Category Archives: Economy

NLRB expands standards for ‘joint employers’

No doubt this will be heading to a court challenge.

Obama and his union buddy Trumka

Obama and his union buddy Trumka

Seattle Times: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made it easier Thursday for unions to negotiate on behalf of workers at fast-food chains and other companies relying on contractors and franchisees.

The ruling could have an impact on future union talks involving contractors at companies in the Puget Sound region. Many of the Seattle area’s major employers, including Microsoft, Amazon.com, Boeing and Starbucks, use contract workers.

With its ruling in a case involving Browning-Ferris Industries and employees at one of its subcontractors, the labor board redefined what it means to be a “joint employer.”

The new standard is significant because corporations could be held liable for labor-law violations by their subcontractors and could be forced to the bargaining table by unions seeking to organize the employees of a subcontractor or franchisee.

The ruling, adopted in a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, was immediately attacked by business groups, which called on the Republican-controlled Congress to overturn it.

Employers such as McDonald’s and Yum Brands are also likely to challenge the decision if unions manage to organize a group of employees at one or more of their franchises.

The labor board, which is charged with protecting workers’ rights to organize, changed the definition of a crucial employer-employee relationship that had held in some form since the Reagan era of the 1980s.

Now, a company that hires a contractor to staff its facilities may be considered a joint employer of the workers at that facility, even if it does not actively supervise them.

A union representing those workers would be legally entitled to bargain with the parent company, not just the contractor, under federal labor law.

In Microsoft’s case, one of the company’s contractors, Lionbridge Technologies, last year was the subject of a successful union drive by workers seeking paid time off.

“It has pretty huge implications,” said Danielle Franco-Malone, a labor lawyer with Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt in Seattle. Her firm this year represented the union of Lionbridge employees, the Temporary Workers of America, in collective-bargaining talks with Lionbridge.

“The new framework is going to dramatically expand who is going to be considered an employer,” Franco-Malone said. “It’s going to make it harder for companies to use temporary staffing agencies and other intermediaries that insulate themselves from being an employer for labor-relations purposes.”

hopeandchange4

Marshall Babson, a lawyer who helped write a brief opposing the rule for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said: “The decision today could be one of the more significant by the NLRB in the last 35 years. Depending on how the board applies its new ‘indirect test,’ it will likely ensnare an ever-widening circle of employers and bargaining relationships.”

For example, if employees at a fast-food restaurant run by a franchisee were to unionize, they would immediately be entitled to negotiate not just with the owner of the individual restaurant but also with the corporate headquarters.

Many large companies maintain that they should not be required to bargain with employees of their contractors or franchisees and that they should not be held liable for violations of those workers’ rights, if they only exert control over the employees’ work conditions in indirect ways, such as laying out circumstances in which workers should be disciplined or fired.

The labor board explicitly rejected that logic Thursday. “It is not the goal of joint-employer law to guarantee the freedom of employers to insulate themselves from their legal responsibility to workers, while maintaining control of the workplace,” the Democratic-majority wrote, addressing the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act. “Such an approach has no basis in the act or in federal labor policy.”

The far-reaching implications of the decision stem from a 2013 election petition by the Teamsters union, which sought to represent workers at a Browning-Ferris recycling facility in Milpitas, Calif. The workers were employed by Leadpoint Business Services, a subcontractor, to sort recyclable items and clean the facility.

The petition triggered the question of whether Browning-Ferris and Leadpoint were joint employers. An NLRB regional director found that they were not joint employers because they did not share direct and immediate control over conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing and disciplining workers.

The union appealed the decision, which led to the board decision Thursday. The ruling means that ballots cast in a union election will now be unsealed and counted.

Experts say the case will eventually be appealed and could reach the Supreme Court.

Business representatives said the labor board was making it much harder to operate franchises in the future, undermining a popular path for many entrepreneurs.

Before the ruling Thursday, the prevailing doctrine typically required the parent company to exert “direct and immediate” control over working conditions of employees at its franchisees or contractors to be considered a joint employer.

Under the new test, a company can be considered a joint employer even if it has only indirect control over working conditions, say, by requiring the use of certain scheduling software that locks in the timing and length of workers’ shifts — or if it has the right to control certain conditions even if it doesn’t exercise that right.

DCG

Blue Cross of New Mexico pulls out of state exchange

obamacare

KRQE: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico announced on Wednesday it “will not offer individual on-exchange health insurance products on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange in 2016.”

Officials say the rates of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico did not cover the claim costs in 2014 and 2015 according to Albuquerque Business First.

“BCBSNM is extremely disappointed that we will not be an option for our customers on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange in 2016. We have been serving New Mexicans for 75 years and we hope to provide more options to individuals in the future,” said Kurt Shipley, president of BCBSNM. “While we are committed to helping communities expand access to health insurance, we cannot offer products in a sustainable and predictable manner without adequate rates. We will continue to offer an HMO product off-exchange in 2016, which will be available to all consumers.”

Earlier this month, the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance denied requests for a rate increase that would have helped cover the costs.

Authorities with BCBSNM said that policies for individuals will still remain in effect through the end of 2015. Also, non-individual policies may not be affected by the changes.

According to Albuquerque Business First, about 35,000 people are enrolled in the individual plans.

As reported via Twitchy:

The letter said Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico lost $19.2 million in 2015 on the 35,000 individuals covered by plans they purchased on and off the exchange. “We were unable to reach an agreement with the Office of Superintendent of Insurance … that would allow us to continue to offer coverage on the state’s health insurance exchange with rates that would be adequate to cover the anticipated needs of our members for the coming year,” Shipley wrote.”

DCG

Report: Solyndra misrepresented facts to get loan guarantee

And in typical government fashion, no one is held accountable. We spent $500 MILLION for a “cautionary tale”.

solyndra

AP: A four-year investigation has concluded that officials of the solar company Solyndra misrepresented facts and omitted key information in their efforts to get a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government taxpayers.

Solyndra was the first company to get federal loan guarantees under a program that was created in 2005 and expanded by President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package.

The company’s failure soon after receiving the loan guarantee likely will cost taxpayers more than $500 million. Republicans and other critics cite it as an example of wasteful spending under the stimulus program.

The report by the Energy Department’s inspector general was released Wednesday. It’s designed to provide federal officials with lessons learned as it proceeds to grant billions of dollars in additional loan guarantees. The inspector general found fault with the department, describing its due diligence work as “less than fully effective.” The report also said department employees felt tremendous pressure to process loan guarantee applications.

In the end, however, the inspector general said the actions of the Solyndra officials “were at the heart of this matter.”

“In our view, the investigative record suggests that the actions of certain Solyndra officials were, at best, reckless and irresponsible or, at worst, an orchestrated effort to knowingly and intentionally deceive and mislead the department,” the IG’s report said.

The federal loan guarantee program for energy projects was established under President George W. Bush’s administration. After it was expanded by the 2009 stimulus law, the department disbursed more than $500 million to Solyndra. Obama personally visited the plant in 2010 to cite it as an example of economic progress stemming from the Democratic-led stimulus bill.

solyndra 2

But in September 2011, the company laid off 1,100 employees, ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy protection.

The IG’s report did not identify by name any particular Solyndra leader who gave misleading information.

Miles Ehrlich, counsel for the company’s former CEO, Chris Gronet, disputed the findings. “Solyndra executives were completely truthful and accurate in their representations during this loan process, and the DOE was never misled about Solyndra’s business or prospects,” Ehrlich said in a statement provided by his law office.

Ehrlich said the real cause of Solyndra’s failure had nothing to do with fraud, but was caused by the unexpected dumping of solar panels subsidized by China’s government.

The report notes that federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the interviewing of witnesses and the examination of hundreds of thousands of documents. In early 2015, the Justice Department informed the inspector general’s office that it would not pursue criminal prosecution of any Solyndra officials.

The inspector general’s report said the department relied on third-party evaluations for part of its analysis of Solyndra. In one case, an engineering firm, R.W. Beck Inc., issued a report on the solar panel market relying on company representations that it had $1.4 billion in revenue under contract through 2012. The report said Solyndra’s “firm” sales contracts supported its financial model. But by the time Beck issued its final report, all four of Solyndra’s customers had been offered price concessions.

“Solyndra’s failure to directly disclose these significant material changes in its contractual relationships distorted the view the department and its consultants had of the market for Solyndra’s products,” the inspector general said.

Solyndra was also required to hire an outside firm, Fitch Ratings Inc., to prepare a credit assessment of the project, located in Fremont, Calif. A Fitch official told investigators that he asked Solyndra if any contract customers had received price concessions and was told no. Additionally, the company’s largest customer had informed the company it would not buy more panels in 2009 because Solyndra’s price was too high. A Fitch official told investigators that if it had been aware of price concessions it would have assigned Solyndra a lower credit rating.

The report was less detailed about the Energy Department’s shortcomings in conducting due diligence. It said the department needed to consider using “new and more intrusive validation techniques.” It also said consultants the department hires must be held accountable for their work.

Solyndra’s failure was the subject of numerous congressional hearings and a report from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The August 2012 report concluded that Solyndra was a cautionary tale on how political pressures and other factors can result in poor decision-making.

“The red flags about Solyndra’s financial condition and the turbulence in the solar market were there for DOE to see when it reviewed Solyndra’s application in 2009. DOE staff and (Office of Management and Budget) staff noted these concerns at the time the loan guarantee was under consideration,” the congressional report concluded.

DCG

De Blasio aide blames Bloomberg for growing number of homeless New Yorkers

Shocker, neither commie wants to man up to this mess.

deblasio and bloomberg

NY Daily News: It’s not his fault. The de Blasio administration, which has been under fire for the growing number of homeless New Yorkers, is pushing back and blaming former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

One of Mayor de Blasio’s top aides took to Twitter Tuesday to point out the city’s shelter population exploded under Bloomberg. “Who was mayor during time when NYC homeless numbered 25,000 in 2002 and jumped to 53,000 by 2013. Not @BilldeBlasio,” press secretary Karen Hinton tweeted.

Her comment came hours after MSNBC host Joe Scarborough ripped de Blasio on air for 10 minutes, saying his “misguided liberalism” is contributing to the homelessness crisis.

lauren bacall

“There are a lot of liberal New Yorkers that are sick and tired of this happening with de Blasio,” Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida who lives in New Canaan, Conn., ranted. “He can run a social experiment somewhere else, he can go to Philadelphia if he wants to run it.”

“Talk from pundits is cheap,” Hinton said. She said in the “face of past deep cuts to successful programs,” de Blasio has offered more support services and more care for the mentally ill homeless and increased affordable housing.

The number of people living in city shelters is close to 57,000, down from a historic high of 59,068 in February — which was a 10% jump from the number of people who lived in shelters when de Blasio took office in January 2014.

Numbers spiked after the city eliminated the Advantage Program, which gave rent subsidies up to $1,000 a month to select homeless families, following state budget cuts in 2011.

Bloomberg said on the radio that year that the program might have encouraged people to become homeless. “One theory is that some people have been coming into the homeless system, the shelter system, in order to qualify for a program that helps you move out of the homeless system,” he said.

Mary Brosnahan, of Coalition for the Homeless, said Bloomberg’s policies have contributed greatly to the uptick in homelessness in recent years. “He never really believed housing was the solution,” she said. “It was always, ‘Get a job.’ ”

A spokesman for Bloomberg declined comment.

On Monday, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani told NBC New York that he recently filed a complaint about a homeless man on his block. He said as mayor his policy was to “chase ’em, and they either get the treatment that they need or you chase ‘em out of the city,” he said.

His comments angered Brosnahan. “Asking Giuliani for advice on homelessness is like asking Bill Cosby to pour your wife a drink,” she said.

DCG

California panel rejects Planned Parenthood audit

If there’s no wrongdoing, why be afraid of an audit?

planned parenthood body parts

Sacramento Bee: California legislators on Tuesday rejected a proposed audit of Planned Parenthood in the wake of a videos spotlighting the organization’s role in providing fetal tissue for medical research.

The proposed audit would have examined whether Planned Parenthood, which is reimbursed by California for serving hundreds of thousands of low-income patients on Medi-Cal, has illegally sold fetal tissue to testing and research organizations. Just two lawmakers on the 14-member Joint Legislative Audit Committee, both Republicans, voted for it.

Melissa Melendez

Melissa Melendez

“I am not here to ask you to defund Planned Parenthood. I am here to ask you to investigate how the funds that flow from the state’s coffers to Planned Parenthood are spent,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who proposed the audit. “What I don’t understand is why someone would oppose looking into the allegations that have been made and assuring the public.”

Planned Parenthood officials argue that they violate no laws in sending some fetal tissue to researchers, a process that compels them to obtain consent from their patients and receive only enough money to cover the cost of the program. An attorney for the organization said California affiliates drew less than $100,000 in 2014 to cover fetal tissue donations, or less than one-tenth of one percent of their total operating budget.

“We have done everything that we are required to do to comply with state and federal laws and we will always do that,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California president and CEO Kathy Kneer testified, calling a federal storm over Planned Parenthood funding “designed to serve a political agenda” to stymie research and block healthcare access.

Women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood enjoy broad political support in Democrat-dominated Sacramento, and Democrats on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee questioned the need for an audit that Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, described as an extension of a “witch hunt.” “I’m having difficulty identifying a specific violation of federal or state law that we’re going to launch the auditor to ferret out,” said Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside.

Republicans who spoke in favor of an audit said Planned Parenthood would benefit from having its name cleared. “I think it hurts the organization more by having all these questions and angst out there than it does to provide transparency to the public,” said Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, the incoming Senate Republican Leader.

See also:

DCG

Denver may ban Chick-Fil-A due to owner’s stance on traditional marriage

Because Chick-fil-A is being sued every day for discriminatory practices, not.

No hate here...

No hate here…

Huff Po: Chick-fil-A is having some issues getting approval for a new location in Denver, and it’s all because of the restaurant chain’s anti-gay past owner’s personal religious belief.

City council members have halted the approval of a Chick-fil-A location at Denver International Airport as they debate whether or not the franchise should get a seven-year deal, according to the Denver Post. Chick-fil-A was “the second-most sought-after quick service brand at the airport, second to Chipotle,” according to a 2013 survey of airport goers.

But council members voiced concerns over president Dan Cathy’s views on gay marriage. When asked in 2012 whether he believed in the “Biblical definition of a family unit,” president Dan Cathy replied “guilty as charged.”

“All of us become more wise as time goes by. We sincerely care about all people,” Cathy told USA Today last year, after his words ignited a social media firestorm. “I’m going to leave it to politicians and others to discuss social issues.”

Four Denver council members said they want assurances Chick-fil-A’s hiring practices won’t discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, TV station WTHR noted. Openly gay councilwoman Robin Kniech is concerned that the franchise will be generating “corporate profits used to fund and fuel discrimination.”

Robin Kniech

Robin Kniech

“This discussion — the way it’s unfolding here — hasn’t quite happened before in terms of a contract decision that you all have been asked to make, in all my years here,” David Broadwell, assistant city attorney, said in a council meeting last Tuesday, the Denver Post reported.

The council’s Business Development Committee will consider Chick-fil-A’s proposal again when it meets on Sept. 1.

freedom of speech

h/t Right Scoop

DCG

Thousands protest Planned Parenthood across America

Yesterday, untold numbers of Americans turned out in front of some 320 Planned Parenthood (PP) clinics across the Untied [sic] States to protest against:

Peter Holley reports for The Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2015:

Thousands of antiabortion activists descended upon Planned Parenthood clinics on Saturday to participate in a nationwide protest aimed at cutting off federal funding for the controversial health-care organization.

The demonstrations unfolded at about 320 clinics around the nation, according to organizers, with some gatherings drawing a few dozen protesters and others drawing hundreds and perhaps thousands more.

The protests kicked off at 9 a.m. Saturday and included speakers, prayer groups and chants, as well as signs distributed by organizers that said “Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.”

Though the official number of protesters was not immediately available, organizers billed the effort as the largest-ever rally against the health-care provider. Monica Miller, the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, one of the participating groups, told USA Today that previous protests have drawn thousands of protesters, but hundreds of simultaneous protests have never taken place on the same day.

“We want to draw attention to the injustice of legalized abortion,” she said. “The American public needs to be awakened to the atrocity of what is happening to innocent unborn children.”

Here are some of the protests, from tweets sent by participants:

Protest PP Aurora ILProtest PP Falls Church VAProtest PP Lincoln NebraskaProtest PP Plano TXProtest PP SE HoustonProtest PP St Paul MNProtest PP Toledo OHProtestPP Columbus OH

Abortion in America disproportionately impacts blacks. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black women make up 12.3% of the female population in America, but accounted for more than one-third or 36.4% of all U.S. abortions in 2006.

But I don’t see black Americans in these photos, do you?

#BlackLivesMustNotMatter. (See also “Wife of AG Eric Holder co-owns an abortion clinic building“)

Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood VP

Eric Ferrero, vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement: “These rallies are meant to intimidate and harass our patients, who rely on our nonprofit health centers for basic, preventive health care. The people behind these protests have a clear political agenda: They want to ban abortion, and block women and men from accessing basic reproductive health care.”

Damn right you are, Eric Ferrero.

We also want to strip you of your 6-figures taxpayer-paid PP salary.

~Éowyn