Payback Time for Pampered Government Workers with Fat Contracts?

Us taxpayers (bad Inglish intended) may get the last laugh, or as Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.” This time around, the Great Depression II is indeed looking a lot like farce (see D.C., Washington; bailout, Paulsen and Gaithner; Detroit, UAW and Big Three; everywhere, public employee unions).

Unionized government workers have always felt, “They can’t touch me,” and laughed at the rest of us mere mortals who, in times of recession, would get laid off instead of enjoying six weeks’ vacation and a 5-percent pay raise.

Cities, counties and states are now watching with bated checkbooks as legal drama unfolds in the courthouse and City Hall of Vallejo, Calif., which ran out of money and filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy. One big problem for the city: What to do with bloated and impossible-to-pay public employee contracts?

Chapter 9 is used so rarely that no one knew for sure if it allowed government entities to void employee contracts. Union lawyers argued that their contracts were protected under California labor laws, but Judge Michael S. McManus curtly informed them that state law is trumped by federal law in bankruptcy proceedings. He gave the city the power to tear up the contracts.

The unions and the city are now negotiating, but what really matters is what the rest of the nation is doing, or going to do, in light of governments’ newfound power to evade and rewrite employee contracts.

The “gotcha” smirk now moves from the unions to the cities and states.


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.
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Your Tax Dollars at Work: NIH Proves Pineal Gland Houses the Soul

Rene Descartes is not only turning over in his grave; he’s no doubt dancing about and shouting with glee.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have now determined that the pea-sized pineal gland located deep in the brain is indeed the “Seat of the Soul,” as the French philosopher Descartes proclaimed.

Of course, Descartes also said, “I think, therefore I am,” and thus created the comma splice.

I guess that NIH scientists are too shy to admit that they’ve discovered the soul in each of us, but they are pretty gaga over what they did discover–more than 600 genes working in complete synchronicity to control various human functions such as one’s immune system, the birth and death of one’s cells, the production of one’s cholesterol, one’s patterns of sleeping and waking (which they already knew), and more.

To get technical:

The pineal gland is controlled by a brain structure known as the suprachiasmic nucleus, located at the base of the brain, Dr. [David] Klein [chief of the study] said. The suprachiasmatic nucleus is known as The Mind’s Clock, because it coordinates body rhythms in response to changes in lighting that are detected by the eyes. The suprachiasmatic nucleus is connected to the pineal gland by nerve cells.

I’ll stick with Descartes’s “Seat of the Soul” because “I think therefore I am,” or something like that.


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.
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Happy Outcome for Workers at Republic Windows and Doors

Most everyone is familiar with the saga of the workers at Republic Windows and Doors, who at holiday time in late 2008 were laid off with little notice. However, they refused to leave the premises and staged a sit-down until owner Richard Gillman, backed by a loan from Bank of America, paid them all monies owed from vacation and WARN Act 60 days’ pay (WARN basically requires a company to give 60 days’ advanced warning of mass layoffs or plant closings).

Even with their victory, the workers faced a bleak economy, with scant prospects of getting hired to do what they knew how to do. In stepped a White Knight, however.

This past month California-based Serious Materials bought the Chicago factory and is in the process of reopening it. The new owners have reached an agreement with UE Local 1110 to rehire all former Republic workers at their former rate of pay and allow the union to continue representing them.

Serious will be manufacturing super-insulated windows that are approved under the federal Energy Star program for their efficiency.

Now, this is one happy tale is this world of bad economic news. Christmas came late for these workers. It must feel nice.


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.
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AIG Bonus Babies Viewed from ‘Bottom of the Food Chain’

Yesterday, we learned that the IRS can conceivably tax even those who returned their bonuses to AIG using the tax law principle of constructive receipt.

Today, there comes to light an e-mail sent this past Friday to AIG employees from someone with the screenname of “Bottom of AIG’s Food Chain.” It generally portrays/betrays the angst felt by AIG employees who had to take pay cuts while execs walked away with millions in bonuses (read it by clicking on the title in quotes).

I’m left wondering if this person is still an employee of AIG’s since it appears that s/he was brazen enough to a) include his/her e-mail address and b) send the angst-driven missive to everyone at AIG.

POSTSCRIPT: After posting this in the morning, I sent off a quick e-mail to the author to ask if s/he wrote it while working at AIG and whether s/he has since been laid off. The answer: “I was, I am on my way to be laid off with about 400 others as we speak. I appreciate you linking our letter to your blog. We waited too late to say something.”


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.
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Recession, European-Style: More Paid Time Off

I‘m beginning to think this recession, depression, or whatever it is, is going to make Eurosocialists out of all of us, even me who was bred on free market capitalism (and often victimized by it too).

There’s a great discussion forum on the New York Times online blog that highlights the differences in approaches across the pond. The Germans seem to really have it made, social safety net-wise, while the French just seem to enjoy the joie of being lazy.

Problem is, we could adopt the Eurosocialist approach of paying people not to work, or to work less, and gut our (and the world’s only) global police force, and we could all be realxing at home right now with the government’s covering our lost wages.

But then how could we as bosses and employers get rid of the riff-raff and n’er-do-wells when recessions provide us the golden opportunity? Such a quandary: Would I rather say permanent goodbye to a jerk or two (or more) or spend some more time with my wife and dogs?

There is a genius to the harsh, cruel world of American capitalism, I must confess.

(If you visit the NYT page, tell me–doesn’t that guy at the top look like your typical ugly American, though the photo is credited to Agence France Presse?)


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.
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Ouch, Now That Hurts: Returned Bonuses May Be Taxable!

A tax law doctrine known as “constructive receipt” could put those AIG employees who returned their bonuses in jeopardy of having to pay taxes on them anyway.

Goes like this: Constructive receipt prevents people from gaming the system, say by performing work in late 2008 and asking to be paid in 2009 to reduce tax liability by shifting it forward. This is a no-no, but obviously it’s pretty easy to get away with if you’re billing others for goods or services and not being paid wages.

Now, this would/could apply to the AIGers if they returned the bonuses with the understanding that they’d re-recieve them when times are better.

The ball is now in the IRS’s court. Let’s see if the Obama/Geithner IRS is a vindictive one.


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.
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None Dare Call These ‘The Friendly Skies’

Spirit Airlines will fly you for as little as $9 each way, provided you don’t mind paying extra for choosing your own seat ($9-$20), checking in a piece of baggage ($100 for the third one), or drinking water while in the air (priceless).

And if you work for Spirit at its Miramar, Fla., low-rent headquarters, you’ll be expected to clean your own space, empty your own trash, and vacuum around you. Even CEO Ben Baldanza keeps his own Oreck at work to clean his office floor (at least he has an office, eh?). He brought the Oreck from home and replaced it with a Dyson.

Spirit has attitude too. Consider this now-infamous TV commercial: A younger man is lying in bed with an older woman (pictured) talking to his friend on the phone.

He: “Dude, there’s no way your mom is cheating on your dad.”

She: “That wasn’t Jay, was it?”

He: “Yeah, that was your son. Don’t worry, he’s not going to find out.”

Voiceover: “You think that’s low? Spirit Airlines fares are even lower.”

Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly (after viewing the ad): “Maybe we are living in Sodom and Gomorrah, and I just haven’t seen the sign change.”

More infamous perhaps even than this TV spot was an e-mail that Baldanza wrote about a customer’s complaint that leaked to the blogosphere:

“We owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned,” Baldanza wrote in his response about a customer’s complaining about a flight cancellation. “Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

So if you want to travel cheap and let the airline assign your seat, and you can forego baggage, food and water–and endure verbal abuse for your complaints–Spirit is all for you.


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.
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Not Quite the Pet Rock, But ‘Layoff the Game’ Fits the Times

layoff_gameSomeone had to do it, so now we have an online game entitled Layoff to amuse ourselves with as we await our next unemployment insurance debit card refill (while applying online for nonexistent jobs).

Not only do you get to lay people off (except for the bankers), but you can merge with other banks and even obtain a federal bailout. How soooo 2008-2009!

I wonder if there’s a cage for Hank Paulsen and Tim Geithner, the executioners of Lehman Brothers, which started all this panic.


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.
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No Money, No Problem: Health Care Reform Still on Fast Track

Things in the nation’s capital get curiouser and curiouser everyday for those who pay attention to what’s being said and done (and who aren’t the ones actually doing the doings and saying the sayings and those who are supposed to report on them in the Fourth Estate).

First, Senator Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.), chairman of the Budget Committee, shreds Barack Obama’s budget by half (the discretionary part at least, so don’t get your hopes too high for a balanced budget any decade soon) and leaves no money in it for health care reform. He does, however, leave some wiggle room in something called “deficit-neutral” reserve funds.

Now, I assume “deficit-neutral” means something like “don’t add to the already-ginormous budget deficit,” but it’s probably just another way of saying one thing and allowing another to occur. Thus “don’t increase the deficit” becomes “don’t talk about increasing the deficit even as you do.”

At least, that’s the conclusion I drew from Senator Max Baucus, D.-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, when he immediately observes: “I’m very happy that healthcare reform does not have to be paid for in the first five years. We could not do meaningful healthcare reform [otherwise].”

In other words, we’ll do what we please and the press (Fourth Estate) will interpret away all the red ink for public consumption.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just print money in our basements?


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.
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Sacre Bleu! Managers Held Hostage in France?

Let’s hope American labor leaders don’t read international news reports.

Turns out that a new habit is taking hold in France in labor relations. To wit: When employees hear bad news, they hold their manager hostage until s/he changes the bad news. Police refuse to intervene for fear of violence.

A manager of a French sbusidiary of 3M is, as I write, being held hostage after he announced a layoff of 110 workers. Employees say they won’t let him out until he makes amends. Just what amends aren’t clear–whether they want no or fewer layoffs, better severance packages or what–but Luc Rousselet is barricaded in his office until he pulls out his magic wand and makes things right.

Rousselet told reporters (presumably by phone, but that’s not clear in the story either) that he “knew there was this risk when I came here.”

There’s some recent precedent for the union and workers at the 3M factory in Pithiviers, near Orleans in the South of France. Earlier this month, employees at Sony, also in the south of France, held both the chief executive and human resources director overnight until they agreed to better pay packages for workers being let go.

Who needs the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) when a good ol’ lynch mob will do?


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.
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