A ‘Dead Pool’ for Companies About to Go Under

You’ve no doubt heard of, or even participated in, the so-called online “dead pools,” where odds are placed on which celebrity will be the next to meet the Grim Reaper.

That’s a bit too morbid for me, but when it comes to business, I don’t mind participating in some death watches since it’s instructive to see how others can screw up a good thing.

I’ve been of the opinion for some time now that not only will it go, but Chrysler should go to cut down the glut in Detroit. Mind you, that’s 50,000 or more layoffs, but capitalism is either creative destruction or it becomes socialism, where government picks the winners and losers. And let’s hope our current president doesn’t become this nation’s Hugo Chavez.

Back to Chrysler: I came across a Yahoo Finance article about “15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009,” and sure enough, there was Chrysler’s name right near the top.

Others on this dead pool include Krispy Kreme donuts and Rite Aid pharmacies, both of which I watched expand much too rapidly for their markets beginning back in the 1990s. (I don’t think Starbucks will bite the bullet, and it’s not on the list, but that coffee purveyor also got way too ambitious in its expansion plans.)

The name Trump, as in Donald, also appears on the list, but it’s just one of the The Donald’s holdings, specifically his casinos. It’s “deja vu all over again” here as his Atlantic City holdings were near bankruptcy and forcibly restructured during the last great recession in the early 1990s.

So, if you work for one of these 15 (or anywhere else where things are shaky), polish up your resumes and be prepared for an “interesting” 2009, as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

The Skyscraper Index: Believe It If You Choose

A theory from 1999 is resurfacing as the world plunges deeper into its current economic woes: The theory that the building of skyscrapers predates economic doom. This tidy bit of logic was conceived by Andrew Lawrence, at one time a researcher for Deutsche Bank.

Here are the “facts”:

The Chrysler Building in 1929 and the Empire State Building in 1930 gave way to the Great Depression. The Sears Tower and World Trade Center of the 1970s yielded a decade of stagflation. For the Asian crash of 1997, the Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, proved the culprit.

More currently, last year’s construction of ten (ten!) sky-highers at an average height of more than 1,000 feet took the world’s economy down as they went up. Finally, this year the Burj Dubai skyscraper, at 800 meters, or more than 2,500 feet, will become the world’s tallest building by a factor approaching two, but will it lead to the world’s greatest depression?

Stay tuned, and we’ll all find out, like it or not.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Do Rats Have Free Speech Rights? This Court Says Yes!

ratsThe New Jersey Supreme Court, which earlier this year ruled that striking nurses qualify for unemployment benefits, yesterday came out in favor of free speech rights–for rats!

Actually, for one rat–an inflatable, 10-foot-high rat bandied about by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Lawrence Township in 2005. The rat was being used outside a Dunkin’ Donuts to protest low wages being paid by an out-of-state contractor when, lo and behold, local authorities swooped in and fined the union for breaking a law against using banners or inflatables at events other than grand openings.

The union paid $100 in fines and $33 in court costs.

Flush with money, however, the union struck back in favor of its rat, and the issue went to the state’s highest court on Thursday, Feb. 5. At issue was the rat’s protection under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

The Supreme Court, overturning an appeals court decision, ruled that the township couldn’t have it both ways–banning inflatables at most events while allowing them just at grand openings.

Local officials vowed to do “some tweaking” of the law “immediately.”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Labor Begins Big EFCA Drive, Descends on Capital

The AFL-CIO descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), bearing a petition with a claimed 1.5-million signatures. The laborite love fest came a few days after Vice-President Joe Biden said “welcome back to the White House” to his union cronies and pledged support for the EFCA.

However, though loudly dismissed by the AFL-CIO as bogus (anything that doesn’t compute in the world of liberals and labor is immediately labeled a “lie,” so nothing new here), recent polls seem to show the country is a) not too union friendly and b) not much in favor of the EFCA.

The one poll I found most interesting was released by the Center for Union Facts showing that 20 percent of those polled were either in unions or had family members who were, while 79 percent were not. So far, so normal. Then, on the second question–“Would you like your job to be unionized?”–82 percent said no, and only 13 percent said yes. Unless the people indicating they already belonged to a union (or a family member did) were excluded from this question, this means that perhaps some 35 percent of those belonging to unions wanted out.

However, the Center for Union Facts is a front organization for businesses opposed to unionization, and it’s run by a man so hated by the left that he is called Dr. Evil. The man is Rick Berman, who relishes his title, but even his own son has come out and denounced him. David Berman, a songwriter who just disbanded his Silver Jews group, called father Rick a “despicable man” and a “human molestor” on a blog last week.

So, we have to ask ourselves if all this hatred for Rick Berman is because he’s a) telling the truth, b) succeeding in stopping unionization, or c) lying and fabricating a union smear campaign. (Or all of the above?)

If we can question Berman’s poll result, how about another one from a group called the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace?

The unions say this is another front organization for businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that is spreading misinformation and dirty, rotten lies to stop the EFCA. Applying the Berman standards here, does this mean that the Coalition should be trusted because the unions spend so much time bashing it, or that we should ignore everything it does?

Anyway, the Coalition surveyed Obama voters from the 2008 election and found that 73 percent of Obama supporters are opposed to the EPCA and that 81 percent of them believe in secret ballot elections for unionization.

Things are heating up in D.C. even though Punxsutawney Phil just proclaimed six more weeks of winter.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Does Starbucks CEO Now Punch the Time Clock?

After voluntarily surrendering his nearly $10-million yearly salary because of poor company performance, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is now earning less than one-percent of that, or $10,000 annually. Unfortunately, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), that means that Schultzie is no longer an exempt employee and must start punching the time clock.

Let’s look at what the FLSA says about exempt and non-exempt employees. First, the difference: Exempt employees are generally paid a salary and are not subject to overtime rules; non-exempt employees are paid hourly with overtime coming after 40 hours each week (though some states, like California, start the overtime clock ticking after eight hours each day).

However, just being paid a salary does not automatically make someone exempt. There are also “white-collar duties tests,” and here Schultz would qualify as an executive.

Now, and here comes the crucial part, to be exempt an employee must pass an earnings test by being paid $455 a week minimum. Let’s see, $10,000 divided by 52 weeks comes out to about $192.30 each paycheck.

Busted! Get that man a time clock.

To stay current with all these laws and regulations, I rely on Personnel Concepts. This particular information came from PC’s handy HR Desk Reference.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Whole Lotta Health Care Day Dreamin’ Goin’ On

As I noted in a previous posting, our current health care delivery system logs in as a $7,000-per-person-per-year behemoth. And I mean per all 300 million of us. (Do the math: $2.1 trillion divided by 300 mil.)

That’s why I get a good laugh everytime I read the results of a new survey. The one I came across today from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University is full of comments by everyday Janes and Joes who pine for “affordable health care.”

Now, while I sympathize with these people’s plights (I struggle too in the health care battles) and agree with the concept of affordable health care, anybody who thinks we can add 50 million to the rolls of the insured while reducing the cost of health care is seriously delusional.

The only way to do that–and this is the dirty secret and dirty word that no politician in D.C. will ever admit to or utter–is to ration health care. You know, get on a waiting list a year in advance for your next physical, or even flu shot. Then, if you’re lucky, your number may be called.

There’s another way, but it will lead to the same result as the pool of doctors shrinks up: Socialize everything and put doctors on a salary.

The biggest problem with health care as it exists in the U.S. is the payment system. Doctors perform a procedure and get paid for it from a list of payable procedures, so they try to maximize their income by performing as many procedures as possible–whether necessary or not. You’ve been through this with car mechanics no doubt: You take your car in for brakes, and suddenly five other problems are found.

So, the reality is that there really isn’t a health care system in the U.S. There is a sick care system. Very few people go to the doctor until a problem develops, so doctors have become car mechanics for the body. Which makes them very wealthy since the vast majority of Americans abuse their bodies through their diets and life-styles and are constantly in and out of doctors’ offices for maintenance of high blood pressure, diabetes, digestive problems and so on.

Now, if someone can find a middle ground between rationing and socializing, please step forward. The nearest middle ground I can think of, and it has its own set of flaws, is the Kaiser concept, in which everything you need (barring major surgery) is housed in one building and everyone is on a salary.

However, what are the odds that the D.C. brainiacs will do anything except expand Medicare and Medicaid until they squish the private insurance companies out of business? Since these two federal programs are the masters at pay-per-procedure, that leaves us stranded with the rationing option.

If Las Vegas offered odds on which direction so-called health-care reform will take over the long haul, I’d wager everything on the Medicare-Medicaid bureaucratic trump card. Can’t go wrong betting on business as usual in the nation’s capital.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

FMLA Marks 16th Anniversary Today

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) marks its 16th anniversary today (Feb. 5, 2009) in a beefed-up version that now allows family of service members to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their relatives in the military. Of course, provisions for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for oneself or one’s family, or for the birth or adoption of a child, are still on the books.

Some 7 million of the FMLA-eligible 77.1 million workers took leave in 2005, the latest year for which statistics have been released.

As I was reading up on FMLA today, one other statistic stuck out, courtesy of a group called AAUW, to wit:

A 2008 study by the Institute for Health and Social Policy found that only five of the 173 countries surveyed did not guarantee at least some form of paid maternity leave to its workers. These countries are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, and our very own USA. Illustrious company, to say the least.

August company to say the very least when you figure that 98 of these countries offer at least 14 weeks of paid leave.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Hard to Keep These $93K-a-Year Guv Employees Happy

Gotta pity poor Randall Hinton, who says he’s running out of music to listen to on his $93,803-a-year guv job, where he otherwise has nothing to do from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Oh, but he does also idle away his away counting cars passing by on the New York Thruway as he gazes out the window and listens to music.

The guy basically can’t be fired either, so why’s he complaining and demanding new responsibilities at the State Insurance Fund in Albany?

Hinton said he’s treated as a second-class employee with fewer resources than even the lowliest Insurance Fund worker. “I have no Internet access, no printer, no laptop, no car. Every day it’s a struggle for me to bring in something I haven’t read or listened to. I can tell you how many white cars pass on the Thruway . . . I can’t take it anymore.”

How did Hinton get into this mess (or nirvana, depending on one’s perspective)? He had the gall to sue former Governor George Pataki for discrimination on the job. In a settlement, he was transferred into his current position, but his supervisors were ordered not to give him anything to do.

Now, he’s suing again, claiming more discrimination and workplace retaliation and demanding some work to do.

Hang in there, Randall. You’re been on the state dole, er, payroll for 27 years already, and as I calculate it, in three more years, you can retire on 90 percent of your pay, or $84,422.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Gotta Love OSHA Courses That Include Beer Breaks

An undercover reporter for New York’s Daily News recently paid $125 to attend an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 10-hour training class.

The class was over in 2 hours, 17 minutes. Held above a Bronx bar, the course enabled several of the attendees to slip away on breaktime to sip beers downstairs.

Nice gig if you can get it. I suppose all the attendees were awarded OSHA course completion certificates at the conclusion.

(Mind you, these courses are not run by OSHA, but by OSHA-certified trainers.)

When pressed, OSHA said it was looking into the matter. Will that include sampling the available beers at the site? Gotta make sure that the bar has its proper OSHA notifications posted.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top

Obama Plays the Executive Order Cat-and-Mouse Game

Nothing new here, as both Democrats and Republicans do it. When Dubya came to office, he reversed Clintonian mandates, and now Barack Obama has taken a few swipes at George W. and his executive orders.

First, under the Rahm Emanuel rule, all government agencies have been forced to place on hold any directives that hadn’t taken hold by Jan. 20, inauguration day of the new administration.

This has affected important labor issues such as the E-Verify system and the change in documentation for employment verification. You can read about these in the News Alerts section of Personnel Concepts.

This past Friday, Obama wielded his pen to crack the union code, or rather the Bushian anti-union code, by reversing some Bush decrees.

One reversal told federal contractors they could not (as in DON’T) post notifications of workers’ rights to withhold the portion of their union dues that go to political activity. A second mandated that federal contractors could not use federal payments to support or oppose unionization efforts (the thrust here is obvious since no employer would bother to pay for pro-union activities). The third ukase forces successor government contractors to offer jobs first (only?) to workers employed by the predecessor contractor.

All three edicts reverse Bush, who reversed Clinton, who was either original in these or reversed the elder Bush. Either way, you get the idea–and we all get to pay for their caprice when things backfire or produce unintended consequences.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
GoTo top Top