Franchises, from fast-food restaurants to plumbing chains, are getting a lot of attention from lawmakers in California right now. A bill that would make it harder for parent companies to sever agreements with their franchisees passed in the state Assembly last week. It is headed to the state Senate next, where it is also expected to pass.
Keith Miller, who owns three Subway sandwich shops in northern California, supports the bill. He bristles at the power his parent company has over his business under current California law, which allows a franchisor to terminate a contract if franchisees stray from even the tiniest details.
“Fingerprints on the window — that’s in the operations manual that you must have windows and a front door that are clean and fingerprint free,” Miller says.
The bill moving through the California legislature right now, SB 610, would allow contracts to be severed only for “substantial and material breaches."
Miller, who is chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, says he hopes the bill will give franchisees like him a little more power in the franchisee-franchisor relationship.
That hope is shared by one of the nation's big labor unions, the Service Employees International Union, which has been paying for radio ads and digital media campaigns supporting the bill. As Christopher Calhoun, spokesman for SEIU California, told the Huffington Post: "Increasingly we are seeing franchisees and workers facing a similar challenge. Fundamental power imbalance enables multinational corporations to haul down billions at the expense of both workers and franchise owners."
But the bill could do damage to corporate brands and the franchisees who profit from those brands, argues Matt Haller with the International Franchise Association, an industry group that represents both corporate franchisors and franchisees.
“If franchisors can't maintain that brand integrity across their system,” Haller says, “then that's really going to be detrimental to the overall growth of franchising.”
20 years ago this past Saturday, IBM's Simon Personal Communicator went on sale. It had a screen, calendar, and could send email, making it by some measures the world's first smartphone. The phone was not exceptionally well received when it was released. BBC Tech Reporter Claire Brennan joined us to explain exactly what it was.
“It looked and felt very different from the modern iPhones and Androids we are used to,” Brennan said.
It got its name from the game Simon says, a marketing attempt to emphasize the apparent usefulness of the device.
The phone was rather large and heavy, weighing half a kilogram, and was priced at the extreme high end of the market, costing $899 at launch.
The model, which was only sold in the US, was not commercially successful, a victim of its size, expense, and a lack of the digital infrastructure taken for granted today, such as wi-fi hotspots and cellular data.
The $2 billion deal to sell the Los Angeles Clippers is a record price for a basketball team. It also makes for a happy story because the sale of the Clippers means there are a lot of winners:
“Well, certainly, Donald and Rochelle Sterling,” the team’s original owners who bought the Clippers decades ago for $12 million dollars, says Andy Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. He says the team and the NBA are also winners.
“Because having a retrograde embarrassing owner who won’t spend money on the team is not good for the whole league either,” he says.
Kevin Zanni, a manager with Willamette Management Associates, a valuation firm, notes that even the NBA commissioner comes out looking good.
“Because he gets rid of Sterling without having to force him out through the legal means to do it,” he says.
Finally, there’s the team’s new owner, Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer, another winner, says Smith's Andy Zimbalist: “If Mr. Ballmer didn’t have $20 billion of net worth, I would say that this is an awful purchase for him.“
But he does. He doesn’t have to worry about getting a return on this investment. #Win.
When the man with the trumpet finished his rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” he lowered his head and raised his arms in a gesture that everyone here -- and across the country -- now realizes means: “don’t shoot.” The posture matched that of others in the crowd of demonstrators that gather daily in a parking lot across from the Ferguson, Missouri Police Station.Noel King/Lindsay Thomas
Despite the rain, about a hundred of them turned out for a prayer vigil on Saturday, eyes closed, heads lowered, arms raised.
The demonstrations in this part of historic downtown Ferguson have been peaceful. Traffic flows normally, punctuated by occasional bursts of sound from the car horns of passing drivers honking to show support. The weekend farmers’ market is open, and bustling.
The city has made efforts to attract new businesses to this part of town, and the efforts seem to be paying off. South Florissant Street boasts a new wine bar, a bike shop, and a handful of new restaurants. On the outdoor patio of the Ferguson Brewing Company, diners chatter over their meals.
This economic revival, however, doesn't define Ferguson. Like a lot of cities across the U.S., it also has neighborhoods presently experiencing little or no financial investment. Here, those areas have been characterized by different types of protests.Noel King/Lindsay Thomas
Less than two miles away, not far from where Michael Brown was killed, there are more demonstrations taking place outside of a QuikTrip convenience store that was gutted by fire when looting erupted.
Traffic is thick, business owners are boarding up their windows, and those in attendance seem to want something other than prayer: they want to be heard.
23-year-old Jamieko Rich, a friend of Michael Brown’s, is clutching a pack of skinny cigars, the item the Ferguson Police Department said Brown stole from a convenience store, making him a robbery suspect. The timing of that announcement and the deep well of mistrust between people here and the authorities, has made many suspicious.Noel King/Lindsay Thomas
“His life was worth more than this,” Rich said. “He still didn’t deserve to get shot. It don’t matter if he stole a million of these [cigarillos]. His life wasn’t worth it.”
The unrest has disrupted life in this part of Ferguson. Protesters and police have clashed in the evenings, sometimes violently. Residents charge the authorities with disproportionate use of force. This weekend, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered a night-time curfew to be put in place, and many businesses closed early.Noel King/Lindsay Thomas
Rich, who works three jobs, says he’s lost shifts at the nearby McDonald’s since the unrest started.
“The day before yesterday, the police stormed in there while I was on the clock and told everybody we had a minute to get the [expletive] out of there,” Rich said. “The manager told everybody, ‘clock out.'”
He's lost money, but what's more, the situation has reinforced his belief that the police here don’t value the lives of young, Black men like him.
“They value dogs way more than they value us,” Rich said. “We’re a level beneath the dogs to them. I really believe that.”
He wants better from the police, not just because he’s a part of this community, but because their salaries are funded by taxpayer dollars.
And, he says, “I’m a taxpayer, right?”
In the wake of President Nixon's resignation, Gerald Ford assumed the presidency inheriting a nation divided over Watergate and distracted from pressing domestic and international events.