Saturday, June 11, 2011, 09:03 AM - Political developmentsYesterday I took BART from Oakland to San Francisco, running an errand over my lunch time.
Emerging from the underground at Sutter and Stockton, the location of the
San Francisco Apple store, I heard chants.
A small crowd had gathered, with a fair number of cameras. Protesters circled on the sidewalk in front of the store, carrying signs claiming "Steve Jobs Hates America" and "Steve Jobs is the #1 Economic Terrorist".
If this was supposed to deter shoppers from entering the store, it wasn't working. The lure of the iPad2, the nano and MacBook Airs was too strong, as the store remained jam packed.
Who are these people, and what's their agenda?
Turns out they are sponsored by the Black Economic Council, which is holding its 6th Annual Urban Economic Conference in Oakland on June 23, 2011.
Sponsors include Wells Fargo, AT&T, PG&E, Comerica Bank, Citibank, Clorox, Southern California Edison, Bank of America, Verizon, HSBC, Charles Schwab, JP Morgan Chase and a number of others.
I'm not sure many of those companies would agree that Jobs is an "economic terrorist".
But what's the beef?
The beef is over the lack of economic opportunity. A sense of malaise continues to hang over the black community. Black unemployment has been and remains unacceptably high.
The UC Berkeley Labor Center publishes a monthly black worker report.
Acording to the June 3, 2011 report by Sylvia Allegretto, Ary Amerikaner, and Steven Pitts, the unemployment rate for blacks was 16.2% in May 2011. Among whites, unemployment was 8% and among Latinos 11.9%.
Black teen unemployment was 40.7% in May 2011. 17.5% of black males over 20 were unemployed as of May 2011.
The extent to which the growth of California's Hispanic population has affected employment opportunities for blacks is perhaps a complicated subject. But as California's Hispanic population surged to 14 million, up 27.8% from 2000 to 2010, there is bound to have been some impact.
The protest against Steve Jobs and Apple appears to be focusing on the
hiring and sourcing practices of Apple.
Perhaps Apple could do more to promote ethnic diversity and more to "hire American".
But from the Black Economic Council's web statement, it seems that part of the focus is on H-1B Visas. Should work be given to Americans of all races before more H-1B visas are allowed?
It's a difficult problem. And increasingly so, as well-educated workers in the Far East have technical skills that are not imparted to many of California's minority students by a creaky California public school system.
I suspect Apple, one of the world's most innovative companies, will say that they need to get the brightest and most creative workers wherever they can find them.
And those workers are creating their own communities. Silicon Valley now has large ethnic communities of Indian, Chinese and Taiwanese software engineers.
The issue of how the black community can create economic opportunity is important and worthy of discussion.
But I don't think it advances the discussion to label Steve Jobs an "economic terrorist". If anything, claiming Steve Jobs "hates America" undermines the credibility of the Black Economic Council.
Here, from their website, is the Black Economic Council position statement:
"With the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Bill), federal agencies have been mandated to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion to address empolyment and contracting diversity matters. Each office has its own director and staff, and will develop policies promoting equal employment opportunities and racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of not just its workforce, but also the workforces of its contractors and sub-contractors which includes many Fortune 500 Corporations."
"Section 342 of this historical bill sets up 29 such offices in nine government bureaus: the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, the Treasury, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Housing Finance Agency, National Credit Union Administration, Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
"It has been estimated that 80% of the Fortune 500 Corporations have no supplier diversity programs. For those few that do have diversity programs, non compare to those companies operating in California under GO 156. Implemented by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies, GO 156 are a set of rules governing the development of programs to increase participation of women, minority and disable veteran business enterprises in procurement of contracts."
"Under the leadership of Mike Peevey, the President of the CPUC, the utilities and telecom compaines operating in California have increased their spend with minority, women and disable veteran-owned companies dramatically since the passage of GO 156 in 1988. President Peevey with the support of Commissioner Timothy Simon, have encouraged companies regulated by the CPUC to be aware of the ever changing demographics in California."
"Some of the CEOs of these companies have established coporate goals, and instructed senior and middle management to carry out those goals by involving their procurement and sourcing teams. Some of these CEOs have asked procurement and sourcing teams to also encourage their prime/tier one contractors to seek out minority and women-owned companies, and when necessary, mentor these companies with technical assistance and capacity building support."
"Unfortunately, most CEOs of the Fortune 500 corporations have not shown a serious interest in diversifying their supply chain. Unless the CEOs, board of directors and senior managers are forced, the issue of supplier diversity is largely ignored. Now with the passing of the Dodd-Frank Bill we hope that its impact on Corporate America overall will be as impactful as GO 156 has been in the utilities and telecom sector."
"In 2011, the Black Economic Council (BEC) will continue to advocate for the diversification of suppliers among Fortune 500 Corporations, many of which are federal contractors. Now with the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, the government will insist that these corporate suppliers increase their contracts with minority and women-owned compaines, aiding us in our battle for true supplier diversity across all industry sectors."
"Last but not leaset, we support the hiring of American citizens. Those compaines in Silicon Valley that are "hooked" on H-1B visas should be required to first seek out American workers of all races. Unlike former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, who feels that American workers in the technology sector are overpaid, we strongly support hiring Americans first. Sadly, many of our elected officals, senators, congressional representatives, some governors and big city mayors, share the "un-American" idea of not hiring Americans."
"In February, the BEC along with the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles and the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC) staged a protest at Google Headquarters. Google has approximately 1% Black, 2% Latino and 20% women employees and about 40% of Googles workforce consist of H-1B visa workers."
"We are in the early stage of planning another protest but this time at Apple who also has one of the worst records in hiring Blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans and white women. This protest will take place in San Francisco at their store on One Stockton Street. If you're interested in joining us for this protest send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 10:02 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemCalifornia's maximum temporary total disability rate will rise in 2012.
Indexed to changes in the California state average weekly wage (SAWW), California's TTD rates are increased by changes in the SAWW.
Based on U.S. Labor Department data showing a 2.4% increase in the state average weekly wage ( for 12 months preceding March 31. 2011). the maximum TD rate will increase by 2.4%.
This means that the maximum TTD rate will probably be set at $1,010.50 per week (i.e the 2011 California TTD max rate of $986.86 x 1.024135). The minimum TD rate will increase to $151.47 per week.
These increases applies to injuries after January 1, 2012 and to situations where temporary disability is paid 2 years or more after the date of injury (under Labor Code 4661.5 and a 1984 case known as Hofmeister v. WCAB.
Also affected will be life pension payments and permanent total payments for cases affected by the COLA statute, applicable to post 1/1/03 injuries. Labor Code 4659(c) requires that for workers injured on or after 1/1/03, permanent total disability and life pension payments are increased on January 1,2004 and every January 1st thereafter based on changes in the California state average weekly wage.
Computation of the COLA is still an issue. California's Supreme Court recently held oral arguments in a case which will determine the start date for COLA calculations. In coming posts I will analyze that case, Baker v. WCAB (previously known as the XYZZ case or the Duncan v. WCAB case.
Readers need to remember that TD maximums aren't automatically payable. TTD is paid at 2/3 of the average weekly wage, but only up to the maximum TTD rate. A worker whose earnings do not support maximum TTD will be paid a lesser TTD rate.
Here is a link to the underlying Department of Labor 2010 wage data:
http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/ ... 2010_1.pdf
And here is a link to 2011 wage data:
http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/ ... 2011_1.pdf
Sunday, June 5, 2011, 09:30 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemAn L.A. Times article caught my eye recently, "Illegal Vending: Unlicensed Businesses Flourishing in L.A. Area".
The article, by Alexandra Schmidt, details the growing number of front-yard household supply businesses, driveway taquerias, home-based car washes and other examples of people selling services and goods out of their neighborhoods.
Schmidt notes that most of these businesses are unlicensed and many violate zoning restrictions. And they don't pay taxes.
Schmidt's article focuses on some examples in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of East L.A. But it's likely that the same pattern is emerging in other areas with other ethnic groups in the state.
Although Schmidt's article didn't focus on it, it's almost certain that these small enterprises aren't carrying required workers' comp coverage. Yes, some are sole proprietorships or mom and pop vending and service efforts. But the ones who do have "employees" are unlikely to be carrying workers' comp.
As the economy has gotten tougher, people take risks, bending the legal rules. Permits, zoning, taxes, workers' comp are all legal niceities in such a world.
That's understandable, as poor people round the world resort to selling things to make ends meet.
That was evident to me in while in Rome several weeks ago. Some of the most spectacularly beautiful and popular piazzas such as Piazza Navone
and the area surrounding the Spanish Steps have legions of vendors trying to sell roses or simple toys. Many of the vendors look vaguely North African, possibly Libyan.
I may have been one of the few trinket buyers at a piazza in Rome's Travastere district, across the Tiber. Never hurts to have a pair of royal blue glow-in-the dark Mickey Mouse ears.
As with the East L.A. vendors spreading their wares on corners, these sellers are not tethered to legal rules.
What's more disturbing for the workers' comp world, however, is the continuing problem of employer workers' comp fraud.
Within the last month we've seen the following:
-An Orange County couple, James and Dorothy Klinger, charged with fraud for failing to report $3 million in payroll to SCIF
-the arrest of Emmett T. Kennedy, owner of Los Angeles based
WWC Window Cleaning, on charges of underreporting payroll to save on workers' comp premiums
-a no contest plea by Grant Lemeur of West Sacramento, owner of an auto detailing business, Dream Car Solutions. Lemeur had been charged with forcing an employee to use private medical insurance for a work injury
-an arrest in the case of Melinda Furnas of Colton, Ca. Furnas is alleged to have attempted to dissuade a worker at Clinical Laboratory of San Bernardino from filing for workers comp
-an arrest of a Shasta County couple, Valery and Earl Thompson, for alleged premium fraud. The Thompsons, owners of Russell/Thompson Inc., are alleged to have failed to report $900,000 of payroll to SCIF.
So there you have it. From Orange County to Shasta County.
Examples of employer workers' comp fraud.
It's an issue that needs to be front and center when a new AD is appointed.
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 10:34 PM - Political developmentsGetting away for a while is a good tonic for keeping perspective on things.
I've just returned from Sardinia.
One of the first calls I took was from a workers' comp client who is freaked about his future.
Before his industrial injury, his occupation was very physical. Now, after his injury, physically demanding jobs are out. With little education, he faces a steep hill to climb.
We talked a bit. He's discouraged. It's difficult for him to see any hopeful economic future. His workers' comp settlement will not come close to
compensating his true economic losses.
In his California Central Valley county, unemployment is over 12%. He has no family safety net, and no savings. There is no retraining program available to him. His house mortgage is "under water". He has no health insurance any more.
Meanwhile, commodity costs are up. Food prices rise. Gas prices rise.
Medical costs-if he gets sick-rise.
His world is the world that concerns Wal-Mart executives. A world where Wal-Mart shoppers "have no money", leading to slower sales at the retail giant.
He's not paying attention to the debate over whether there will be a vote to increase the national debt ceiling. Or whether there will be Q3, so-called "quantitative easing", i.e. printing money.
He's not concerned about bond yield spreads, or whether Greece is forced by bondholders to abandon the Eurozone in favor of a return to the drachma, or how a strong or weak dollar might affect him personally.
He wouldn't know George Soros from Pimco.
But it turns out he's got a lot of company around the world. In Spain, unemployment is above 20%. The mayor of one Spanish town has suggested that the drug trade is an option for the unemployed youth of his region.
In Greece, the public is being warned that a further bailout by Euro authorities may include tax collection by non-Greek Eurozone designees
Like a swirling tornado, the negativity threatens to suck the energy right out of the building.
My client's economic future is bleak. Let's not sugarcoat it. There is no politically significant or credible approach being employed to remedy the situation.
It's a situation shared by many an unemployed injured worker around the world.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 10:38 PM - Political developmentsYou paid more in taxes last year than General Electric paid.
They paid nothing.
In 2010, on $5.1 billion profits form the U.S., G.E. paid nothing:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/busin ... 25tax.html
Even if that was somewhat skewed by big losses at G.E. Capital, the revelation that one of the nation's largest companies pays nothing (and whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt is Obama's new joblessness guru) has ignited a minor political firestorm.
Did you catch last week's 60 Minutes episode on the overseas flight of American companies to countries with lower tax rates?
That's a good place to start to understand the economic challenges we face.
Should Congress declare tax holidays with reduced tax rates to lure capital back here? And would jobs really come back?
The 60 MInutes piece features an interview with Cisco's John Chambers.
You've got to admire how forthright Chambers is. He doesn't sugar coat it.
Cisco has 40 billion parked overseas.