Category Archives: Economy

L.A. labor leaders seek minimum wage exemption for firms with union workers

do as i say

LA Times: Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

Hypocrite Hicks

Hypocrite Hicks

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Coalition representatives said the proposed exemption would ensure the city complies with federal laws which they say give collective bargaining agreements precedence over local ordinances. They also contend that it would keep L.A.’s ordinance consistent with previous city wage laws.

Some business leaders criticized the proposal, however, calling it ironic in light of union leaders’ past opposition to special considerations for some employers. “I’d refer everyone back to the statements of labor leaders over the past seven months that no one deserves a sub-minimum wage,” said Ruben Gonzalez, senior vice president for public policy and political affairs with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the minimum wage increase passed by the City Council.

Gonzalez said the change sought by labor officials could pressure companies into letting employees unionize as a way to seek relief from the mandated wage hike. “Once again, the soaring rhetoric of helping the working poor is just a cover for city government acting as a tool of organized labor,” he said.

The City Council voted last week to gradually increase the hourly minimum wage to $15 over the next five years. Since then, City Atty. Mike Feuer has prepared an ordinance that would put the increases into effect. The council’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled to review the language on Friday.

Last fall, the council approved an ordinance increasing the minimum wage at large hotels to $15.37 per hour. That law says that provisions of the hotel wage hike may be waived in workplaces that have collective bargaining agreements.

DCG

Rumor: U.S. Army colonel on Obama’s martial law plan

I was forwarded a disturbing email from a “Bud Parker, U.S. Army, retired,” who claims that his source — a U.S. Army colonel — says Obama is planning to impose martial law under the pretext of restoring law and order, after America had descended into chaos and disorder that, in part, had been engendered by racial strife fomented by Obama himself and allies like George Soros.

I can’t confirm the authenticity of Bud Parker or what he claims. But, given blogger and radio show host Dave Hodges’ recent post on a recently retired Lt. General who told him [Hodges] of a coming civil war as a result of major portions of the U.S. military refusing to participate in the subjugation of the American people by force, I decided to publish Bud Parker’s email.

In so doing, my intention is not to cause fear or panic. Rather, my abiding belief is that to be forewarned is to be fore-armed. If there’s even a chance that what Bud Parker says is true, the best way to puncture Obama’s martial law plan is to expose it to sunlight.

Note: I did an Internet search for “Bud Parker, retired U.S. Army” and found a James A. “Bud” Parker on LinkedIn, where he identifies himself as a Chevron offshore logistics coordinator and a retired U.S. Army first sergeant. He’s also the author of an article on BeforeIt’sNews.

Below is Bud Parker’s email of May 23, 2015.

martial law in BostonOn April 19, 2013, during a manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, police and federal agents spent the day storming people’s homes, without warrants, in Watertown, a suburb of Boston, MA. (See “Boston Bombing: Getting the sheeple used to the police state”)

Email by Bud Parker:

When I asked my colleague the Army Colonel why he thinks Obama is doing this, the reply I received from this life-long soldier and Army leader shocked me.

Paraphrasing him, this is what he told me in a nutshell.

He said, most branches of the service routinely engage in war “games” and come up with strategies and tactics on how to handle every type of military conflict and scenario that can be imagined.  One of the big new battle scenarios being actively discussed in the military recently is how to handle civil unrest in the U.S. and fighting in the streets.  What will the Army do if called in to fight armed civilians in the streets of the United States?  How will that urban warfare be conducted?  Will troops be able to fire upon other American citizens when the troops take an oath to protect American citizens?

He said many in the military are discussing the very real possibility that Obama will attempt to stay in office beyond two terms.  It is being speculated that Obama will do this by declaring a state of martial law.  The easiest way to declare martial law is when there is massive civil unrest and riots throughout the U.S.  Thus, it is believed that Obama, and his regime, will intentionally create a situation of massive civil unrest.  Some believe he has already started to implement that strategy by forcing Obamacare on everyone (when the populace did not ask for it and less than 300 people in power voted for it). Perhaps the Obama Administration is not too concerned over the totally dysfunctional Obamacare website and the additional fact that millions will be dropped from their existing insurance policies which they already had and liked.  The Obama Administration may not care if getting health care becomes more difficult and more expensive because it is all leading toward civil unrest.  It is believed by some that Obamacare will only get worse and worse, and then in 2 to 3 years when people have a very difficult time getting medical treatment for themselves or their loved ones, people will get enraged.

Moreover, it is being speculated that around the same time when the frustration levels over Obamacare are hitting a critical point in 2 to 3 years, there will be a “glitch” in the welfare payment (or EBT) payment system.  The tens of millions who rely on EBT handouts to sustain themselves will be cut off.  The overwhelming majority of the EBT recipients are Black.  The Obama regime will then blame the “glitch” on the Republicans, i.e., Republicans froze government spending which “forced” Obama to suspension of EBT payments. (Obama will intentionally drive spending up and up uncontrolled knowing full well that one day the Republicans will be backed into a corner and finally vote for a freeze in spending.) Obama will create heightened racial tension by telling everyone that the White Republicans are racially motivated and did this to hurt the Black community.  This manufactured racial tension, combined with growing tensions over the then-collapsing medical coverage due to Obamacare, will result in race wars and civil unrest.  People will take to the streets.

By the way, you should know that my colleague, the Army Colonel who is telling me all this, is Black.  He specifically commented, and outwardly expressed his embarrassment, about how Blacks have become so dependent and enslaved by the welfare system and the Democrats that it would be very easy to create civil unrest and race wars merely by cutting off, or dramatically hindering, EBT payments for only a month or so.  He believes that most Blacks, who have a misguided sense of entitlement, will then take to looting stores and rioting. Once the race wars, civil unrest, and violence becomes pervasive throughout the U.S., Obama will declare martial law and take over.  Elections can, and will, be postponed under martial law.

My colleague noted that this possibility is clearly being analyzed and discussed inside the military because such a martial law strategy is nothing new.  Tyrannical and dictatorial leaders in the past have done the martial law strategy many times.  He noted that dictators such as Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler did basically the identical thing.  He went on to say that one of the most recent examples of this strategy was when Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines from 1972-1981 due to civil unrest.  The Philippines had democratic elections up until that time.  When martial law was declared, the Philippine constitution was suspended, its Congress dissolved, all elections were suspended, and Marcos remained in power for years beyond his elected term. The alleged “terrorist bombings” that occurred in the Philippines, which lead to Marcos declaring martial law, have always been questioned and never proven to be the acts of actual terrorists.

He concluded by saying that many believe this is the real reason behind the purging of military generals.  The older members of the military, and especially its generals and leaders, tend to be more conservative and they believe in the Constitution—and following the Constitution.  Thus, a tyrant and dictator needs to get rid of these military leaders before a state of martial law is declared if the rising dictator wants the military to follow along and do what the dictator says.  Due to the loss of many experienced military leaders the past few years, the military is now being run and guided more and more by younger, inexperienced leaders. The type who won’t really know what to do if martial law was declared.  Moreover, he noted that there is a growing mindset throughout the military now that every soldier needs to keep quiet and just follow along with what Obama says and wants to do or you will be fired and your military career ruined.  Again, I was told this is nothing new since removing strong military leaders in advance of declaring martial law is a historically-proven element of a rising tyrant and dictator.

*Bud Parker*
US Army, *Retired

On Obama’s purge of the military, see:

See also:

~Éowyn

‘Staggering’ overtime pay found in L.A. Department of Transportation unit

mafia

LA Times: Workers in a division of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation collected unusually high amounts of overtime pay, costing the city $3.3 million in a single year and raising concerns some of the extra pay may have been claimed improperly, according to a new audit.

Galperin

Galperin

City Controller Ron Galperin released a report Tuesday showing workers in the department’s traffic paint and sign division billed an average of $48,100 in overtime in fiscal year 2013-14. That compared with $8,377 in other city departments, not including the police and fire departments, or other parts of the transportation department.

Four supervisors in the traffic paint and sign division received at least $70,000 in overtime during the year examined, and one traffic marking and sign superintendent effectively tripled his salary by claiming $155,319 in overtime, on top of his $78,000 annual salary, according to the audit.

“That’s staggering,” Galperin said in an interview.  The controller added that the high amount of overtime combined with a lack of proper controls within the department raised questions about whether employees were truly working during all the extra hours.

“One might reasonably conclude that at least some of the employees in the Traffic Paint and Sign section were committing payroll fraud,” the audit said. But at this time, the report said, there isn’t sufficient evidence to support a referral to criminal investigators or prosecutors.

Although overtime is often appropriate, Galperin said, department officials were unable to show that the overtime had been preapproved or detail the work done during the extra hours. “There is no evidence to show that the work was not done,” he said, “but then again, there is no evidence to show what was done.”

Reynolds

Reynolds

Appearing at a Tuesday morning news conference with Galperin, Seleta Reynolds, the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said she has accepted the controller’s findings and promised to reform her agency’s overtime policies. She said one supervisor has been removed and another assigned to a different city department. Reynolds declined to elaborate, stating that personnel matters are confidential under state law. Both workers, however, remain city employees, she added.

Reynolds outlined a plan that includes updating and clarifying procedures, better monitoring of overtime and seeking more staff and resources for the paint and sign division, including the hiring of private contractors.

During the period covered by the audit, Reynolds said some of the overtime in question could have resulted from increasing workloads. While Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in office, more than 100 miles of bike lanes and thousands of miles of resurfaced city streets needed to be striped. “With three crews and two trucks it was hard to keep up,” said Reynolds, adding that the City Council has approved at least 20 new employees for the paint and sign unit.

The audit noted that staffing levels in the division have decreased 20% since 2010 and new projects may have required more hours of work. But Galperin said he doesn’t think that justified a 263% increase in overtime in the division in the same period. 

The audit found that 30 of the division’s 67 employees claimed more than 1,000 hours of overtime in 2013-14, with seven of those claiming more than 2,000 in a year. Galperin said 2,000 hours of overtime in a year would equate to 38 hours of overtime every week.

imagesGC1PO394The audit also found overtime dropped an average of 44% among the largest recipients of the extra pay in the traffic paint and sign division after the audit began. Galperin said that suggested some employees may have been improperly collecting overtime and curtailed claims when auditors began scrutinizing the records. “It certainly raises a lot of very serious questions,” he said.

Among other things, the audit found the department’s overtime policies are outdated and inconsistent, relying on paper forms and unclear guidelines on who is authorized to preapprove overtime, the audit found. Galperin’s recommendations include updating department record-keeping procedures and creating an annual overtime usage plan. “This report puts everyone on notice,” Galperin said. “We are doing data-mining of payroll records of other city departments to identity problems.”

DCG

Greek hospitals run out of supplies, turn patients away due to budget cuts

Greece bankrupt

Ben Tufft for the UK’s Independent, May 23, 2015, that Greece’s insolvency and indebtedness that left millions unemployed and 2.5 million without medical insurance (out of a total population in 2o13 of 11.03 million), have also led to huge cuts to the healthcare budget.

The result is that Greek hospitals now find themselves unable to provide even basic provisions for operations and medical procedures because they have run out of supplies as simple and essential as painkillers, scissors and bed sheets.

Despite the new Syriza government’s reducing the €5 fee for attending state hospitals and pledging to hire 4,500 more health workers, healthcare spending has fallen by 25% since 2009, creating shortages of the most basic surgical equipment and leaving too little money to pay nurses’ salaries.

Reports have surfaced of patients being turned away from hospitals because there was no meter to measure their high blood pressure, while others have had to do without painkillers during medical procedures. One patient was even asked to bring their own sheets to hospital.

A trainee surgeon at KAT, a respected state hospital in Athens, said the situation was at “breaking point”: “There is no money to repair medical equipment, no money for ambulances to use for petrol, no money to hire nurses and no money to buy modern surgical supplies.

The news comes as the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, warned the country would run out of money in a matter of weeks. By June 5, Athens must repay the IMF €300m ($330.075 million), but should Eurozone creditors not agree to release a €7.2bn loan it is likely Greece will default. A further €820m ($902.205 million) is due just days later.

It is unclear what this would mean for Greece’s position in the euro club.

A report by Reuters just 3 hours ago says that Greece’s interior minister said today that the government cannot make debt repayments to the IMF next month unless it achieves a deal with creditors. This is the most explicit remarks yet from Athens about the likelihood of default if talks fail.

In 2013, Greece’s government or national debt is 175.1% of the country’s GDP.

~Éowyn

It pays to work for UK government: Number of NHS fat cats retiring on six-figure pensions soars 700% in just five years

mafia

Daily Mail: The number of health service fat cats retiring on millionaire pensions has soared 700 per cent in the past five years. Despite the worst NHS funding crisis in a generation, six-figure payouts were made to 143 executives last year, compared with just 18 in the year 2009/2010.

The number of employees given bumper pension pots of more than £75,000 ($118,023 US) also quadrupled in the same time frame. Meanwhile, the number of £50,000-plus retirement deals has more than doubled, despite a £30billion ($47,209,500,000 US) funding blackhole. The extraordinary packages, mainly being handed out to boardroom big hitters, would pay for nearly 23,000 frontline nurses.

The revelations, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, come after it emerged that NHS bosses were given pay rises worth £35million last year. Some executives earned more than £1million. Even at hospitals with the worst standards of care directors enjoyed pay packages worth up to £5,000 a day. The average chief executive in England now takes home £185,255 in salary alone, far higher than the Prime Minister’s £142,500 pay.

Taxpayers are also being shafted by a wave of NHS bosses who are exploiting a pension loophole to cash in their retirement pots early. Some are ‘retiring’ for just 24 hours to maximise their entitlement – before returning to their posts full-time on the same huge salary as before. The provision was originally put in place to help lower-paid nurses who should be allowed to continue working part-time, in case they struggle on just their pension. But it has now become a lucrative loophole exploited by highly-paid executives. Others are being paid through personal service companies – a common tax avoidance tactic.

After the information was published by the NHS Pension Scheme, Unite’s Barrie Brown said health visitors, paramedics and school nurses could only dream of such a high sum, with the average NHS pension is just £6,000 for men – and even less for women.

‘Our members are now expected to work longer, pay more and receive less pension with the new NHS pension scheme the Government implemented on April 1,’ he said. ‘Senior staff who receive these very high pensions can opt to retire early with reduced but very good pensions. The majority of staff who prop up the NHS wouldn’t have that option.’

Hospital campaigner Sam Zair, whose 89-year-old mother Bernice was failed by the NHS, last night hit out at the huge payments. Mrs. Zair, a dementia sufferer, had been admitted to hospital with a water infection but died of pneumonia after allegedly being left on a mattress on the hospital floor.

County Councillor Mr. Zair, of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: ‘It is an absolutely obscene amount of money being paid out to people at the top of the NHS. It just goes to show that the money going into the NHS is not going where it is needed most. I wonder whether patient care is secondary to these people.

Chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaigner Jonathan Isaby said the money could have paid for an army of nursing staff. ‘Pensions of this extraordinary size are a thing of the past in the private sector because they’re totally unaffordable,’ he said. ‘Taxpayers shouldn’t be picking up the tab for lucrative pensions at a time when we’re trying to reduce a £90 billion deficit. Every single penny of taxpayers’ money spent on the NHS needs to go into front-line services and patient care, not lining the pockets of retirees.Clearly the NHS needs to wake up and smell the coffee.’

Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation think-tank, said the new Tory Government needs to cap ‘unsustainable’ pensions. She said the increase in six-figure sums ‘dispels the myth that we are all in it together’. ‘The current public sector pension liability is almost £1.7 trillion in the red,’ she said. ‘Young private sector workers, overburdened by student debt, high rents and poor pay, may well start to question why they should have to shoulder the burden of these over-generous fat-cat pensions.’

Labour shadow health minister Jamie Reed said a probe is needed ‘to ensure fairness from bottom to top in the NHS’. A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘It is vital that every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent to achieve the best outcomes for patients. The Government has already made significant reforms to the NHS pension scheme to save £800m a year. This includes linking pensions to career average earnings, rather than final salary and a higher retirement age.

nhs

Now we know why NHS has been doing this (gotta pay for these fat-cat pensions some how):

DCG

Higher Education is so enlightening! U.C. professor has students pose naked for final exam

Attention: California taxpayers!

This is what your hard-earned tax dollars are subsidizing!

Ricardo Dominguez U.C. San Diego

Alexandra Samuels reports for USA Today, May 12, 2015, that Ricardo (Dick) Dominguez, associate professor at the University of California-San Diego who teaches a course called “Performing for Self,” is asking students to pose naked for a final exam as a “nude/naked gesture,” whatever that means. Reportedly, the gesture takes place in a dark room lit by candlelight.

Dominguez’s rationale for the assignment is that nudity has been a core part of performance art since the mid-20th century. He says, “The core canvas for many performance artists has been, and continues to be, the nude or naked body. If students are to learn about performance art as practitioners, this history of the medium is crucial for them to experience.” Blah, blah, blah.

After some current students in the course complained, Dominguez defended himself in an e-mailed statement that students were “aware from the start of the class that (the gestures are) a requirement” and that he has taught the class for 11 years without complaint. Dominguez says students who feel uncomfortable with the assignment or feel the gesture “will be too hard for them to do,” can drop the class since it’s not a degree requirement. He insists “I have always been willing to work with students to help them navigate the process, during my office hours and in the context of the class.”

Dominguez also cryptically offers that “Our advising team is also very willing to discuss the options for doing the performance without having to be actually nude or naked.”

Jordan Crandall

Jordan Crandall, chairman of the university’s visual art department, also defended Dominguez and described the class as an “extremely successful one” in the visual arts department.

In an email, Crandall said that while the gestures are necessary to complete the course, getting completely naked isn’t the only way to pass because students can do the gesture in a number of ways without having to remove their clothes because “One can ‘be’ nude while being covered” — whatever that means. Crandall adds, “the ambiguity around the question of ‘nudity’ and ‘nakedness’ is intentional. It is intended to be provocative, to raise issues. That is what performance art does.”

Shanise Mok

Shanise Mok, a former student who had taken Dominguez’s naked course in 2012, also leapt to his defense, insisting that the nude “gesture” allowed her to “challenge” herself “intellectually.”

Mok said, “It was clearly outlined in the first class (just like any other first day where professors go over the syllabus) that the final gesture would be a ‘naked’ one and what we could expect that day. We were not ‘forced’ to do anything. I was only…forced to think about how I can take my own art to another level. We all had the choice to drop or to find our own creative way to meet the nude or naked prompt as artists should. I personally feel strongly about making the human body an okay thing to talk about. We all have a body — nipples, butts and pubic hair in all their glory — and it doesn’t need to be sexualized by the news – which is why artists step in to desexualize it and turn the human body into something we can love and appreciate as an art form.”

Mok’s LinkedIn page says she presently is unemployed and that her most recent job was a 6-month stint as a “teen education & recreation specialist” at Redwood City Public Library, which ended in February 2015.

Call me a cynic, but I doubt Shanise Mok making national news saying she was “intellectually challenged” by stripping naked is going to help her find gainful employment.

While searching on the Internet for Dominguez’s naked class, I also came across this other piece of weird higher ed. news from October 2012.

A math professor at Michigan State University (MSU) stripped naked, ran naked through his classroom and down the hallway, screaming “There is no fucking God!” before police apprehended him.

Students said online that the professor, who was not charged with a crime and whose name was not released by the university, was “eccentric” and that they “could probably have seen this coming.”

A Redditor shared this (see below) grainy cell phone picture of the professor in the Engineering Building’s hallway as authorities restrained him. (Source: Huffington Post)

naked Michigan State Univeristy math professor

According to a chat-thread on Reddit, the professor is John D. McCarthy, Professor of Mathematics at MSU.

~Éowyn

VA official: McDonald silent after warning of billions misspent

Bob McDonald

Bob McDonald

Stars and Stripes: The head of procurement at the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday that Secretary Bob McDonald never contacted him after a warning in March that the agency is misspending billions of dollars each year.

Jan Frye

Jan Frye

Jan Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, detailed to House lawmakers how he blew the whistle on the agency’s questionable credit card purchases and how VA officials testifying along with him planned in advance to hide the wrongdoing.

The VA was hit with its newest scandal just before the hearing Thursday when a March letter written by Frye to McDonald was made public. It unveiled that at least $5 billion and as much as $10 billion each year in employee credit card purchases were made without contracts and in violate of federal procurement rules.

“I have not had any response from the secretary’s office,” Frye testified to a Veterans Affairs subcommittee. He said an assistant to McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson confirmed both had received the letter.

Frye also told members of a House Armed Services subcommittee that VA leadership, including its chief financial officer and its chief procurement officer for the department’s health care system, were testifying Thursday in hopes of obscuring the purchase practices.

“We hope you won’t ask us any questions that will force us to tell you about the important pieces we’ve premeditatedly left out,” he testified. “If you happen to ask us about what we’ve failed to tell you, we hope we can answer your questions in such a way as to quickly extinguish potential follow-on questions. In short, obfuscation is our game.”

About 23,000 VA employees have credit cards designed to streamline smaller purchases, but the cards were also used to buy health care and medical devices such as prosthetics without required contracts, which opens the agency up to overpayments, defective products and fraud, according to Frye.

Frye said he wrote to McDonald in March after years of pressing the agency to clean up purchases. The secretary was confirmed by Congress last summer to revive the VA from its biggest scandal — the manipulation of patient wait times at veterans hospitals across the country — and has often spoke publicly about the value of whistleblowers.

Edward Murray, acting VA assistant secretary for management and the interim CFO, testified to the House subcommittee that he had never seen Frye’s letter to McDonald before Thursday. “I just found out about this letter this morning,” he testified. Some of Frye’s claims had recently been discussed by a working group within the VA, Murray said.

He agreed that the VA needs to do more and said that McDonald is also working to change the culture in the agency, which is one of the federal government’s largest bureaucracies. “I believe I am working with him, and me and my staff are working our very utmost to make the staff more accountable and transparent,” Murray said.

He said the agency has made “tremendous strides” in fixing its long-troubled purchase card program, including a list of improvements after a scathing audit by the VA inspector general last year that found 15,600 potentially unauthorized card purchases worth $85.6 million.

The testimony raised the ire of some lawmakers. “I guess I’m dumbfounded,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “You’re here to speak for the VA … and you’ve never seen the allegations” in Frye’s letter.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House subcommittee, said the VA attempted to block Frye from testifying in “yet another attempt to avoid responding in a fully open and candid manner” but relented at the last moment.

Coffman said the agency wanted to only send Murray, who has been in his position for about two months and does not have a full grasp of the long-term purchase card problems.

The VA purchase card program has been troubled by a lack of oversight since the 1990s, according to various audits, but the claims by Frye would be a massive increase in misuse over the past five years, a period when agency purchases more than doubled.

“I hope VA is embarrassed and ashamed about the way they treat people who try to bring problems forward,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the full Veterans Affairs Committee. “I am tired of hearing the same thing over and over and over again. Nothing is changing regardless of what leadership is telling this committee.”

Embarrassed and ashamed?

Embarrassed and ashamed?

DCG