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13 2 The Birth of Sunset Scavenger Company As best I can determine, Emilio Rattaro arrived from Italy in 1904 and, as was typical, could not find work. He ran a small farm at 12th Avenue and Judah Street in the Sunset District. Like his colleagues before him, Emilio purchased a horse and wagon and became a scavenger to supplement his income. He called his company the Sunset Scavenger Company because he lived in the Sunset District. One of his claims to fame was that his was one of the first scavenger companies to serve what is now known as St. Frances Wood, when the first house was built in the sand dunes. He told his family that it took a long time to drive a wagon from 12th and Judah to service just one account, but he envisioned that if there were one customer, then someday there would be two, and so on. . .and he was right. As the Sunset District began to grow, more scavengers (horse, wagon, and Italian) came into the area, competing for the growing business. The only way they could compete was to offer the service at a lower rate than the competition. But as a result, no one was making any money. Emilio Rattaro had a vision in 1912, which was to create a new entity by joining together some five companies (remember a “company” was a horse, a wagon, and an Italian). He knew that by consolidating the five companies into a single entity, each company could be assigned to a specific service area and could eliminate the competition in that area. Also, it would allow each scavenger to raise his rates so he could make a profit. As an added incentive for these companies to merge into this arrangement, each worker could garage his horse and wagon in a central location, purchase hay and other needs in volume, and reduce his expenses. All revenue collected would be pooled together (or “placed on the table”). After bills were paid, all funds still on the table would be split equally by the five partners. Today, this form of operation could be challenged as a violation of antitrust laws. On the other hand, it might be defined as socialistic—or, worse yet, communistic. 14 The Birth of Sunset Scavenger Company Nonetheless, for the Italian immigrant it was a means of survival . I sometimes referred to that concept facetiously as a “quasicommunistic , capitalistic organization. Capitalist in theory, but communist in reality, where everybody shared equally the fruits of the combined labor.” The arrangement was defined; the concept caught on. From 1912 to 1920, ninety-two scavengers merged under the roof of the Sunset Scavenger Company. As the company grew, Sunset Scavenger Company joined forces with the Bank of Italy (now the Bank of America), whose president was A. P. Giannini (a Genovese, of course). The new company was made up of ninety-two Genovese Italians, and it was only natural that they did business with a Genovese banker. Mr. Giannini recommended that Sunset Scavenger Company become a corporation. Sunset Scavenger retained the services of an attorney, Angelo Devencenzi, who also recommended that the partnership incorporate. Articles of Incorporation and corporate bylaws were drafted in English and Italian (the Italian was a Zeneize dialect). Each partner signed the Articles of Incorporation by hand. As I have seen and now preserved, that signed document notes that, of the ninetytwo signatures, seven were signed with an “X” and witnessed by the company’s attorney, Angelo Devencenzi. The bylaws, which were written in Italian, stated in part: Every Boss Scavenger [term for shareholder] shall be treated absolutely equal and alike, regardless of office, position or responsi­ bility. . .and shall be compensated equally, shall have one vote on matters requiring the Shareholder/Boss Scavenger vote on corporate matters, such as elections for the Board of Directors. . .and other matters where it was deemed legally necessary for shareholder/Boss Scavenger approval. The merging of these ninety-two companies resulted in a more secure income source. It also created higher efficiency in the collection of the waste. There were fewer horses and wagons and, rather than one man and one wagon, the crew concept was created where two and possibly three men worked on a wagon. The size of the wagon was doubled, with two horses instead of one, resulting in a more cost-effective means of providing services. 15 The Birth of Sunset Scavenger Company Each partner or Boss Scavenger working on...


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