are dedicated, constructing an entire distinctive lifestyle manifests in their rejection of the corporate courier industry. Fo r example, courier knowledge and, according to career messengers, unwarranted reckless riding while on tendency to hire high volumes of unqualified couriers has several effects on the local career messengers. When individuals do not know what they are doing in cycle courier work, they increase risk of injury for themselves, and, as Luke has pointed out to me on several occasions, they risk damaging the perception of all bike messengers. Rejecting these quantity over quality courier companies has two purposes for career messengers; first, the exclusivity of the local messenger comm unity protects the integrity of the messenger occupation. Second, rejecting the corporatized courier industry allows career messengers to distinguish themselves as experts and build stronger professional relationships with other locally owned businesses an d restaurants, therefore solidly establishing the independent business for which they work within the local market. Career messengers may not always own the courier company for which they
48 work, but each worker sees their part as int uccess and shares their expertise with incoming rookies . Thus, career messengers develop human capital through knowledge sharing, giving them a competitive edge against corporate companies whose features erode productive social relations within the workpla ce (Crowley and Hodson 2014). Building a community around the local courier companies in Denver insulates individual career messengers from the risks of high turnover business models which prioritize large quantities of cheap labor, rather than investi ng in quality workers and developing human capital (Crowley and Hodson 2014). This insularity is a result of career messengers passing on their occupational knowledge, therefore increasing the human capital of the messengers that work for locally owned cou rier companies. Rookies in the courier industry experience hazing, which is used to correct behaviors and increase knowledge for the aspiring messenger. This hazing can inform which kind of backpack to use, which routes to take, how to navigate traffic, ha ving proper clothing and equipment for winter weather, and how to establish professional relationships with restaurants for which the company delivers. Through the development of human capital and strong social network ties in their community, career messe ngers are able to procure resources that allow them to successfully compete with corporate courier entities that rely on high turnover business models.
49 bout $1,400 and that will be gone by the weekend and then I have a beer to drink the rest of the night. I know how to get creative about food. But I can always get Luther The above quote from Luther depicts the moral economy of sharing that is present in the bike messenger fam ily in Denver. It is common for messengers to buy rounds of beer for courier friends, knowing someone else will return the gesture in the future. This process not only helps messengers sustain their low wage lifestyle, but it can also be used to gain socia l capital within the community. There is a tendency for messengers who engage in the moral economy to gain favor with other couriers, therefore indirectly increasing their social capital. The following narrative from an interview with Tiger reveals the pat hways between the moral economy of bike messengers and their access to social capital. I actually met Paul at Mischief. I was 2 or 3 months into messengering when I met Paul and he was Brighton, from my le of LA messengers with me, can we crash at bedroom apartment with 2 other people; we had one in the bedroom, another person in the living room, and I was the third person in the living room, but I was sleeping on the co being really c ool cause we were partying, you kn connection, those two dudes are now my roommates in LA . We stayed in contact when I things back to, if I LA now. Tiger The above narrative depicts how the moral economy of bike messengers is rooted in the trust assumed between couriers. Tiger, somewhat new to the scene, places a s ignificant amount of
50 and a job at a paper courier company in another city. Friendships like these are common in the bike m essenger community, in Denver and across the nation. Paul has a simi lar experience to share with me: arr ived the first day of NACCC and within about an hour or so, somebody had offered me a job and a place to live. Again, just because I had never met this person before, they let me stay in their house for weeks, they gave me a job on the spot, and it was jus t because of this comradery that we have. I was in Chicago last week and I was offered a job just because I job. And it happens time and time again, where people come t hrough and support, offer The kinship of the bike messenger community plays a signi ficant role in shaping the courier messengers face in making a livable wage, finding work, and making ends meet, many messengers offer up what they can a job, a cou ch, etc. knowing that one day a fellow messenger will also help them out of a predicament. For example, Ruby, a female courier from outside of Denver, had a similar experience when visiting out of state for a work conference. She discovered last minute t hat her work did not approve her last night booked in the hotel where she was staying. Ruby had no other place to stay and could not afford to book another night in a hotel herself and, thus, found herself stranded in an unfamiliar city. Her first instinct was to visit a local bike only food delivery service. Within minutes of being in the company of bike messengers, Ruby was offered a place to stay and some tacos. The narratives provided by Tiger, Paul, and Ruby not only show the unique bond between messe ngers based solely on their occupation, but also how they benefit economically through the social capital they have in the community. Bike messengers in any city understand how difficult it can be to pay for large, unexpected expenses on a courier wage. Th us, couriers participate in the moral economy of sharing by opening their homes to strangers,
51 simultaneously increasing their social capital in the community since messengers who perience in particular articulates the importance of knowing others in the courier community; Paul was able to arrange a courier position in Chicago based on having well known friends in the ticipating (enthusiastically) in the messenger moral economy and opening his apartment to strangers, disregarding his relationships in the community, strengthening his im age, and eventually his ge nerosity was returned by the LA couriers, who offered to be his roommates and aided in finding him a job when he moved. These stories depict how social capital is intertwined with the moral economy of bike messengers, rooted in th eir shared experiences and knowledge. Bike messengers not only are able to locate roommates, housing, and jobs through the moral economy but also find more mundane assistance, such as assisting a co worker or friend who is temporarily down on their luck. flat and there is usually someone around with a spare tube to help fix the tire. Thad tells me of one specific instance where he was helped out of a predicament through the moral economy. I had a flat and tube at a park for me. Like he left the tube, it had a couple holes and I had to patch it up. But , you say you need something and I got a guy that leaves a whole kit for me in a park so I can roll up to it and fix it up. I kind of feel like that goes all the way around, like go get a tire. Just anything, you know, you broke your handle Thad Similarly, when Thad got into a hit and run and had to replace his fork before he worked the next day, he was able to buy one from a co worker for an extremely discounted price. Unexpected expenses can be difficult to reconcile for messengers who already live paycheck to paycheck. Yet messengers are personally responsible for maintaining their equipment. Thus,
52 the kinds of exchanges Thad has experienced in the moral economy of bike messengers allowed him to afford bike maintenance on short notice so he would not have to miss work. These kinds of exchanges are frequent occurren ces in the messenger community in Denver, and I myself have experienced the moral economy of fixing bikes. Before I was going to participate in an alley cat race, I got a leak in the valve stem of one of my tubes. Luckily, a friend, Jim, had an extra tube and offered to replace mine with his spare. Only due to his generosity was I able to participate in the alley cat. I was able to pay forward the kind gesture when Saddie, a new comer to the messenger scene in Denver, got a flat tire on her way home from wo rk. She was near my apartment, so she called me and I happened to have a spare tube, which I let her fix at my house. These experiences are not only a large part of the bike messenger economy, but they also strengthen the bonds between members of the commu nity. Messenger feel that others in knowing another messenger is always there to help them when necessary. The moral economy of bike messengers also plays a part in a iding messengers who have been been involved in an accident. Tiger, for example, would not have been able to financially survive his serious accident had it not been for his friends and co workers in the bike community. After spending two weeks in intensiv e care, Tiger had to temporarily relocate to New York, where the accident occurred. Medical bills, not being able to work, and the cost of relocating to a new city lef t Tiger with scarce resources with which to survive. Fortunately, Tiger had the support o f the bike messenger community. Tiger: Financially, my friends did a huge fundraiser and raised a shit ton of money for me and that basically covered the cost of me staying in New York, and living in New York expensive place. Eloiss: So, without the help of your friends you would have not Tiger: I would not have even been able to stay in New York, I would have been homeless
53 Without the support of t he messenger community, Tiger would have struggled even more to deal with the aftermath of his accident. The close relationships Tiger cultivated with messengers in the community granted him support from a wide range of individuals from those who could o rganize an alley cat, market the event, find sponsors for prizes, to those who came out to race who donated their time and money to help their fellow messenger, or as The moral economy of sharing in the bike messenger cult ure is a tool of resistance to the formal economy. As messengers work to reject corporate economic structures, they employ individual agency in working around formal procedures. The kinship network built in the messenger community in Denver provides courie rs with an alternative to the formal economy in many cases. As such, messenge rs rely on alternative forms of capital , and arguably deploy all three types of capital as described by Bourdieu: social, symbolic, and cultural (Smart 2008) . Messengers hold each 411). Thad, for example, was able to accrue enough social capital to be voted into Tier Two by promising to uphold his obligations to the company. A lot of the Tier One members, I again, I know a lot of people in Tier Two and a f talked to them one on one, like Lonnie, I called him and I called Sean and I called Brant and I talked to them all one on one [before the vote.] Thad messenger community since it represents the trust between individuals who maintain a positive reputation within the group. Jenna
54 ing able to access the resources available within the group, in this case, the sense of belonging provided behaviors dictated by messenger social norms, and t he messenger ethos of resistance to the formal economy, as well as in terms of accessing resources by accruing social capital. and you have Luke manipulate the messenger social network to accrue capital. In addition, several interviews and personal observ ations revealed that messengers experience a period of hazing upon entering the courier community. Once a courier gains the specific knowledge of cultural capital, they will essengers with cultural awareness know they can accumulate social capital by upholding their obligations to the messenger community. Finally, messengers use symbolic capital to discern which individuals have access to upward mobility , demonstrated by the n epotism in gaining access to Tier One membership. Walter notes that moving upward at MHMC involves gaining the trust of . Thus, upward mobility in MHMC is a process that is based on symbolic acts of trust worthiness, typically in the form of obligations to position within and outside of the workplace. Lin (1999, 470 471) argues that instrumental social capital is bartered for more desirable positions within the macrostructure. However, I argue that bike messengers instrumentally use social capital as a means to attain a h igher position within their own
55 microstructure. Reputation, for one, is built outside of work through myriad methods that produce social capital. Messengers can gain positive reputations for their skills in alley cat races or other competitions, such as tr ack standing. 5 Consistently winning races can increase a employers know their reputation for speed and efficiency. Participation in the moral economy also can positively races and participating in the moral economy at social gatherings present opportunities for increasing social capital to build a reputation outside the workplace, in turn potent iating access to the upper tier of the hierarchy within the workplace. As Walter notes, participating in the moral economy of sha ring and building what Lin (2005 ) calls bonding or binding relationships can result in accessing higher positions in the compa ny. He says: definitely came into the position from a significant amount of nepotism. The ability of Tier One members to manipulate company resources for their benefit i llustrates the instrumental purpose of action of social capital. As a result, messengers who can gain enough social capital to access the exclusive upper tier by bonding with individuals in Tier One, who are position of advantage to access community resour ces. The unequal distribution of social capital found in the bike messenger social hierarchy determines if an individual is more or less successful in attaining new resources ; being near the top of the hierarchy offers opportunities to make extra money, su ch as performing auxiliary tasks or manipulating the schedule for the most profitable shifts, through binding relationships with other members of inner layer (Lin 2005, 4) theory of social resources , messenge ranks within the hierarchy. For example, Walter provides evidence that those who can a ccess
56 the exclusive upper positions at MHMC often find themselves in a position to shift heavier workloads to those who are beneath them in the hierarchy. He states: I very much get the sense that some people in the Tier One are comfortable with that posit adio at the end of their shift. In our company there is definitely an issue of accountability and, I hate the word, unfairness for the people who are in a position of power in the company. The downward shift of work accompanied by the exclusive nature o f Tier One suggests that upward mobility is difficult to attain; it first requires the attainment of social capital in the form of intense binding relationships. Once a messenger has built these relationships, they must display loyalty to the group within their disposal, both at work and within the broader messenger community. Similarly, I found that mess engers with more social capital are likely to remain in a higher position, and they also determine who else can access resources reserved for members of the inner layer. Thus, I argue that messengers who hold more powerful positions in the social hierarchy are gatekeepers of social capital. Walter says about Tier One members: amongst themselves about it, reinforcing, validating each other within this small insular commun The presence of social capital does not necessarily imply that there is a hierarchy; however, the unequal distribution of social capital I observed in the local messenger social structure alludes to the reproduction of the corporate hierarchy messengers reject. In the bike messenger community, social capital can translate into being scheduled for the busier and, therefore, more profitable shifts, being scheduled more hours, or having flexi bility in which days an individual has off, primarily concerning shifts that conflict with events in the messenger community. Lacking social capital can prevent bike messengers from
57 taking off time for important events that could in turn allow them to buil d their social capital. consequence, he has not had the opportunity to showcase his skills at an alley cat race or bond with other me ssengers to increase his soci al capital. Thad finds himself in a loop that prevents part of the career courier group until he proves his skills outside the workplace. As such, upward mobility is constrained for messengers who have difficulties building relationships since lacking a bond with those in higher positions restricts their access to social capital. with nepotism am ong the Tier One members of MHMC . Over time it builds up and you begin to see that the Tier Ones look out for themselves. Once you have so m any people who are friends in this group, it is almost more difficult to get in protections against that sort of nepotism. Walt er From both interviews and my observations, social relationships play a large role in who is able to secure a better position in the company, or who has more freedom from scrutiny on the job. One particularly heated conversation I observed occurred betw een Walter and Brant after work at a local karaoke bar. Brant, a member of Tier One, had been late for work that day. Walter brought up that Brant had not been scolded or held accountable for his tardiness, and that he thought this unfair considering he, W alter, is almost always severely reprimanded when he is late for a shift. Brant did little more than shrug his shoulders as Walter got worked up over what he perceived as a great injustice. I argue that, based on this data, it can be concluded that once a courier has acquired sufficient social capital, they are more likely to maintain their higher positionality within the group. However, an individual who is lower on the social capital spectrum loses social capital more easily when they make mistakes. Thus, it is important for
58 messengers to display their commitment to the company and community, even as they face The utility of social capital in the messenger commun ity, therefore, rests on the loyalty messengers are expected to show towards their company and fellow messengers which is constructed through reciprocal relationships in the moral economy. Couriers I interviewed stated that they would conform to the wishes of those who held higher positions at the company in order to prove that the company and community can rely on them. Eloiss: pursing that legally? Walter: all these other people and that goes against what it is sort of a double edged sword, but that is what is cool about the co up. Hopefully no one person is going to fuck everyone else over. We are all away of each other being a part of this. The bond between messengers, especially when they work together in an employee owned setting, engenders allegiance to the company, even when disadvantageous to the individual. In summary, the unequal di stribution of social capital reinforces the career messenger hierarchy, and engaging in the moral economy of sharing with couriers who hold higher ranks in the
59 k in the Messenger Community I feel like some people take it personally, just out of pride, they try and do the most jobs. better than somebody else. We have these massive competitions where we go do our jobs took 15 th . Paul The career messengers in Denver take pride in their skills on a bike and strive to separate themselves from the temporary couriers of corporate delivery companies. According to Thad and Walter, career messengers distinguish themselves from temporary messenger s with the ocal courier companies rely on independent contractors , which allow their riders to work without the constraints of wearing a uniform. Without a uniform, messengers are free to navigate traffic without fear of being report ed to their employer. The lack of a uniform has an ulterior function; couriers without a uniform can wear what is culturally another courier while on the job. Several participants employees on the road : Simon Displays of tenacity for career couriers, instead, are put on display during alley cat races, rather than a 10 hour shift where they prefer to maintain their stamina. addresses to complete. Alley cat races are useful in garnering a bike messenger social capital and respect from the grassroots messeng er community. At the same time, alley cat races are a
60 dangerous part of the messenger culture. These races are held on the open road, and with participant in sever al of these races over the course of my research, I experienced several close recent race seemed to be lost on everyone as they quickly darted into traffic, plac ing higher priority on winning than on safety. The structure of alley cat races typically aims to replicate the experience of working as a messenger. Thus, while speed is not always prioritized while on the job, there are still instances where couriers d than usual, resulting in pressure from employers to move quickly through city traffic per the request of the client. Burning a job refers to when a messenger fails to meet the delivery time, third party delivery service (i.e. Eat24, GrubHub, etc.). Thus, the pressure from consumer and corporate businesses who rely on the efficiency of career couriers can have a direct effect on the potential risk for harm messengers experience at work. The pride which accompanies performing this aspect of the job wel l is mirrored in the hearty competitiveness of alley cat races. However, the consequence of the increased risk for harm is that messengers often face life threatening encounters with the steel beasts that rule the roads. Not all accidents occur during wo rk, yet the pressures of the industry carry over to the social world of couriers, breeding competitiveness and increasing risk of injury in all aspects of their lives. Tiger relates his extensive injuries sustained in an accident with a motor vehicle: I en remember in the police report, that a car pulled out too far past the stop, pas t the crosswalk and we collided. I went through the windshield, flipped over the car, and hit a
61 Vespa on the other side. I broke my mandible at here and here and here [pointing to three points along jaw], fractured a collar bone, my elbow popped out from t he joint it was connected to, fractured this wrist, fractured this wrist which was already previously broken and had a plate in it, I broke two ribs, my whole sternum actually shifted to the left me so I could pee, and then I had my jaw wired shut for a little bit. I was in intensive care for about two weeks. the job translates to social pressure to perfor m well. However, loss of control is a very real possibility that has life accidents participants described that involved a vehicle were caused by the driver of the vehicle. Thus, the spee d and efficiency that is praised in the courier industry and community has implications for messengers both on and off the job when they are faced with careless is a weapon of mass destruction constantly avoiding accidents with careless drivers, honing their reflexes on a daily basis because they know the consequences of coming into contact with a vehicle. y are in a two thousand pound Thad ly, there are often times when messengers engage in more aggressive riding behaviors on the road. their presence known to protect themselves from potential injur y. Bike messengers are not often passive individuals, and some stories of fighting with drivers are worn like a badge of heroism. Proud to stand their ground, Luke, Walter, Connor, and Luther, among others, have expressed, with a hint of arrogance, their e ncounters with drivers whom you almost picture as foaming at the mouth with road rage. These incidents, however, have potential to pose an imminent threat to a bike messenger. Luke has recounted several stories of being chased down by vehicles attempting t o run him off the road after he would slap their car with his hand in
62 protest when drivers come within the legal three feet they are supposed to allow a biker. Messengers who spend countless hours on the road, threatened by careless drivers, are often frus trated by the lack of enforcement of traffic laws. Taking matters into their own hands, ting his physical being, but also to the economic consequences of being injured. Frequently, an accident can cause a bike messenger to miss work depending on the severity of their injuries. Not only does this have immediate financial implications, as the w orker is not making money if they are not able to work on their bike, but an injured messenger is also in danger of being replaced. Paul fight through pain a to further injury by working through the pain in order to pay their bills. Incurring injuries can also prove to be a financial burden, depending on the severity of the accident. As discussed earlier, many messengers prefer to exist outside the formal health care system by refusing to buy their own health insurance coverage. Messengers, as a result, find themselves in an extremely precarious position when they are involved in an acci dent that sends them to the hospital. In many incidents, messengers will refuse to receive health care as they see it as an unnecessary expense. Luke, for one, has come home with many injuries he did not consider serious enough to pursue medical care. Conc ussions, rib fractures, and sprained ankles are only a few of the injuries I discussed in interviews, for which participants did not the majority of his medical care experiences. Some accidents, however, are severe enough that the messenger does not have a choice interplay between physi cal and economic risks to which messengers are exposed. The pride in
63 speed that is prioritized in the community led to a physically debilitating injury, which resulted in an economically precarious position for Tiger. As such, Tiger could not even conceive of owing six figures in medical debt, much less afford to be absent from work for months without any possibility of compensation and cover the cost of temporarily moving to an expensive city. really tried or thought about ave anything that you can seize. I have nothing worth any value. Tiger The debt Tiger is experiencing is a result of his position at a company that did not provide full time workers with health insurance coverage, compounded by the social pressure of the messenger community and the pride associated with riding a bike skillfully, and the rejection of the formal health care system (i.e. their resistance in paying for insurance and/or medical bills). Bike messengers, as I observed, also take pride in their motivation to work. When I would ask interview participants if they perceived any challenges to maintaining employment, jobs that reject the formal economy often doubles as taking personal responsibility for making a decent wage, since they are not protected by minimum wage laws. Thad, after referring to not being lazy, sta time or career messengers are often working 50 to 60 hour weeks to make ends meet. You need to kind of make your own work schedule, or make u p for lack of work in certain Connor
64 It is up to the individual to make sure he or she makes enough money every week, and many messengers find themselves picking up extra shifts and working doubles. To add to the difficulties in making ends meet, messengers, as ICs, are not protected by the 40 hour work week restrictions or overtime pay compensation. Rather, as Thad discusses below, ICs are term cost to their physical health. Thad: e different story; I can work full time, I can work as much Like my last paycheck, actually the one I just cashed today, I was super stoked about. For two weeks, I worked 6 doubles in a row and it was like, 13 hundred on my paycheck. Yeah, I was pretty stoked. Eloiss: Thad : I mean, yeah, by the 5 th double I was trying to go home after; everyone was trying to go out th one was over and I was off for two The pride messengers take in working long hours on their bike not only disguises the injustices they experience in maintaining a livable wage, but it also can lead to long term physical consequences, or what k bike for stop peddling as they ride. As a result, many messenger have long term knee problems after repeated bodily injury, which compounds over time, causing more long term health complications. Luke, for one, has experienced many blows to his chest and elbow, causing sustained fractures that may lead to joint problems later in life. Finally, burning out can be caused by the excessive hours couriers work on their bike to make an adequate wage on which they can live.
65 Eloiss hourly pay? Thad : I mean yeah, but that might just be because of my own materialistic needs and you get sore, you burn yourself out. The economic pressure of living in Denver, a city whose cost of living sky rocketed in recent years, shifts responsibility of making a livable wage to individuals. Consequently, messengers find themselves working long hours, which wears them out physically. Many messengers justify this proc ess, explaining to me that they love their job, and they would rather work longer hours on their bike than being restricted to a cubicle. The normalization of living a low wage lifestyle is particularly embraced by bike messengers in Denver, which obscures the level of exploitation in the courier industry. The following section further details how contradictions within the local messenger population masks the reproduction of corporate culture within the courier industry in Denver as they simultaneous resist exploitation from corporate business culture.
66 Employee Owned Business Models and Independent Contracting: A Contradiction I attended the North American Cycle Courier Championships (NACCC) this September as a part of my participant observation for this research. One notable event during the weekend North America sit on the floor and watch a presentation on business metrics in the courier industry. This ev ent in itself shows the movement towards employee or locally owned courier er industry as a whole. Many career couriers find that competition with corporate courier companies is an impending obstacle for local companies. As Walter pointed out, by maintaining an exclusive community and tight knit subculture, messengers are able to develop their collective human capital and provide better service to their clients based on their expertise in the delivery industry. The Mile High Messenger Cooperative (MHMC), has attempted to distinguish itself from the corporate delivery industry by establishing an employee owned business model. Thad tells o we all own a partial percentage Connor, I hear similar claims which seem to verify what Thad had said. Based on these details, I understood MHMC to be a cooperative, with each employee owning a, more or less, equal percentage of the company. This structure, to me, appeared to conform to the messenger ethos of community, as e ach employee has a vote in the decision making proc ess, which allows all the worke s to be heard. In my interview with Walter, however, a different story was unveiled. MHMC is not a co op. We will see what happens at the end of this year, but right now it is in name only. I was very disappointed in that. It has proven to be very political. As much as I want to get in there and make the co op, lawyer and your legal advice said it was too difficult to establish a real co op so you guys should just choose a few owners. Walter
67 The pressures of competing with the quickly corporatizing delivery industry, paired with downward economic pressure on locally owned businesses, makes it difficult to sustain a business mo welfare. The result is that locally owned courier companies who superficially attempt to reject the formal economy are, in turn, at risk of being co opted by the forces of co rporate neoliberalism. Over the eight months in which this research was collected, I became aware of a noticeable contradiction in the structure of the moral economy of bike messengers. A hierarchy does exist within the seemingly communal messenger popula tion of Denver, and those who occupy the top ranks benefit both socially and economically, at the expense of individuals who occupy lower ranks. Even though many couriers expressed that they enjoyed being a bike messenger and an IC due to the freedom from corporate and institutional pressure, they are actually engaged in a micro structure of corporate culture , where welfare is shifted to the individuals. The division of work stands in contradiction to the rhetoric of equality th at underlies noting that he experienced exclusion from upper echelons of the company. b, where a lot of the a couple of them who probably v uch more of an actual collective it is and how much of a family we all are. Thad While the break from the collective mindset is subtle in the social realm, the exclusionary nature of the company hierarchy can also be understood in terms of work relations . For
68 Two, Thad finds himself at the bottom of the co erarchy and with little social capital for upward mobility. In the interest of gaining social capital for potential upward mobility in the company, many Tier Two members find themselves opting for jobs with lower payouts or unfavorable distances, or workin g the shifts that no one else wants. Thus, responsibility for carrying out the more difficult jobs is shifted to those who hold lower positions in the company, contradicting the familial idea tha . Walter sim ilarly is excluded in particular by messengers who occupy the top strata of the MHMC hierarchy. aces. Personally, I have cat], that was part of it. I have been hus am. Walter necessarily earn oneself social capital in their particular company, reputation in the community can hurt their social capital in specific parts of the industry. In fact, Walter tells me that he only was able to get a job at MHMC after a change in ownership because they are to gain social capital that benefits their position in the workplace. While messengers are not dom on the job. The contradiction Walter brings into view is further emphasized by the division of work within the MHMC hierarchy. According to Walter, dispatchers are employed in an attempt to
69 allocate jobs so that each messenger makes a comparable wage to his peers each night. He stat es: The responsibility of the dispatcher at night is to keep payouts pretty even, as much as they taking jobs all night, they are making an extra 30, 40 bucks on top of us. One of the general goals, besides holding everything down, is to keep payouts even. However, this system of equality, regulated by the dispatcher, breaks down considering that MHMC does not employ a dispatcher during d ay shifts (e.g. 7 a.m. circumvent the dispatcher regulated impartiality. y conflict arises. You have Kyle of the money. Not all the time, I don period, they are taking bigger jobs, bigger payouts, because they get the shifts that allow people to do that, the way we organize. During the day, instead of having a dispatcher, we just cooperate. Walter The position of the dispatcher disguises the economic benefit that social capital buys the Tier One members of MHMC, who utilize their social capital to avoid shif ts with the dispatcher, who within the local courier community, and how the insular nature of each ascending position within that hierarchy can hinder a messenge messengers fashion their own hierarchy that tends to be contradictory to their ideal of freedom as ICs, since couriers within the hierarchy are restricted to which shifts they work and which jobs they are assi g ned based on their position within the company. As mentioned before, MHMC does have a decision making process based on voting; each employee has a vote in making decisions for the company. However, this vote is not equal, as many new hires tend to bel position in the company.
70 Theoretically, Tier Two are supposed to be part owners of the company; even on paper it is ever put to a vote. I assume they voted him in because everyone in Tier One wanted to vote him in. If all vote, the entirety of the Tier Two vote, which is about 30 peop le, is equal to one Tier One vote. Walter The voting process, as described by Walter, proves that the majority of the company is not allotted an equal weight in the decision making process of the company. As a result of Tier One holding the majority of the vote, they are able to control the majority of decisions made for the company as a whole. Thus, the voting process is merely a faÃ§ade to uphold the egalit arian ideals of the co op. I n reality, not all messengers who work for MHMC are equally represente d in the decision making process. The structure of the voting system becomes problematic, especially considering the social nature of the company and the potential for nepotism. That trust is based on a very insular community, where they only talk amongst Walter The evidence provided by interviews on the structure of MHMC revealed that the kinship of the hierarchy often benefits individuals in the exclusive upper strata at the expense of those who occupy the lower tiers. Aside from the hierarchy produced by the construction of a micro structure within p ties in the company generate further contradiction . One example is how m any couriers do not pursue their legal rig hts due to their bonds of kinship , as Walter noted earlier in this chapter ( 59) . Instead, individuals in Tier One pressure workers in Tier Two to conform to the preferences of MHMC. This pre ssure can come in both social and economi c forms. For example, Thad could not sign up for direct deposit sin ce he does not have a bank account . While having direct deposit is not required to work for MHMC, it is preferred so that
71 Tier One members do not have to spend their time getting paychecks to the m essengers they contract. As a result, Thad experiences social pressure from Rich t o sign up for direct deposit. Thad tells me: pulling teeth. The social pressure Thad is experiencing contradicts the fact that messengers prioritize f reedom from the formal economy. Thad, now, must choose between engaging with the formal economy by signing up for a bank account and losing social capital for not being able to have direct deposit. As an IC, Thad has the freedom to request his pay in the f orm of paper check, but social capital will pressure him to conform to MHMC preferences. Further, Rich is sure to put added economic pressure on Thad to pursue direct deposit. Those two paychecks that I had to get [from Rich] on the first, I actually ende d up getting on the second and the third both month, so my rent was all fucked up. I had to pay a late Thad The examples provided by Thad and Walter provide evidence that social and economic p ressure can be exerted hierarchical structure. Messengers, therefore, often occupy a contradictory position within the company, which is perceived as free from the constraints of corporate struct ures. Rather, s ocial pressure, the need for social capital, and pride in the community compound to disguise the contradictions present in messenger culture, thus deterring individuals from pursuing their occupational rights , many times at a personal financ ial cost . Finally, hiring ICs directly contradicts the nature of employee owned business models, like the Mile High Messenger Co op, which implements rhetoric of a collective, therefore resistance to corporate practices that exploit workers at the bottom of the hierarchy. Furthermore, ICs do not typically
72 have power in decision making for the companies which contract them out, but ICs do have power o ver their personal profit (NELP 2010). Conversely, bike messengers who work as ICs have little to no control over their personal profit, since they work only on a commission established by a contract between the company (MHMC) and the third party delivery company (Eat24), not the contractor. Th us, I argue that bike m essengers are misclassified as independent c ontractors, according to the National Law Enforcement Project ( 2010). F or further details on the misclassification of workers, refer to Appendix A , which includes Employment Relationship Ch ecklists, a sample contract for a courier company, and the New York State Department of Labor Courier Employment Classification Guidelines. The paradoxical nature of the career messenger community in Denver, and particularly MHMC, rests on the contradict ion of hiring independent contractors for what is, supposedly, an employee owned co op. As a result of t his contradiction, practices traditionally found in corporate culture are reproduced and reinforced in the micro structure of locally owned courier comp social reproduction theory, arguing that messengers socially reproduce the norms and attitudes that accompany corporate culture .
73 CHAPTER V CONCLUSIONS Repr oducing Feature s of Corporate Culture in Bike Messenger Contexts The bike messenger population in Denver, even as they resist the structures that constrain their access to freedom and quality of life, find themsel ves unable to completely live outside the constraints of the formal economy. Rather, the resistance to the formal economy , which pr oduces a distinctive , shared identity among the courier population, simultaneously leads to a reproductio n of features found in corporate culture on a micro structural scale. Specifically, the features of corporate culture reviewed in Chapter II were relevant in interviews with messengers , as well as in everyday observations made during data collection . The courier industry reli es hea vily on the practice of hiring independent c o ntractors , effectively shifting more s (Rolston 2010). There is also evidence of an organization al hierarchy that expl oit s low er level workers, similar to that of corporate work structures ( Crowley and Hodson 2014). Additionally, present in the messenger industry of Denver despite the kinship bonds messengers experience in their community. The social fabric of messenger culture is deeply rooted within their occupation; as such, there is pressure to conform to social . producing a work atmosp ( 94). Finally, t he unequal distribution of social capital among the bike messenger community, and specifically within MHMC, also serves as evidence for a hierarchical structure akin to corporate o rganization. This section will examine the reproduction of hierarchical organization present in the courier industry, as I observed in Denver. This hierarchy, I argue, closely refl ects that of the formal economy which bike messengers attempt to escape.
74 Th e boom of the commercial courier industry, in regards to corporate delivery companies associated with the new delivery apps of the DIY economy, has had several effects on the local courier community. First, local restaurants now currently rely on third par ty delivery companies, such as Eat24 and GrubHub, that act as liaisons between the restaurant and the courier companies. Thus, locally owned courier companies are encouraged to sign contracts with third party delivery companies, linking them directly to th e corporate courier industry. As a result, local courier companies must observe the terms of their contract s, which include accepting clients picked up by the delivery company, many times regardless of their location or delivery distances. However, compani es like MHMC, for example, do not always have the resources to negotiate contracts that represent the interests of every individual contracted by an LLC allows contracts to be negotiated only by the three owners, rather than attempting to synthesize the interests of all the workers in Tier One and Tier Two. Even though the structure allows three individuals to make the decisions, MHMC maintains the illusion of being organized as a representative democracy. The vot ing process in MHMC, in theory, represents the rejection of the formal economy and the corporate many Tier Two members, like Thad, feel like their input is respected b y the company. In practice, however, the MHMC votes only give the pretense that every individual worker has a say in the decision making process. Rather, the votes represent the interests of those who hold the top positions in the company, namely the owner s and other Tier One members. The MHMC voting process, therefore, attempts to conform to the bike messenger subculture while simultaneously working within the constraints placed on local courier companies by larger corporate delivery companies. As Simon sa ys: looking into it, was talking about how the way a co op runs; the whole IC thing is just so that they have less work to do and so that they have more of a say i n what happens at the
75 co op. Simon ization of MHMC is an illusion, reproducing a decision making process that, in reality, reflects the prioritization of corporate interest. In directors that would mak e the majority of decisions for a corporate entity. As a result, Tier One members benefit the most by maintaining control of the majority of resources within the company. Secondly, ther e are several national delivery conglomerates , such as PostMates and DoorDash, that provide the delivery se rvices of Eat24 or GrubHub and additionally contract their own bike couriers , eliminating the need for third party liaisons and local courier companies . The experiences Walter and Paul, two career messengers, shared wi th me show not only why they reject t he larger delivery conglomerates , but also that these nationa l companies engage in capitalist practices which position the companies well within the urban consumer society. I went to DoorDash when they first came. They had just opened up, they brought me in and they asked me to train people so I worked in the office for a little bit, telling people how it coming in multiple times a day for interview and their turn over, their whole business Walter When I was 21, I started f set your own schedule, you get paid commission in tips, but I started working there right average about $ Paul Even though these corporate courier companies are typically owned by individuals who have no experience as a bike messenger and, therefore, cannot cultivate such intimate relationships
76 wi th local restaurants due to a lack of human capital and the sharing of knowledge (a strength of career messengers), companies that span several cities are often equipped to handle the business process necessary to expand into thriving consumer markets. Thu s, local courier companies find themselves competin g with companies that adopt the corporate principles they reject, such as quantity over quality models , using temporary workers, and high turnover business practices. However, simply resisting the feature s of the corporate courier economy does not exclude career messengers from experiencing the same effects of downward pressures associated with corporate culture. The intensification of responsibility is noted by several participants, yet some express that they do not think about it daily. The following passages reveal the latent stress associated with increased responsibility for individual workers. [as an IC] day to day ba sis. But, yeah, I am aware. Like, literally, if I get hit by a car, I am not g oing to t, but [knocks on wood ] . Connor realize the implications of [being an IC] until I s tarted to work for MHMC so the more runs you take, the more money you make a to not just the hourly pay and getting a check , but also knowing that I was insured if I got hit by a car. Luke The ab ove quotes reveal that IC misclassification in the courier industry of Denver is an indication that the value of personal responsibility as sociated with neoliberal policies has become increasingly normalized under the guise of the DIY economy (Rolston 2010 ; Jaffe and Bensmen 2016 ). The shift of personal responsib ility is reflected in the personal burden of individual self employment; ICs p ay an elf 2017), are not protected by labor and employment regulations , an d are responsible for covering their own
77 medical expenses or purchasing their own health insurance policies . Furthermore , bike messengers are unable to bargain for be nefits supplied by the employer, since occupational protections are inaccessible to ICs. B ike messengers are further encumbered by the burden of ers when they are hired as I Cs , even as they do not have taxes withheld from their checks. for what I do make. And I need to overwork myself sometimes s o that I am ready come the end of the year, when taxes are due and I have to probably shell out $2,000. It sucks. Jenna In order to make enough to get by every to ensure she can pay the entirety of her tax burd en. Moreover, this comment also alludes to the fact that Jenna is personally responsible for making sure she earns a livable wage. However, as her quote points out, the shift of personal responsibility for taxes and livable wages to the individual has been find themselves subject to the same downward pressure s on wages and benefits that is present in the formal e conomy entality that is encouraged in the courier industry. In resisting the formal relationships between employer and employee, bike ontracting. However, the misclassification as IC results in reproducing the sa me overall effect in terms of increased personal respon sibili ty for their own welfare, thus constricting bike messengers to , rather than freeing them from, a low wage lifestyle with little mobility. also s hifted to the individual in other capac it i es. Such an instance is employers hiring part time employees to avoid complying with full time employee benefits required by law. Another
78 example, provided by pt below , is employers who only include the provision of health insurance while on the job, even if the worker is a full time W 2 employee. Eloiss: How did you only have insurance while you were on the job? Was it IC work? Tiger: No, it was a W 2; it wa liability thing. Eloiss: Okay, but were you working full time? Tiger: I was working full ti However, the pressures of the messenger community do not dissolve once an individual ends work for the day, increasing risk for hefty medical debts incurred off the clock. The shift of personal respo stress. This stress is a constant for couriers, especially in the face of bodily injury for which they are at risk on a daily basis. Furthermore, financial and physical stresso rs are compounded with the risk of lost work associated with accidents. I want insurance. I want courier companies to provide insurance for their employees wa like that that add up. I definitely just want to see riders more safe in that sense because it elp us, and that is still Jenna T he above examples illustrate the myriad ways in which employers at courier companies avoid providing health insurance coverage or work whether they are contracted or not. Moreover, companies can easily replace temporary workers , while inju red messengers experience augmented financial risk due to both medical expenses and lost work . The dang erous nature of the job compounded with pressure from the industry to be efficient , as well as pressure from the community to be skilled at high speeds, produces an incr eased risk exposure for injury both on and off the job, and thus produces financial cha llenges for unlucky messengers.
79 Bike messengers themselves can rarely afford to purchase health insurance with their meager and inconsistent income and o nly a small portion of the messenger population is successful in navigating the health i nsurance mark etplace. It is apparent that, generally, bike messengers, in rejecting institutional systems, find the health insurance marketplace too bureaucratic. Walter, for example, had purchased health insurance cove rage through the Colorado Co op; but when the co o p closed, his only options had monthly premiums that were three times the amount as his previous policy. Walter is not the only messenger who experiences these bureaucratic barriers, as he estimates that only about 20 percent of Lacking the financial and informational resources to identify an affordable health insurance plan, many messengers operate under the absence of health insurance coverage. As a result, the majority of messengers are at risk for suffering from exorbitant amounts of medical debt, like Tiger , who currently has six figures of medical debt. Tiger tells me that even if he declares medical bankruptcy, he would rem ain with so much debt that he has decided osition at any point in [his] compensation compounds their lack of health insurance, as they are expected to be responsible for any health care expenses incurred as a re sult of an acc ident. There is a contradictory nature to the fact that couriers are personally responsible for any medical debt they incur from an accident when working for a company that is better suited to cover large expenses than the individual courier, who struggles even to purchase his or her own health insurance policy . The lack of insurance has devastating consequences for bike messengers who are unlucky enough to persona l responsibility for the financial burden of an accident can be crushing for a bike messenger . Furthermore , t he employer employee relationship couriers resist by pursuing IC work is reproduced in the essential structure of the company for which many of th
80 participants work. The unequal distribution of social capital and the active purpose of and loyalty contribute to the hierarchical organization of l ocal courier companies; this hierarchy is in fact a micro structure of the corporate culture messengers seek to escape. In terms of class position, corporate culture is structured by relational contexts, where the positions of supervisory authority over I argue that the social repro duction of corporate hierarchical organization is evidence d by the excess power held by Tier One members a t MHMC, as well as unequal allocations of social capital that is bartered and traded through the community of bike messengers. These processes compound to produce the macrosocial structure described by Lin (1999) in which individuals who occupy higher posi tions hold more power within the network due to increased social capital. In bike messenger culture, the social and occupational networks intertwine, which produces a distinctive microsocial structure that reflects many values of the corporate culture they resist. Bike messengers who occupy the upper tiers of the company control the majo rity of resources primarily by controlling the decision making process , as evidenced by the voting system of MHMC . Essentially, they are able to manipulate the process , so as to prioritize the Walter states that entirety of the Tier Two vote, which is abo ut 30 people, Thus , local companies are, in fact, reproducing the prioritization of company interests and, in particular, Tier One interests over those of the individual workers. Messengers who have enough social capital to occupy the upper ranks are typically in a position where they benefit the most from decisions made within the company, and as such, skew the voting structure in their favor so that Tier Two votes can almost never outweigh the votes of Tier One. 6 In
81 par ticular, t he downward pressure of work responsibility is amplified by placing the majority of decision making power in the hands of messengers in the highest positions. Tier One members, who ultimately control the result of votes within the company, have t he most power to hire, fire, promote, or demote employees, thus providing themselves with job security that is not enjoyed by members of Tier Two. Furthermore, Tier One members have premier access to the resources the company can provide, especially moneta ry resources such as shifts that provide the most work and jobs with the best payouts. This results in downward pressure on Tier Two members who have decreased job security and restricted access to resources. As a result of this downward pressure, workers at the bottom of the hierarchy experience decreased quality of life, since they have been unable to acquire social capital easily to improve their position in the company, and have practicall y no part in the decision making process of the company. Thus, even though couriers actively resist the top down company structure found in the corpora te culture which excludes individual workers from the decision making process, resulting in the prioritiz ation of company and em ployer interests rather than those of the workers , locally owned courier companies, and even the microsocial structure of the messenger community itself, end up reproducing these features of the formal economy. The injustice of the voting structure is obscured from Tier One members, reproducing the isolated nature of superiors found in corporate culture. It is not intentional, but they are incidentally isolated from the perspective of Tier Two. Maybe to a certain extent, it is inten tional. They have to maintain a certain measure of authority. Walter Blind to the struggles of the workers beneath them, superiors end up shifting more responsibility downward. The manner in which Tier One members manipulate the decision making process e xposes how messengers will adopt corporate principles when it is beneficial to
82 mentality that can garner more access to resources, whether in the form of respect and reputation that can increase social capital, or simply working harder to increase commission and tips. The data presented in this section has detailed the complex nature of the local courier industry in Denver and how it is essentially impossible to r emove an entire occupational subcu lture from the formal economy; a s a vehicle of consumerism itself, messenger work cannot lie outside the formal economy. L ocal courier companies are forced to become more entangled with the corpo rate courier industry a s fo od delivery becomes commercialized in consumer societies that prioritize convenience and efficiency, an industry that is run by corporate conglomerates that operate under the terms of consumerist ideals. Competition with companies such as DoorDash and Post Mates forces locally owned companies to engage with third party delivery systems such as Eat24 , also heavily corporatized, and enter into binding contracts. The terms of these contracts are negotiated by the decision makers of the courier company, namely t hose who hold the most social capital. The data suggests, therefore, that pressure from the industry leads to a pseudo cooperat ive structure in local courier companies , resulting in the reproduction of several practices which closely resemble corporate cul shift away from collective bargaining rights and mutually beneficial employer employee relationships. It leads to a triangularly shaped hierarchy where a smaller group of advantaged individuals are positioned above a growing disadvantaged base, wher e position within the hierarchy is relative to the amount of social capital an individual may hold at any one time. This structure is conducive to downward pressure that restricts the freedom and quality of life for individual workers. MHMC provides an exa mple of the reproduction of these corporate practices within the local messenger community . To maintain their position of power, Tier One member s , either intentionally or unintentionally, obscure the exploitative work relationships by drawing upon the broa der counter
83 Thus, adopting a rhetoric of kinship, freedom, and job satisfaction normalizes the inherent contradictions statu s in an increasingly consumerist industry. The following section will detail how bike messengers make sense of their place in the messenger community and their position of resistance to the formal economy in the face of these contradictions.
84 Making Sens Fieldnotes 9/15/17 Today at Mischief, I noticed Luke was looking a little down, so I asked him if everything was okay. It was unusual for Luke, a normally energetic and optimistic individual, t o be so outwardly sad. He told me he was having difficulties with a co worker over a complex problem and he was not sure how he wanted to proceed. I told Luke he could talk to me if he wanted to get things off his chest, and so he told me about an accident in which he was involved and the subsequent events that put him in this predicament . According to Luke, it happened a few months ago, when he was on his way to pick up a job o ne day at work . He was planning on turning left at an upcoming intersection, s o he moved into the bike lane on the left side of the street. This is technically an illegal maneuver, but it is a technique Luke us es frequently to cut corners, in turn shaving seconds off his ride time. However, on this particular day, another biker was turning into the very same bike lane , resulting in a head on crash between the two . Luke apologi zed profusely, understanding he was at fault . He asked if the biker was okay and asked if he should call the police to file a report. The cyclist said that he w as fine and that he did not wish to call the police ; instead, he profusely , he was not going to argue, thanking his lucky stars for avoiding a ticket for rec kless cycling . The two parted ways, and Luke assumed that was the end of their encounter. Unfortunately, several days later, MHMC, the company Luke works for, received a call asking if Luke worked there, explaining that Luke and the caller had been in volv ed in an accident and that th e caller ended up going to the hospital as a result. The caller requested compensation from MHMC or Luke to help cover a part of the cost of his medical bills. He told MHMC that he was a pedi cabber and knows a lot of individua ls in the messenger community as a result. To prevent their reputation from being t arnished, MHMC decided at the time, informed Luke of the call and the Luke insists that Mike t old him not to worry because the company has insurance that will cover the cost of Relieved aft er talking to Mike, Luke forgot about the encounter again . However, after several weeks, during which tim e Mike left the company, leaving the leadership responsibilities t o Brant and Kevin, Brant informed Luke that Tier One members decided the bill should be paid out of monthly insurance payme nt , and that Luke would foot the bill. Brant if it was okay for Brant to pay the medical bill and for Luke to pay Brant back when he was able to afford it. Not truly understanding his rights in the situation, and also wanting to show his loyal ty and commitment to the company, Luke agreed t o the arrangement . On the next pay day, Luke paid Brant more than half the total amount, or roughly $250 out of about $450 total. After a few months of working hard and barely being able to sustain his own li festyle, much less this extra expense, Luke began to get frustrated. He felt slighted ; because there was no police report, he had no legal requirement to pay off the cyclist from the accident. Luke talked to Jenna, who has a friend who is a legal expert. N ot only did
85 Jenna confirm that Luke is not obligated to pay anything, but she also told Luke that the owners of MHMC actually had approached her to ask if they should pay the medical bill or not. Jenna told Luke that she emphasized to Brant that MHMC shoul d not pay anything to the biker because the lack of a police report meant that he had no legal claim. With this information, Luke decided to confront Brant about this perceived injustice. Yet when Luke talked to Brant, Brant maintained that Luke needed to pay him back because he agreed to the arrangement. Luke told Brant that he had felt pressured and had been caught off guard since Mike promised that the insurance would cover it. Again, Brant disagreed. Luke then suggested that since Brant made the decisio n not to use the company insurance, that they should split the remaining cost, a compromise where Brant incurred a smaller loss than Luke, since Luke already paid more than half the balance. As we sit at Mischief, Luke tells me that the disagreement did n ot get resolved. Rather, Luke is still conflicted on whether or not he should pay Brant back. He says that while he first felt confident in his decision to not pay Brant any more money, he began to doubt himself after receiving the cold shoulder from Brant on several occasions. Luke left the cafÃ©, Luke decided he would pay back Brant the remaining balance. illustrates the confining nature of the expressive action of social capital that bonds the messenger community. Here, Luke finds himself more loyal to the Tier One member that expected to be paid back, rather than to his own financial interests. In performing a relatively small act of reb ellion by refusing to pay the remaining balance, Luke faces the threat of bein g ostracized, and therefore losing access to resources provided by the . In a sense, social capital in the messenger community is so ten acious that it essentially acts as the authority an employer woul d hold over subordinates. T here is an inherent contradiction in the utilization of social capital as a method of maintaining authority over workers, since messengers attempt to escape the subordination of traditional employ er employee r elationships by pursuing the freedom of independent contracting. In short, the authority enforced by company leaders is obfuscated by strong relational bonds and the guise of the moral economy of sharing in messenger culture, theref ore normali zing the constrictive nature of the expressive action of social capital. This section will det ail the neg ative effects of social cohesiveness enforced by social capital to contextualize how the risk of being ostracized (Berkma n et al. 2014).
86 The data I have presented strengthen social capital network t heory by showing how social networks which operate outside the realm of the workplace can impact an within the workplace. As such, fo rging bonds with co workers during social events or building a reputation in alley cat races, both of which occur in social contexts, s within an occupational context ( (2005) analysis by suggesting that the cohesiveness achieved through expressive action is not inherently beneficial to each individual member of a group, but rather that expressive social capit al can constrict the individual worker, as in the case of Luke. In this instance, cohesion of the hierarchy, ultimately prioritizing their interests over those of the individual workers who comprise the base of the hierarchy ( 4). Thus, workers who have accrued less social capital, and therefore less weight in the decision making process, find themselves at more of a disadvantage, usually economically. The disad vantage for bike messengers who occupy the bottom of the social hierarchy can be understood in ter ms of emerging literature that explores the negative effects of social capital (Berkman et al. 2014). For example, some groups that provide valuable resources , like high narrative provides an example of an excessive obligation; in order to prevent the company from paying a seemingly negligible premium on their monthly insuran ce bill, Luke was obligated to spend nearly an entire two con 296). Another downside of social on on freedom that often coexists within a cohesi ve 296). The importance of social capital in accessing the resources provided by
87 encourage group memb ers to conform to behavioral norms of the group ( 293). While this control can be beneficial in some regards, some aspects of group cohesion can be rsonally beneficial resources. Furthe rmore, couriers in positions of power, such as members of Tier One, obscure exploitative work relationships by drawing upon the broad counter culture perception of the A third downside of social capital in messenger culture is that it produces what is The company culture of courier work, in rejecting pri nciples of the formal economy, is set up to economy. Messengers, as a result, work within a contradiction that implies bike messengers must act as if work is not imp ortant, yet it is imperative for them to work hard to make a livable wage. To overcome this contradiction, messengers are more likely to accrue social capital outside the workplace, such as at alley cat races or messenger bars. These activities conform to the messenger ethos that shuns the traditional norms of corporate culture, and thus an acceptable context for building social capital, which is in turn used to access occupational cruement to their ow n community ( upward mobility, especially in terms of bridging social cap ital, which is used to access resources of populations outside the messenger community . Since messengers reject behavioral norms of corporate culture, they are not building skills necessary to re enter or be successful in the
88 formal economy. This represent s the downward pressure on messengers as a result of the norms enforced by the gatekeepers of social capital. The downsides of social capital in the interest of strengthening group cohesion are indicative of the same restriction on freedom produced by neol iberal policies. Messengers make offs between benefits, livable wage, and job security, for the freedom of being an IC, job satisfaction, and strong bonding tie exploitative working conditions. Bike messengers acquire a strong sense of belonging when they are accepted into the comm unity. As such, messengers feel obligated to perform their job well, provide support to their adopted building. As a result, n fact, messengers are quick to justify their classification as ICs by mentioning that the relational bonds they experience within the messenger community superseded their need to make a living of freedom as IC s . Even though being classified as an IC restricts bike messenger to a low wage lifestyle, messengers perceive relegated to working harder and lon ger to survive, without the ability to take vacation time or sick leave. Moreover, there is a further contradiction in the courier industry that rests on the lack of occupational rights in conjunction with the bonds of kinship produced in the courier comm unity. According to NELP (2010), individuals who are by definition employees, but who are misclassified by their employer as ICs are still entitled to their occupational right to ld choose to take on medical debt from an accident on the job as their personal responsibility rather than
89 legally pursue compensation from their company. Walter notes that he is not likely to take legal action against the company he works for, even in the face of crippling medical debt, citing his ( 59) . The sentiment that a messenger risk, is shared among the ca reer messenger community in Denver. The majority of interviewees, when asked the same question as above, responded similarly to the way Walter did. Jenna , for er pursing their legal right outside the workplace, reinforces the moral economy in which bike messengers place the needs of the community above their own needs. In a sense, the messenger community becomes the entity to which bike messengers are beholden, ra ther than the employer, which is an obligation couriers at tempt to resist by pursing the freedom of independent contracting. These examples present evidence for h ow messengers make sense of their own position from oppressive corporate structure s . They view the loss of benefits, job security, and livable wages as the cost ne group over their own. As messengers make sense of the contradictions they face between resisting the formal economy and simultane ously being victims of the same restrictions on freedom and downward pressures associated with neoliberal processes, they internalize their marginalization as normal . Furthermore, messengers normalize their low wage lifestyle and lack of employee protectio ns as a necessary cost for increased job satisfaction.
90 We are not protected by the 40 hour work week or vacation, or even breaks technically. I mean, it would be really tight to work in a job where I was making more money and I had paid vacations, and he alth insurance, and dental and vision. That would be sick. But I tried that one time, and I had to sit in a cubicle and manage a database of cleaning products. I lifest yle. Walter t go splurge at the bar like I used to, I might buy a couple rounds a month, but then I hope some of my co workers will help me full Jenna Many messengers like Walter, Jenna, and Luther find themselves in financial predicaments that dramatically constrict their money spending habits. In a sense, couriers see their low wage lifestyle as a compromise they have made to achieve job satisfaction. By resisting the formal economy, Walter and Jenna also appear to adopt a pseudo resistance to the idealization of wealth found in consumer culture which, in turn, normalizes the exploitive nature of hiring bike messengers I can work full time, that it works very well for the industry because you have a huge incen s, there is evidence that the downward pressure on wages compounds the misclassification of workers as IC s , enhancing the shift of personal responsibility freedom to work hard er narrative that runs through many of my inte rv iews is a rhetorical mask used to cover the reality that messengers do not find working harder desirable, but that they must work harder in order to survive. Rather, their position as IC s constricts them to a low t o
91 take vacation time, support a family, or live free of occupational stresses, such as lacking insurance while facing lethal danger on a daily basis.
92 Policy Recommendations Employee Owned Business Model The data presented from this project illustrates th e contradiction between hiring independent contractors for a cooperative company, in that ICs are excluded from employee benefits and protections. Furthermore, the structure of LLC companies more closely resembles that of the corporate hierarchy, in whic h those who hold higher positions within the company have more weight in the decision making process. In this structure, individual workers who occupy lower positions in the company are excluded from the decision making process, and as such, are not repres ented in company policies. As a result, decisions made tend to reflect the interests of the company or the top tier of workers, causing downward pressure on benefits, wages, and job security increasing in intensity the further down the hierarchy one is pos itioned. Converting the locally owned courier company of MHMC to an employee owned business model would result in reducing these structural problems, as well as place MHMC in a position to conform to the messenger ideals that reject the formal economy. A ccording to the National Center f or Employee Ownership (NCEO all employees would result in the increase of benefits for each individual worker, as well as expand the decision making process to represent all workers, rather than a select few that can skew the decisions in their favor. The advantages of sharing owners hip, in the case of messengers, can for building human capital to compete with companies that rely on short t erm employment or workers (NCEO 2017 ). While a n LLC has the potential to be fully employee owned, the MHMC LLC is owned by three individuals. Nevertheles s, MHMC would benefit from applying a worker cooperative
93 model, in which decisions are controlled by a one worker one vote process. In this structure, e ach individual worker has equal weight in the decision making process, therefore providing a ributed based on time worked (NCEO 2017). The messenger community in Denver would also benefit from setting up a cooperative, as the set up cost is less than direct ownership because it is easy to qualify as a cooperative. In addition, MHMC could access se rvices at a discounted rate, as many organizations offer inexpensive supp ort for cooperatives . Finally, applying an employee owned community. Every worker would not on ly be represented more equally in the decision making associated with accid ents could be allocated through the decision making process by voting to of compensating injured riders refers back to the cooperative structure; the may also pass some of the profits directly through to members, perhaps to help them pay taxes they owe on the profits all hese profits, while perhaps typically applied to taxes, could potentia lly subsidize health care costs as we ll. Walter was earlier quoted is contradictory to expect them to pay their entire health care bill out of pocket, without assistance from the company for which they were working when they were injured. Rather, it would be easier for the company to use their insurance to cover the unexpected cost and, in turn, pay th e marginal difference in its monthly insurance bill. Thus, a cooperative model would
94 ameliorate many of the factors that decrease quality of life for bike messengers, including the stress caused by the risk of injury and health care costs associated with a ccidents. Regulations for Corporate Entities in the Courier Industry Another possible change to policy that would improve the quality of life for many bike messengers would be to more closely regulate the classification of employees. If laws regarding e mployee classification were more strictly enforced, it would prevent individuals from being burdened with exorbitant responsibility that is normally covered by employers, such as paying purchasing health insurance coverage, and ensuring they make the minimum wage. Misclassification also becomes problematic when the contractor does not have any control over the payment amount or method. Commission for bike messengers who work at locally owned companies is u sually negotiated through third party delivery companies, such as Eat24, which is accepted only by the owners of the company. Thus, the independent workers do not take part in the negotiation of wages. Further, messengers can barely survive paycheck to pay check on these wages, which creates financial barriers to paying taxes and affording individual health insurance or health care. In addition, there should be stronger regulation of the contracts negotiated between corporate entities and locally owned com panies. It is clear that national conglomerates have access to better legal resources, which positions them at an advantage when negotiating payment contracts with local companies, who may not have access to such resources or knowledge. At best, it seems u nfair that large conglomerates a re raking in millions, while i ndividual workers are navigating the treacherous traffic of downtown Denver, pushing the limits of their physical capabilities to meet unrealistic delivery times (also set by the large corporati ons), only to bring home $2.00 or $5.00 in commission (based on distance of delivery). This payout amount is also contingent on tips. However, tipping is extremely subjective and completely voluntary, which leads to inconsistent wages. Tipping further push es responsibility
95 for wages onto the consumer, a normalized practice in the United States that leads to messengers making much less money than they should be paid. There are instances where not tipped at all and for those 20 to 30 minutes, the messenger only makes the $2.00 or $5.00 commission. Thus, it seems imperative that these contracts are regulated more closely to ensure fair wages for the messengers who perform the difficult and danger ous physical labor of the delivery industry, even as third Restructuring Independent Contracting: Two Case Examples The reliance on independent contractors in the courier industry is, in a w ay, integral to the appeal of the community for individuals who wish to escape the constr aints of capitalist pressures . Messengers attach a high level of importance to the freedom of being an IC. Thus, I postulate that messengers may not find employee owne d models appealing, which calls for a need to restructure how independent contracting works, primarily in occupations in which individuals are contracted for long term, day to day work. Here I will present two examples of restructuring in other cities to p rovide alternatives to the traditional independent contractor relationship: 1) at the level of company policy an d 2) at the level of local governmental policies. The first relates to a company that participated in hosting the NACCC event this year, where I met Ruby, who explained to me the structure of the courier company for which she works. The second case comes from the information Paul provided in his interview about a new policy implemented in the city where he works in Pennsylvania. This new policy, h e says, requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for independent contractors, not only employees. These two examples provide a framework with which to start to implement change in the classification of independent contracting. Fieldnotes 9/ 3/2017 The last night of NACCC, they host a party where they announce the awards for the
96 the Pabst Brewery (a fitting place for messengers who are notorious PBR consume rs). wearing a cute crop top, cut off jean shorts, and a bicycle cap, her staple headpiece. d courier company she works for, interested to find out if she is classified as an indepen come across in Denver. Ruby tells me she holds W 2 employee status, yet her boyfriend about th e job and committed to working full time, you can be hired as a W 2 employee. The structure of the local courier company Ruby works for provides the option for messengers to work under either a W 2 tax form or a 1099 tax form. This way, the possibility of working as an IC is preserved and available to individuals who want to h ave more flexibility or who have another job. Yet, the company offers full time couriers the protection and support of full status employee, where they receive access to benefits, such as options for health insurance coverage, interesting recommendation for locally owned courier companies in Denver, as this could be put into practice in either an LLC or an employee owned cooperative. A cooperative could operate under the presumption that individuals who work full time, and therefore rely the most on their salary from the company, would be bot h employees and owners. However, if some individuals want to work under a contract to have more freedom there would still be an option to work under 1099 status, and in turn they would sacrifice benefits, and maybe even voting status. Paul: In Philadelphia wage, but they have to give us insurance and they have to give us a minimum per day. If Our income is tax status. Eloiss: How do you like that system? Paul: x me back up.
97 Eloiss: and take type of thing? Paul: Yeah, exactly. The structure Paul provides in his narrative offers the traditional IC title, yet, in practice, it offers more benefits than the independent contracting stru ctures in Denver. 7 Providing the freedom that messengers idealize, yet also offering health insurance coverage and minimum wage , relieves the stresses of contract work in a dangerous, low wage occupation. This allows messengers like Paul to experience enha nced quality of life without compromising job satisfaction. Local government policies cannot necessarily dictate the provision of health insurance by an employer, however, there is an opportunity to implement policies that would encourage employers to off er health insurance coverage to independent contractors by offering incentives, such as a potential tax deduction. Local governments shou ld also consider implementing minimum wage protection for independent contractors, as it is clear that ICs lie outside the protection of minimum wage laws and are therefore subject to exploitation. This policy is critical for cities like Denver, where minimum wage does not even meet the cost of living. Local messengers should not suffer at the hands of national corpo ration s. T hus, regulating contracts, while simultaneously implementing minimum wage protections for all classifications of worker, will provide better, more sustainable wages for career bike messengers.
98 Implications for Research The data presented in the prev ious chapters has provided a wealth of implications for past and future research. In many ways it strengthens theoretical frameworks brought forward by Pierre Bourdieu (1986), Philippe Bourgois (1996, 2005), Ruth Gomberg MuÃ±oz (2011), and Nan Lin (1999, 20 05) . The data provided in Chapter V reveals that the operations of social capital imply a structural hierarchy that produces many of the same downward pressures on individual worker as the corporate structures messengers attempt to reject (Bourdieu 1986; B ourgois 1996; Nan Lin 1999). Since I have already discussed the implications of this data for the theory of social capital and cultural reproduction, this section will focus primarily on how this study of bike messengers in Denver provides a unique lens fo r understanding the complexities of vocational subcultures, with a specific focus on how they manage the pressures of the formal economy by placing value on social networks within their own moral economy of sharing (Bourgois 1996, 2005). The data also adds to the emerging anthropological literature that focuses on the effects of neoliberalism on population subgroups that do not necessarily desire to conform to the norms of consumer culture, such as employee subordination, yet must participate in the workfor ce, and thus must operate within a framework saturated neoliberal values (Gomberg MuÃ±oz 2011). Finally, this section will conclude with recommendations for further research inspired by the findings of this research project. Implications for Current Litera ture Harlem in his ethnography, In Search of Respect (1996), in that bike messengers resist the formal economy and attempt to escape the forces of corporate culture that c onstrain them to a low attributing it to their own inability to confo rm to the norms of mainstream society including the
99 refusing to follow socially normative career trajectories. Moreover, the population of bike messengers in Denver engages in a similar reprodu (Bourgois 1996, 77). This reproduction is obscured in the courier community by the im age of ( 82). Furthermore, bike messengers experience exploitation similar to the participants in rs and messengers are paid by a piece rate system that relies on commission payment methods. This commission does not always provide an hourly rate that compares to minimum wage, and it usually results in inconsistent income. This has serious implications for individuals in these occupations, as they are typically not covered by health insurance and cannot afford expenses incurred in the health care system. To further complicate the meager wages and lack of health insurance, both of these populations are ex posed to inferior working conditions, where risk for injury is magnified. Finally, messengers also reject entry level positions that are found in corporate society. While the El messengers feel that these positions restrict their personal autonomy. Both populations reject they r 91). The defining factor that separates these two populations, however, is that bike messengers still engage with the formal economy and are, in a sense, drivers of the consumer demand parallels the crack sellers in El Barrio, even though the market in El Barrio is completely removed from the gaze of corporate neoliberalism. Bou rgois (1996, 100) states that
100 competition across the block in the project stairwells had permanently dropped t he prices of their vials from three dollars to two dollars, and a conglomerate of companies located on another crack corner two blocks away had cut its prices from five dollars to three dollars, while simultaneously increasing the quality of its product. The presence of conglomerate companies producing downward pressure on price and, therefore, wages is paralleled in the courier industry, with large conglomerate companies infringing on the local market. Observing this process in the bike messenger communit y reveals that there is added pressure on wages since messengers must interact and compete directly with corporate companies that have access to better resources, and thus can negotiate for their interests at a cost to local companies. Additionally, local courier companies, who must compromise between restaurants and third party delivery companies, are now competing with delivery conglomerates, like DoorDash, who are able to provide both the efficient service of online ordering as well as their own contract ed couriers. Thus, these conglomerates only negotiate with restaurants for whom they deliver. As online delivery services increase in efficiency and convenience, the food delivery industry has seen an enormous increase in demand. However, this rise in dema nd is not necessarily match ed with increasing wages; rather, there is inconsistent wages paired with increased costs of living, especially in Denver. The disparity in the demand for messengers and the meager income on which messengers live is an indication of exploitation. I argue that in resisting the formal economy, while being simultaneously reliant upon, and in competition with, the corporate courier industry, messengers find themselves unwilling to forego job satisfaction for the constraints of corpora te (Bourgois 1996, 55) in this cas e the forces of the corporatized consumer culture , by forming bonds of kinship that are based on the shared experience of living a low wage lifestyle in the context of shared occupational risk. The bike messenger population in Denver represents a unique vocation that straddles the formal and underground economies, therefore providing a
101 new perspective on how marginalized groups res ist the forces of capitalism through cultural practices and norms and ultimately reproduce many of the values they inherently reject. Finally, the courier community also offers a unique lens through which to examine cultural reproduction due to their talen t for obfuscating the microsocial structural hierarchy in which The data from this research also provides a lens for observing the internalization of hegemonic ide als, contributing to the literature on how an individual understand s their place in the workforce (Gomberg (1996) analysis of how individuals deal with the forces that op press them, Gomberg MuÃ±oz , focuses on how wor kers make sense of contradictions that arise from both resisting and internalizing the forces that oppress them. Gomberg population of migrants from Mexico who internalize the stereotype of being which they perceive to be a lazy and undignified way to attain upward mobility (113). Gomberg MuÃ±oz avoiding being seen as submissive that underlies the narratives of migrant workers. The bike messenger ethos is similarly contradictory; the data from this study reveals that messengers mobility. This creates a contradiction that implies bike messengers must act as if work is not important, yet it is imperative for them to work hard to make a livable wage. To overcome this contradiction, mess engers tend to engage in behaviors that enhance social capital outside of work, such as competing in alley cat races or sharing beers with coworkers after work. These activities conform to the messenger ethos that shuns the traditional form of workplace an d, thus, an acceptable context for building social capital.
102 The analysis of how bike messengers internalize and reproduce the hierarchy of corporate culture furthers Gomberg hegemonic ideals; the populat ion of bike messengers offers an alternative perspective on how certain vocational subcultures make sense of the contradictions imposed by neoliberal forces with which they are enforced to engage. The courier industry also provides a lens for anthropologic analysis of how contradictions of social identity as a side effect of macro structural pressures usually serve to enhance the constraints whi ch are imposed by the capitalist regime . Directions for Future Research This study was not initially focused on t he bike messenger as an independent contractor (IC) and the possible misclassification of worker occurring in the courier industry. However, over the course of my research I began to notice a contradiction in the way bike messengers perceived being classif ied as an IC. Not only did they prefer to be labeled as such, it seemed clear that they did not clearly understand the implications of being an IC. Messe ngers adopted to address their preference for independent contracting, yet they did not seem to have much freedom in their lives to do much else other than work and drink with co workers. Thad, Walter, and Simon all express difficulties in taking vacation time; Jenna notes that she is not able to afford her routine hygiene practices, such as getting her hair done or her teeth cleaned; Tiger and Luther cannot escape the crushing blow of medical debt. Thus, I turned my focus to this problematic practice of misclassifying ICs without giving them proper resources to understand the implications of working under 1099 status. This issue requires more in depth research about the effects of misclassification on the individual worker. While my analysis was positioned to critique the structural forces that infringe on misclassified it would be conducive to conduct research that can quantify the magnitude of
103 this problem, as well as determine the monetary and health implications of such misclassification. Another avenue of research this data opens up is that on job satisfaction and vocational work. In the case of bike messengers, it seems that job satisfaction is a trade off for benefits and wages, which stems from the capitalist practice of separating work life from personal life. However, this distinction is blurred in vocational w ork, which produces a lifestyle around the produce a more rewarding j ob experience. This research could be grounded in theoretical frameworks on social networks and social support, specifically looking at real health outcomes, such as reduced cortisol levels from long term exposure to stress before and after working in a vo cational position, or through measuring perceived health, such as gathering data on subjective well being (Berkman et al. 2014 ). Finally, I believe that future research on the effects of neoliberalism has the potential to inform the deconstruction of hege monic structures. Attempting to understand the underpinnings of how marginalized populations internalize oppressive forces and the ways in which individuals employ autonomy in overcoming the barriers they encounter, ultimately leading to reproduction of th e very values they resist , can encourage a dialogue on where to intervene in order to break the cycle. The policy recommendations I provided in the previous section, for example, offer insight in to how messengers can continue to uphold their hos in the face of corporate pressure from the courier industry. Further, local governmental policy has the potential to mitigate the downward pressure on benefits and wages for bike messengers, and potentially other misclassified workers, if further resea rch can be pursued to make a compelling case for implementing policies for regulating the misclassification of independent contractors and ensuring local companies are not out -
104 negotiated by national conglomerates. Finding a break in the capitalist regime i s imperative for the redistribution of wealth and for increasing the quality of life for individuals who work in low wage, dangerous occupations.
105 ENDNOTES 1. Miscl assification of workers has traditionally been exploited in agriculture and construction indus tries (NELP 2010, 1) . Currently, misclassifying employees as independent contractors (ICs) is spreading to other low wage industries, especially the gro wing delivery service industry, drawing attention to the inequities perpetuated by worker misclassificat ion. The IRS website ( IRS 2017) an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and Further, a worker is not an IC if their employer controls the details of , even if the worker has s 2017). The IRS website (IRS 2017) provides three categories for the degree of independence for workers: behavioral, financial, and typ e of relationship. What the worker does and how they do their job dictates the degree of behavioral control an employer has over the worker. Financial control refers to how the worker is paid and how other expenses are handled. Finally, the type of relatio nship refers to the intended duration and future expectation of the employer; for example, if the work that is performed is the primary business operation or if the worker is hired for an indefinite period of time, the relationship is more likely that of e mployer employee. Economic pressure from top down corporate industry leaders has increased the necessity for local employers to misclassify precarious workers as ICs, therefore eschewing the costs of labor protections. Misclassifying workers decreases payr oll expenses by upwards of 30 percent, and releases employers from the protections (NELP 2010, 2) . However, a misclassified employee can still pursue their rights to labor and employment protections. Workers have the ability to file claims with state and federal Misclassified workers can also opt to file a Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal E mployment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding (Form SS 8), which will alert the thus waive the self employment tax (IRS 2017). Second, a misclassified worker can file a S Medicare taxes to their social security record, ensuring the worker is complying with W 2 emplo yee tax laws (IRS 2017) . There are several checklist style tests that can b e used to determine if a worker is an employee or an IC, such as the Common Law Control Test, the also known as the IRS 20 Factor Test, is the most comprehensive, yet na rrowest test used to deter mine employment status (NELP 2000 ). See Appendix A for sample Employment Relationship Checklists and the official worker status guidelines for New York couriers as determined by the New York State Department of Labor . These docume nts show that bike couriers should be legally classified as employees, not ICs. However, guidelines and regulations for worker classification, like those provided by the New York State Department of Labor , are not implemented at the federal level, which cr eates inconsisten cies in worker classification within the broader courier industry, as well as across other low wage industries. 2. Observational and interview data revealed that the couriers in this study were generally misclassified as ICs. Employers at co urier companies were have behavioral control over how the job is done, such as negotiating contracts with delivery application services, including delivery times and distances. Employers also accept and reject restaurants for which the company delivers, th e zones in which each couriers work every day, the weekly schedules, and radio etiquette. Second, financial controls held by the employers of local
106 courier companies include the negotiation of commission with outside delivery services/the piece rates, as w ell as the two week pay schedule. Further, the participants I interviewed were required to be paid by direct deposit, meaning they did not dec ide how or when they were paid, nor did they receive paystubs to monitor their income. Finally, couriers in Denver primary operation, suggesting an employer employee type of relationship is present. To confirm these preliminary ideas, I performed the IRS 20 Factor Test ( See Appendi x A) in several interviews, consistently finding that my participants were more likely an employee for at least 15 out of 20 items in the checklist. Significant items that suggest employee worker status , rather than IC status, include the inability to make a profit or suffer a loss from the services the courier provides on the job, receiving payments at set intervals, and not offering services to the general public (NELP 2000) . 3. A pedicab is a bike with a carriage attached to the back; pedicabbers carry cus tomers in the carriage to where they want to go. Pedicabbers typically charge by block and rent their equipment on a daily or monthly basis. 4. A track bike, or fixed gear, is a bike that has only one chain ring, or a single speed, and the back wheel has a fixed or stationary cog. This means, when the pedals stop rotating, so does is one way of stopping a track bike, since they usually do not have brakes. 5. Track standin g is sitting on a track bike and holding it upright and stationary, which can prove to be a difficult task alone. Competitions will usually begin with two feet and one hand; then the next round is no hands, just two feet. The final round is one foot until one person is left without a foot touching the ground. Some variations include a round with one foot on the pedal and one foot on the front wheel. 6. Actually, there has only been one instance where Tier Two votes ever tipped the scales in determining the re and Tier Two voted in complete unison. 7. The policy Paul describes could not be confirmed through research efforts, and thus only offers a suggestion for future directions in worker c lassification and independent contracting. His experience should not be considered invalid due to lack of confirming data, but rather taken as an example of new worker statuses that should be considered from a policy stand point to ameliorate the current g aps in worker classification.
107 APPENDIX A EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP CHECKLISTS Common Law Control Test / IRS 20 Factor Test i and the NLRA. It is also usually used for Title VII, the ADA, and other anti discrimination laws and OSHA, depending on the Circuit. This test can be used to determine who is the employer, if the question is which of a number of entities employs an employee. The IRS 20 factor test is the most comprehensive view of the common law right to control test. It is the narrowest test used to find coverage under labor and employment laws; if employment status is found under this test, a worker is automatically covered under the broader economic re ality and suffer or permit tests, described below. A worker is more likely an employee and not an independent contractor if the worker: 2. Receives training from the employer. 3. Provides services that are integrated into the business. 4. Provides services that must be rendered personally. 5. Hires, supervises and pays assistants for the employer. 6. Has a continuing relationship with the employer. 7. Follows set hours of work. 8. Works full time for the employer. 10. Does the work in a sequence set by the employer. 11. Submits regular reports to the employer. 12. Receives payments of regular amounts at set intervals. 13. Receives payments for bu siness or traveling expenses. 14. Relies on the employer to furnish tools and materials. 15. Lacks a major investment in facilities used to perform the service. 16. Cannot make a profit or suffer a loss from the services. 17. Works for one employer at a ti me. 18. Does not offer services to the general public. 19. Can be fired. 20. Can quit at any time without liability. i NELP Publications. (2000): 1 5. Accessed September 20, 2017. http://www.nelp.org/content/uploads/2015/03/E mployment Relationship Checklists.pdf.
108 The Economic Re ality/ Economic Dependence Test ii This test is used typically to answer the question of who is the employer in cases wh ere there is more than one potential employer. It can also be used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The test may only be used for finding coverage of workers under the FLSA, AWPA, EPA, and the FMLA. The factors lis ted below are to be applied with an eye to determining whether and on whom the worker is economically dependent for his or her earnings and working conditions. A worker is more likely to be an employee of an entity when: 1. The individual works in a producti on process or service that is an integrated part of the Example: garment workers pressed clothes for clothing manufacturer Renaissance, or, farmworkers pick cucumbe rs for a grower who sells them. iii OR Did the subcontractor function as Example: Manufacturer Renaissance used the subcontractor Han Byul to sew and press the clothes it sold, or the grower used the farm labor contractor to harvest its crop. 2. d equipment. Example: Although Han Byul rented the factory and equipment needed to sew and press clothes, the factory was only a few blocks away from Renaissance and Renaissance provided all the material for sewing, except thread. 3. The individual performs most of his/ her work for that employer. rment workers spent over 80% of their time pressing exclusively for Renaissance. 4. The worker had a steady and consistent working relationship with the em ployer. Example: Renaissance consistently relied on Han Byul to sew and press garments and Han Byul was dependent on Renaissance for business. Han Byul closed when Renaissance stopped giving Han Byul work. 5. The employer retains the right to control and/or in fact c ontrols or supervises the work. iv ii This test varies widely by circuit; the listing here constitutes most of the factors used in the following cases: Antenor v. D&S Farms , 88 F.3d 925 (11th Cir. 1996); Torres Lopez v. May , 111 F.3d 633 (9th Cir. 1997 ); and Lopez v. Silverman , 14 F.Supp. 2d. 405 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). iii Most of the examples listed here are taken from the reported cases listed above, in footnote 2, and cases cited therein. Since there are few cases applying these tests to industries outside of the agricultural and garment industries, there are no reported examples of applying these factors to other work settings. Strong factual analogies can and should be made, however, using the precedent in the existing cases. iv This factor is sometimes br oken out into two factors: right to control and degree of supervision, but the analysis is the same.
109 Example: the employer sets the hours or rate of pay of the workers by dictating turn around times and piece rates, or monitors the quality of the garments by visiting or sending an agent to visit the plant. If the work is unskilled, the right to supervise is more important than the actual supervision. 6. The subcontractor changed its name or ownership but still performed the same work. Example: ownership of Woo Bros. passed to Han Byul, meanwhile the same people that were e mployed at Woo Bros. continued to be employed at Ha n Byul, doing the same work for Renaissance. 7. The worker did not seek out his or her own work. by word of mouth that there was a job one day at this subcontractor and another day at another subcontractor. 8. The employer and the subcontractor shared personnel. Example: Peter Pak used to be the owner/manager of subcontractor Woo and then he went to wor k for manufacturer Renaissance as a production manager. While production manager, he sent work to his former business where his parents still worked. 9. The employer absorbed losses for unsatisfactory merchandise. Example: when Han Byul made mistakes in prod from the amount i t agreed to pay Han Byul for completed garments. 10. The employer determines the pay rates or method of payment. Example: by setting strict turn around times and the piece rates, the garment employer deter mined the rate of pay of the workers. 11. The employer has the right, directly or indirectly, to hire and fire the workers. 12. The employer prepares the payroll and pays the wages. compensa 13. Performs work that is not highly skilled, or is more like piece work. 14. The employer invests more in the equipment and facilities than the worker.
110 The "Suffer or Permit to Work" Test The broadest t heory for finding an employment relationship is the "suffer or permit" test. This may only be used to find coverage under the FLSA, AWPA, EPA, and the FMLA. It is based on a return to the statutory definitions of employment contained in these statutes. It can be used to find an employment relationship where one would not be found under the more res trictive tests described above. v This test is more likely to be met when the worker: 1. Works in a production process or service that is an integrated part of the business. 2. Works on the premises and equipment of the business. 3. Works for another business that is integrated into the business of the employer. A. Due to the low skill/ piece work nature of the work B. Due to the small investment of capital in that integrated business. Remember: These Checklists are not exhaustive, and should be adapted for use in other industries. Use them as a general fact finding tool to determine whether or not there is an employment relationship between a worker and any po tential employer. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER "YES" TO 100% OF THESE FACTORS TO FIND AN EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP. v For a more thorough explication of the genesis of this test, see Goldstein et al, Enforcing Fair Labor Standards in the Modern American Sweatshop: Redi scovering the Statutory Definition of Employment , 46 UCLA L.Rev. 983 (Spring 1999).
111 NEW YORK COURIER WORKER STATUS GUIDELINES vi New York State Department of Labor State Office Campus Albany, NY 12240 Guidelines for Determ ining Worker Status Messenger Courier Industry The following guidelines are used by the Unemployment Insurance Division, the Division of Labor Standards and the Division of Safety and Health to establish whether an employment relationship or an independe nt contractor status exists when companies engage the services of messengers and/or couriers who own or lease vehicles. The factors below are not intended to be relied upon for all possible circumstances. General guidance is provided regarding the many fac tors that may be considered in making determinations. Every employment situation is different. Therefore, no single factor or group of factors will control the determination. These factors do not create any different rule or test than exists in common law, regulation or statute. Independent contractors are excluded from coverage under the Unemployment Insurance Law. In addition, independent contractors are not afforded certain protections provided by Labor Standards and Safety and Health law. Independent contractors are persons who are actually in business for themselves and hold themselves available to the general public to perform services. A person is an independent contractor only when free from control and direction in the performance of such services . All factors concerning the relationship between the two parties must be taken into consideration to determine if the party contracting for the services exercises, or has the right to exercise, supervision, direction and control over the courier or messen ger. No one single factor is controlling, nor do all factors need to be present to establish the nature of the relationship. Also, the New York State Commercial Goods Transportation Industry Fair Play Act is in effect as of April 10, 2014. The law create s a new standard to determine whether certain drivers are employees or independent contractors in the commercial goods transportation industry. Some drivers to properly be classified as independent contractors. If couriers fall under the contained in this publication. Employers may request a formal determination of the status of co uriers/messengers for unemployment insurance purposes by writing to the Liability and Determination Section and furnishing complete details of the relationship. An employer who assumes a courier/messenger to be an independent contractor, and does not repor t and pay contributions based upon the assumption, may be subject to retroactive assessment, interest, or penalty if a later audit, benefit claim, or some other review determines that there was an employment relationship. advantage to request a determination when the status of a courier/messenger is in question. vi Form IA 318.24 (2017): 1 12. Accessed October 12, 2017. https://www .labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/ui/IA318.24.pdf
112 Employers with questions regarding the interpretation or application of the factors outlined in the guidelines in relation to an unemployment insurance matter ma y contact the Liability and Determination Section at (518) 457 2635. Employers with questions in relation to a Division of Labor Standards issue should call (518) 457 4256. Division of Safety and Health issues may be referred to (518) 457 2238. Industry Background These guidelines will be used to determine the worker status of couriers who own or lease a vehicle. Couriers who use company vehicles are presumed to be employees, as they have no risk of investment or exposure to profit or loss. It is industr y practice that bike messengers own their own bikes, and, along with foot messengers, are considered employees of messenger companies providing delivery services to their customers. A courier is a person who provides pickup and delivery of goods for cust omers via a motorized vehicle. A messenger provides similar services to customers via foot or bike delivery. Some companies use both messenger and courier delivery persons. In large metropolitan areas, the pickup and delivery could be within blocks, or w ithin or across boroughs. In suburban or rural areas, the pickup and delivery could involve a large geographic area covering hundreds of miles. Bike and foot messengers are commonly used to transport smaller goods and packages in metropolitan areas, whil e couriers are able to accommodate larger and multiple customer requests. Products and goods to be picked up and delivered are based on the specific need of the customer. These include, but are not limited to: and banking documents Courier and messenger companies may provide 24/7, on demand pickup and delivery service s for customers. A courier company may also provide established routes involving multiple pickup and delivery services for customers. A courier may perform both on demand and route delivery services. Courier and messenger companies offer on demand assign ments via a dispatch system. They use communication devices, such as two way radios, pagers, beepers, cell phones or palm pilots, to relay the details of the assignment. Assignments are offered to one courier or messenger at a time.
113 The courier and messe nger company establishes the fee charged to its customer. The fee may be based on factors such as: Couriers are generally pai d a percentage of the fee charged to the customer for on demand assignments. Messengers are normally paid the higher of an hourly rate or fee charged for similar type assignments. A courier who performs a fixed route delivery is aware of the established stops and the fee to the amount charged to the customer. It is usually a set amount, which might, for example, be on a daily or weekly basis. A courier compan y may use a third party as its agent. The third party (agent) may: of year tax documents The courier may be re quired to enter into a contract with the third party. The provisions contained in the contract are mutually agreed on between the courier company and the third party, and the provisions are as if required and enforced by the courier company. Both the couri er company and the courier may pay the third party an administrative fee for its services.
114 Determining Worker Status Couriers With respect to couriers, there are two types of services that may be performed: 1) On Demand customer requests same day or next day pickup and delivery of an item from Point A to Point B, for which a courier receives an established or negotiated fee. The requests may vary each day. 2) Route Delivery customer or courier company has established routes o r territories, within which are multiple locations for pickup and delivery of items. The requests may vary each day, and a courier receives an established or negotiated fee. Through the application of these guidelines, the worker status of a courier who performs both on demand and route delivery services will be based on the factors that apply to each type of service. This may result in two different worker status outcomes. On Demand Services Indicators of Independence Under the Commercial Goods Trans portation Industry Fair Play Act, there is a presumption that a driver is an employee. If the company can show that the driver is a separate business entity by ject to the provisions of the Act. Some of the factors indicating a courier performing on demand services is an independent contractor are: 1) The courier owns or leases a motorized vehicle. Couriers driving such vehicles need not hold a commercial drive by the courier, such as: a. The lease is fair market value b. It is for a minimum of at least one year c. The courier is obligated to satisfy the terms of the lease, even if courier servi ces are discontinued d. There is a reasonable interest rate 2) The courier is responsible for all expenses, such as: a. Fuel b. Vehicle repairs c. Maintenance d. Insurance e. Tolls ge g. Communication devices or scanning equipment 3) The courier is free to negotiate the fee offered for servic es and is not prohibited from renegotiating an established fee on an assignment by assignment basis.
115 4) The courier is paid on a negotiated , per completed assignment basis, and not by the hour. 5) The courier is free to accept or reject a dispatched assignment, based on conditions such as work hours and schedule. 6) The courier receives an advertising fee for displaying courier company or courier obtain and accept assignments from others. 8) The courier establishes own route and sequence, or priority of pickups and deliveries. 9) The courier receives and resolves customer complaints. 10) The courier is not required to display the courier company name on the vehicle, other than what may be required for security purposes while on an assignment. 11) Manifests are provided by the courier. of hire. 13) The courier is able to provide a substitute or engage other couriers without approval or notification of the courier company, subject to applicable qualification requirements or federal or state laws, rules or regulations, and pays the employees without reimbursement from the courier company. 14) The courier is not provided with training, other than a general o rientation session to familiarize the courier with basic customer pickup or delivery characteristics. Indicators of Employment The strong factors a courier performing on demand services is an employee are: 1) The courier company sets the rate of pay. 2) T he courier company pays or reimburses the courier for expenses such as fuel, tolls, vehicle repairs, maintenance, and insurances. 3) The courier is required to accept assignments. 4) The courier is not free to obtain assignments from others. 5) The courier is 6) The courier has a set work schedule, or is required to be available for assignments during a pre established period.
116 7) The courier company establishes the route, sequence, or priority of the pickup or delivery. 8) The courier company maintains authority to insure all customer requirements are carried out by the courier, even if the courier agreed to the requirements at the time ight to insure that customer requirements are carried out by the courier regarding security and appearance of vehicle, delivery and pickup times, shipment integrity, compliance with governmental regulations, and general standards of conduct is a reasonable business 9) The courier company prohibits the courier from participating in the process of resolving customer complaints. 10) The courier is required to display courier company name or customer name on the vehicle at all times, even when not on an assignment. 11) Manifests are provided free of charge by the courier company. 12) The courier company establishes earlier delivery/pickup time frames than those required by the customer. Or, if no time frame was established by the customer, the courier company specifies a time frame to the courier. 13) The courier is required to keep in communication with the courier company while on route for purposes beyond relaying information from the courier c ompany customer to 14) The courier company provides substitutes or replacement drivers. 15) The courier company requires attendance at training or orientation sessions for issues o ther than those required by governmental agencies, or on subjects such as: a. Use of the communication equipment b. The proper completion of paperwork 16) The courier company restricts the couri er from performing courier service for any customer of the courier company upon termination of the relationship between the parties. 17) The courier company requires the courier to wear a uniform or attire that includes identifications or logos beyond those associated with the courier company. 18) The courier is required t o perform services personally.
117 Neutral Factors Factors that neither point to an independent contractor status nor an employment relationship are: 1) The courier is only required to wear a u niform, attire, and/or identification with the courier company logo for the limited purposes of security, and only while the security need is present. 2) The courier is required to carry a courier company badge or other identification for security purposes, and only while the security need is present. 3) The courier company or its third party agent interviews or screens prospective couriers by performing background checks and verification for compliance with state and federal laws, rules, and regulations prior to issuing assignments. 4) The courier is paid by the courier company for the delivery, even if the delivery did not 5) The courier may contact the courier company upon pickup or delivery o f item/article, but does so out of courtesy, as a means to obtain additional assignments. 6) The courier is required to keep in contact with the courier company while on route for urier, pickup and delivery time frame. 7) 8) The courier is required by the courier company to att end training or orientation sessions for issues mandated by governmental agencies (such as OSHA or the Transportation Security Administration), or on subjects such as proper completion of paperwork or courier company customer policies and/or procedures. 9) Number as a condition of obtaining assignments. 10) The courier and the courier company jointly resolve customer complaints. 11) The courier company is responsible for customer billing and collecting. 12) The courier is required to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The purpose of such but not limited to, clients, addresses, billing rates, and contact names and telephone numbers. 13) Customer or t hird party provides manifests.
118 Route Delivery Indicators of Independence The strong factors a courier performing route delivery services is an independent contractor are: 1) The courier owns or le ases a motorized vehicle used for delivery services. A lease must have evidence of substantial investment by the courier, such as: a. The lease is fair market value b. It is for a minimum of at least one year c. The courier is obligated to satisfy the t erms of the lease, even if courier services are discontinued d. There is a reasonable interest rate 2) The courier is responsible for all expenses, such as: a. Fuel b. Vehicle repairs c. Maintenance d. Insurance e. Tolls f. Occupational accident g. Communication devices or scanning equipment 3) The courier is free to negotiate or renegotiate terms of the route, such as the stops or rate of pay. 4) The courier negotiates the rate of pay that is other than an hourly rate. 5) The courier is free to accept or reject assignments. 6) The courier receives an advertising fee for displaying courier company or courier 7) The courier receives an advertising fee from either the courier company or the courier 8) The courier is unrestricted from performing delivery services for others; including while , except as may be restricted by governmental authorities, such as DEA or DOT Office of Hazardous Materials. customer requirements are carried out, but the services ma y be monitored for administrative purposes, such as customer billing or determining courier compensation. 10) The courier receives and resolves customer complaints. ther than what may be required on an assignment for security purposes.
119 12) Manifests are provided by the courier. 13) on Number at the time of hire. 14) The courier is able to provide a substitute or engage other couriers without approval or notification to the courier company, subject to applicable qualification requirements or federal or state laws, rules, or regulations, and pays the employees without reimbursement from the courier company. 15) The c ourier is responsible for lost or damaged product. 16) The courier is responsible for providing or obtaining appropriate containers required for the delivery/pickup of the product. Indicators of Employment The strong factors a courier performing route del ivery services is an employee are: 1) The courier is paid at a base hourly rate or on a fee basis established by the courier company. 2) The courier company pays or reimburses the courier for expenses such as fuel, tolls, vehicle repairs, maintenance, and in surances. 3) The courier is required to accept additional assignments. 4) The courier company prohibits the courier from performing delivery services for others. 5) 6) The courier company maintains authority to insure all customer requirements are carried out by the courier, even if the courier agreed to the requirements at the time customer requirements are carried out by the courier regarding security and appearance of vehicle, delivery and pickup times, shipment integrity, compliance with governmental regulations, and general standards of conduct is a reasonable business practice. This is not an indicat 7) The courier company prohibits the courier from participating in the process of resolving customer complaints. 8) The courier is required to display courier company name or customer name on the vehicle at all tim es, even when not on an assignment. 9) Manifests are provided free of charge by the courier company. 10) The courier is required to keep in communication with the courier company while on route for purposes beyond relaying information from the courier company customer to
120 delivery. 11) The courier company provides substitute or replacement drivers. 12) The courier company requires attendance at training or orientation sessions for issues other than those required by governmental agen cies, or on subjects such as: a. Use of the communication equipment b. The proper completion of paperwork 13) The courier company restricts the courier from performing courier service for any customer of the courier company upon termination of the relationship between the parties. 14) The courier is required to wear a courier company badge, ID, uniform or attire other than as necessary for security purposes, and only while an assignment. 15) The courier is re quired to perform services personally. Neutral Factors Factors that neither point to an independent contractor status nor an employment relationship are: 1) The courier is only required to wear a uniform, attire, and/or identification with the courier co mpany logo for the limited purposes of security, and only while the security need is present. 2) The courier is required to carry a courier company badge or other identification for security purposes, and only while the security need is present. 3) The couri er company or its third party agent interviews or screens prospective couriers by performing background checks and verification for compliance with state and federal laws, rules, and regulations prior to issuing assignments. 4) The courier is paid by the co urier company for the delivery, even if the delivery did not 5) The courier is required to keep in contact with the courier company while on route for purposes of relaying information from pickup and delivery time frame. 6) The frequency, sequence, time frame, or delivery instructions/regulations of the route a 7) assignments.
121 8) The courier is required by the courier company to attend training or orientation sessions for issues m andated by governmental agencies (such as OSHA or the Transportation Security Administration), or on subjects such as proper completion of paperwork, or courier company customer policies and/or procedures. 9) The courier may be restricted by the courier com delivery services for others while on route for the customer for reasons established by product integ 10) The Number as a condition of obtaining assignments. 11) The courier and the courier company jointly resolve customer complaints. 12) The courier company is responsible for customer bil ling and collecting. 13) The courier is required to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The purpose of such not limited to, clients, addresses, billing rates, and con tact names and telephone numbers. 14) 15) 16) The courier may be required to b e responsible to load or unload the vehicle at a distribution center, and may perform other routine functions normally associated with the delivery of the product, such as the boxing of the product. Bike and Foot Messengers Within the messenger industry , it is standard practice that bike and foot messengers (messengers) are considered to be employees of the messenger company providing delivery services to its customers. It is also the custom that bike messengers provide and maintain their own: Bike Bag Lock Helmet Map Clipboard Cycling clothing Mobile communication devices The working relationship between messengers and the messenger company using their delivery services for its customers contains significant common law i ndicators of an employment relationship:
122 earnings. 2) The messenger company may provide fringe benefits to the messenger. 3) The messenger company sets the rate of pa y, which is normally based on the higher of an hourly rate or fee basis. 4) The messenger company sets the work schedule. 5) The messenger company requires the services to be performed personally, and the messenger is not able to provide his/her own su bstitute. Compensation policy. 7) The messenger company sets the order and priority of delivery. 8) The messenger company requires the messenger to accept an assignment. 9) T he messenger company requires the messenger to follow all company rules and regulations.
123 SAMPLE BICYCLE MESSENGER INDEPENDENT CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT vii BOLT COURIERS LLC. Independent Contractor Agreement This Agreement ("Agreement") is entered in to with an effective date of , 2015 by and between Bolt Couriers LLC, a Colorado company ("Company"), with offices at 1877 West Ave Street, Denver, Colorado 89130 , and ("Contractor"), an independent contr actor, with a principal place of business at , Colorado . ARTICLE 1. TERM OF CONTRACT 1.01. This Agreement will become effective on the date stated above and will continue in effe ct until terminated as provided in this Agreement. ARTICLE 2. SERVICES TO BE PERFORMED BY CONTRACTOR 2.01. Contractor agrees to perform the services specified in the "Description of Services" attached to this Agreement and incorporated 2.02. Contractor will be solely responsible for determining the method, details, and means of performing the Services. 2.03. Contractor enters into this Agreement, and will remain thro ughout the terms of this Agreement, as an independent contractor. Contractor agrees that he or she is not and will not become an employee, partner, agent, or principal of Company while this Agreement is in effect. Contractor agrees that he or she is not entitled to the rights or benefits afforded to Company's employees, including disability or unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, medical insurance, sick leave, or any other employment benefit. Contractor is responsible for providing, at his or h er own expense, disability, unemployment, and other insurance, workers' and subcontractors. 2.04. Contractor is responsible for paying when due all income taxes, including estimated taxes, incurred as a result of the compensation paid by Company to Contractor for services under this Agreement. On request, Contractor will provide Company with proof of timely payment. Contractor agrees to indemnify Company for any claims, costs, losses, fees, penalties, interest, or damages suffered by Company resulting from Contractor's failure to comply with this provision. vii This contract was provided by two participants who were beginning to establish their own courier company, yet never brought it to fruition. This contract is based on a similar contract currently in use; this versi on was approved by a legal professional.
124 2.05. Contractor may, at Contractor's own expense, use any employees or subcontractors this Agreement. Company shall not control, direct, or supervise Contractor's employees or subcontractors in the performance of those services. Only those Personnel who are employees or bona fide subcontractors of Contractor for federal tax purposes shall provide Services under agents and Contractor shall continue to be fully respon sible for their acts. Contractor shall be solely responsible for the payment of compensation of the Personnel and any associated taxes assessed by any relevant taxing authority and the Personnel shall be informed that they are not entitled to any Company e mployee benefits. Contractor and not Company shall be solely responsible for payment of worker's compensation, Social Security, disability benefits and unemployment insurance or for withholding and paying employment taxes for the Personnel. The Personnel s hall affirm they are not employees of Company for any purpose and that they shall not exercise any rights or seek any benefit accruing to the regular employees of Company. Contractor shall have no right, power or authority to create, and shall not represe nt to any person that it has any such power, to create any obligation, express or implied, on Company's behalf without the express prior written consent of Company. In the event the Internal Revenue Service, or any other federal, state or local agency, d etermines that Contractor is to be treated as an employee of Company for tax or benefit purposes, Contractor shall: (i) immediately take appropriate corrective action or remove the Personnel from performing services hereunder and, if requested by Company, provide a qualified replacement; and (ii) indemnify Company for any and all costs, expenses, benefits and payments (including penalties and interest, court costs and reasonable attorney fees) imposed on or paid by Company as a result of such determination. ARTICLE 3. COMPENSATION 3.01. Company agrees to pay Contractor according to the schedule of payments in the "Description of Services" attached to this Agreement and incorporated into this Agreement by reference. 3.02. Contra ctor will submit to Company a statement of services rendered at the end of each . Company agrees to pay the amount due to Contractor for services within days of receipt of the statement. 3.03. Company will reimburse Cont ractor for all costs of travel, up to a maximum of $ per month. In addition, Company will reimburse Contractor for those other "expenses" identified in the "Description of Services" attached to this Agreement and incorporated into this Agre ement by reference.
125 ARTICLE 4. OBLIGATIONS AND RIGHTS OF CONTRACTOR 4.01. Contractor may represent, perform services for, and contract with as many additional clients, persons, or companies as Contractor, in his or her sole discretion, see s fit; provided, however, that during the Term of this Agreement Contractor shall not perform services for or contract with any persons or companies that directly or indirectly compete with Company. 4.02. Contractor shall have the right to provide the Se rvices within any Neighborhood Zone in the City of Denver as shown on Exhibit B attached hereto. Contractor shall notify Company [daily] [weekly] [monthly] of its selection of a particular Neighborhood Zone for which it will provide the Services, p rovided that no other Contractor of Company has previously selected that particular Neighborhood Zone. 4.03. For each Neighborhood Zone selected by Contractor, Company shall establish a rformance of the Services. Contractor shall provide the Services within that Guaranteed Time but has complete discretion to choose any suitable time and methods within the Guaranteed Time for the performance of the Services by Contractor. 4.04. Contractor is not required to perform any minimum amount of Services and may choose those days and times that it wishes to perform the Services; provided, however, that if Contractor has notified Company that it will provide Services on any given da y, then Contractor shall either complete those Services itself or hire Personnel to complete the Services within the Guaranteed Time. 4.05. Contractor will supply all tools, materials, and equipment required to perform the services under this Agr eement; provided, however, that Contractor may rent Company's radios and any other equipment made available by Company from time to time. 4.06. Contractor agrees to provide workers' compensation insurance for Contractor's employees and agents and agrees to hold harmless and indemnify Company for any and all claims arising out of any injury, disability, or death of any of Contractor's employees or agents. 4.07. Contractor agrees to maintain a policy of liability insurance in that minimum amount as set by Company to cover any negligent acts or omissions committed by Contractor or Contractor's employees or agents during the performance of the Services. Contractor further agrees to indemnify and hold Company free and harmless from any and al l claims arising from any such negligent acts or omissions. 4.08. Contractor represents that he or she has the qualifications and skills necessary to perform the services under this Agreement in a competent, professional manner, without the advic e, direction or supervision of Company. This means Contractor is able to fulfill the
126 requirements of the prime contract under which Company is obligated to perform services for the Company's client or customer. Failure to perform all the services require d under this Agreement constitutes a material breach of the Agreement. Contractor has complete and sole discretion for the manner in which the work under this Agreement will be performed. 4.09. Contractor agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold Co mpany free and harmless from all claims, demands, losses, costs, expenses, obligations, liabilities, damages, recoveries, and deficiencies, including interest, penalties, attorneys' fees, and costs, that Company may incur as a result of a breach by Contrac tor of any representation or agreement contained in this Agreement. 4.10. Contractor shall have the right to assign its duties or obligations under this Agreement to other subcontractors, provided, however, that Contractor shall give first prefer ence to other Contractors of Company. Contractor may also agree with other Contractors of Company for a division of the Services or an exchange between such Contractors of particular assignments covered by the Services. ARTICLE 5. OBLIGATIONS OF COMPANY 5.01. Company agrees to comply with all reasonable requests of Contractor and provide access to all documents reasonably necessary to the performance of Contractor's duties under this Agreement. 5.02. Company agrees to furnish space on Company's premises, if necessary, for use by Contractor while performing the Services. 5.03. Company may assign this Agreement, and all duties, rights and obligations thereto, without the prior consent of Contractor. ARTICLE 6. TERMINATION OF AGREEMENT 6.01. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, either party may terminate this Agreement at any time by giving five (5) days' written notice to the other party. Unless otherwise terminated as provided in this Agreement, this Agreement will continue in force until the services provided for in this Agreement have been fully and completely performed. 6.02. This Agreement will terminate automatically on the occurrence of any of the following events: (a) Bankruptcy or insolvency of either party.
127 (b) Sale of the business of either party. (c) Death or dissolution of either party. 6.03. If either party defaults in the performance of this Agree ment or materially breaches any of its provisions, the non breaching party may terminate this Agreement by giving written notification to the breaching party. Termination will take effect immediately on receipt of notice by the breaching party or five day s after mailing of notice, whichever occurs first. For the purposes of this section, material breach of this Agreement includes, but is not limited to, the following: (a) Company's failure to pay Contractor any compensation due within 30 days after written demand for payment. (b) Contractor's failure to complete the services specified in the "Description of Services" attached to this Agreement. (c) Contractor's material breach of any representation or a greement contained in Sections 4.06 and/or 4.07. (d) Company's material breach of any representation or agreement contained in this Agreement. ARTICLE 7. PROPRIETARY RIGHTS 7.01. Contractor agrees that all designs, pl ans, reports, specifications, drawings, inventions, processes, and other information or items produced by Contractor while performing Services under this Agreement will be assigned to Company as the sole and exclusive property of Company and Company's assi gns, nominees, and successors, as will any copyrights, patents, or trademarks obtained by Contractor while performing services under this Agreement. On request and at Company's expense, Contractor agrees to help Company obtain patents and copyrights for a ny new developments. This includes providing data, plans, specifications, descriptions, documentation, and other information, as well as assisting Company in completing any required application or registration. 7.02. Any written, printed, graphi c, or electronically or magnetically recorded information furnished by Company for Contractor's use are the sole property of Company. This proprietary information includes, but is not limited to, customer or client requirements, customer or client lists, marketing information, and information concerning Company's employees, products, services, prices, operations, methodologies, affiliates, and subsidiaries. Contractor shall keep this confidential information in the strictest confidence, and will not disclose it by any means to any person except with Company's approval, and only to the extent necessary to perform the services under this Agreement. This prohibition also applies to Contractor's employees, agents, and subcontractors. On termination of this Agreement,
128 Contractor shall return any confidential information in his possession relating to Company's business to Company. 7.03. For a period of six (6) months following the termination of this Agreement, Contractor will not solicit or hire away any of Company's employees or contractors Contractor became aware of as a result of performing services under this Agreement. ARTICLE 8. GENERAL PROVISIONS 8.01. Any notices required to be given under this Agreement by either party to the other may be effected by personal delivery in writing or by mail, registered or certified, postage prepaid with return receipt requested. Mailed notices must be addressed to the parties at the addresses appearing in the introductory paragrap h of this Agreement, but each party may change the address by giving written notice in accordance with this section. Notices delivered personally will be deemed communicated as of the day of receipt; mailed notices will be deemed communicated as of the da y of receipt or the fifth day after mailing, whichever occurs first. 8.02. This Agreement supersedes any and all agreements, either oral or written, between the parties with respect to the rendering of services by Contractor for Company and contains all of the representations, covenants, and agreements between the parties with respect to the rendering of these services. Each party to this Agreement acknowledges that no representations, inducements, promises, or agreements, orally or otherwise, have been made by any party, or anyone acting on behalf of any party, which are not contained in this Agreement, and that no other agreement, statement, or promise not contained in this Agreement will be valid or binding. Any modification of this Agreement will be effective only if it is in a writing signed by the party to be charged. 8.03. If any provision of this Agreement is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, void, or unenforceable, the remaining provisions will continue in full fo rce and effect without being impaired or invalidated in any way. 8.04. Should any dispute arise out of or related to this Agreement, it shall first be submitted to mediation prior to the filing of any lawsuit or complaint. The mediation shall no t exceed one day and shall take place in Denver, Colorado before a mediator mutually agreeable to the parties or, if they cannot agree, then before a mediator selected by the Denver offices of either Colorado Bar Assiociation or JAMS. The parties shall ma ke a good faith effort to resolve the the mediation. The costs of the mediation shall be borne equally by the parties. Any party that refuses or fails to partic fees in subsequent proceedings.
129 8.05. If any legal action, including an action for declaratory or injunctive relief, is brought to enforce or interpret the provisions of this Agreement, the prevailing party will be entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees, which may be set by the court in addition to any other relief to which that party may be entitled. 8.06. Arbitration . Any dispute that cannot be settled amicably by m ediation as provided above shall be heard, settled, and decided by arbitration in accordance with the Rules of Arbitration of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") (the "Rules") in effect as of the date hereof by one (1) arbitrator appointed in acco rdance with the Rules. The arbitration shall be held in Denver, Colorado, and the arbitrator shall, to the greatest extent possible, follow the rules of evidence as set forth in the Colorado Evidence Code. It is the intent and agreement of the Parties tha t Discovery should be limited to reduce costs and each Party shall be required to produce all documents related to the dispute prior to the setting of hearing. No written interrogatories shall be allowed and each Party shall be limited to the taking of no more than two depositions, unless the arbitrator, for good cause shown, approves the taking of additional depositions. The award in such arbitration shall be in writing and shall be supported by detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law. As part of such award, the prevailing party (as determined by the Arbitrator) shall be awarded legal fees and expenses incurred in conjunction with the dispute and the losing party shall be required to pay the fees and the costs of the litigation. The award shall be final and enforceable in any court of competent jurisdiction. The Parties hereby exclude any right of appeal to any court on the merits of the dispute except as allowed by the Rules and the law of the State of Colorado. 8.06. This Agreement sha ll be governed by the laws of the State of Colorado. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have executed this Agreement as of the date hereinabove written. COMPANY BOLT COURIERS LLC By: ________________________________ By: ________________________________ OWNER OWNER INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR By: ________________________________ CONTRACTOR
130 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW GUIDE Project Title: : Social Reproductions of Exploitative Work Practices in the Bicycle Messenger Community Principal Investigator: Eloiss Hulsbrink COMIRB #: 17 0062 Version date: May 10, 2017 Version #: 1 viii Question Guide #1 Part I: Background Information 1. How are you involved in the bicycle messenger community in Denver, Colorado? a) Could you tell us about your work experience as a bike messenger? b) How long have you worked as a courier in Denver? c) What goals do you seek to achieve? d) What difficulties/obstacles have you experienced in achieving those goals? e) How do you deal with them? 2. Do you hold any other jobs? a) What are they? b) Why do you work other jobs? c) A re there any other ways in which you make money? 3. From your work experience for (enter number) years as a courier, what are the most pressing issues you have encountered? a) How do you feel being classified as an Independent Contractor (IC) and what do es it mean to you? b) Do you think being classified as an IC influences your behavior or attitude at work? c) Could you provide a specific example for (enter the topic)? d) How are you paid? e) Do you think being paid in this manner influences your behavi or or attitude at work? f) Could you provide a specific example for (enter the topic)? g) Do you feel you make enough money as a bike messenger to cover your expenses consistently? viii Semi structured interviews elicit data the interviewer may not have anticipated, thus, this guide serves only as a starting point for interviews. Each interview varied in terms of interview questions and topics d iscussed in detail.
131 Part II: Challenges Bike Messengers Face ** Under IRS rules and c ommon law doctrine, independent contractors control the manner and means by which contracted services, products, or results are achieved. The more control a company exercises over how, when, where, and by whom work is performed, the more likely the workers are employees, not independent contractors. ** 4. What do you know about IC versus employee classification? a) How would you evaluate the adequacy of these classifications? Why? b) Do you agree with being classified as an IC? Why? 5. What are the main challenges you see bicycle messengers face on a daily basis? a) What kinds of challenges do they face in terms of injuries/accidents? b) What kinds of challenges do they face to maintaining employment? c) What kinds of challenges do they face in terms of making a livable wage? d) What kinds of challenges do they face in regards to health insurance? 6. How do you evaluate your relationship with other bicycle messengers? a) Do you ever feel competitive with other couriers with whom you w ork? b) Can you give us an example of your experience with competitiveness with a co worker? c) What are the major principles in getting along with other couriers? d) Can you describe your relationship to other couriers with some specific examples? e) Can you describe the bike messenger scene in Denver? f) Where do you like to hang out before/during/after work? 7. How do you feel about the courier company for which you work? a) Do you feel like a valued member of the team? b) Are you satisfied in your job ? c) What are some improvements you would make if you had the chance to implement new policies at MHM? 8. How did you interact with couriers that are a Tier above/below you? a) Can you give a specific example? b) What are your general thoughts on those in the Tier above/below yourself? c) Is there anything that you think they can do better? d) What are the major principles in getting along with co workers on Tier (1/2)?
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