Marketplace - American Public Media

Subscribe to Marketplace - American Public Media feed
Updated: 37 min 38 sec ago

Ballerina Misty Copeland counts herself lucky

Thu, 2016-06-30 11:20

Update: Misty Copeland was promoted Tuesday, June 30 to principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. She's the first-ever African-American woman to hold that title.

 

Age starting dance: 13

Height: 5 feet 2 inches

Bust: "Bigger than most"

At least, that's how ballerina Misty Copeland describes her numbers-defying career in dance. A soloist with the American Ballet Theater in New York, Copeland recently explained how she doesn't really fit into the traditional model for ballet, but still made it work.

“All of those numbers, they just don’t add up to create a classical dancer,” she says. "No matter what, I'm going to be who I am."

Listen to the full conversation from our live show in New York City in the audio player above.

Tesla is disrupting more than just the car business

Sat, 2016-02-06 16:01

Tesla Motors is building the world's biggest battery factory just outside of Reno, Nevada. The company is calling it the “gigafactory,” and when it’s up and running in 2016 it’s expected to make Tesla’s electric cars much more affordable. 

“In a single factory we're doubling the worldwide capacity to manufacture lithium-ion batteries,” says J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer. 

That's significant enough. But the company also plans to develop batteries for use with solar-power generation – giving Tesla a shot at challenging public utilities as an energy source, Straubel says.

“At the price points that we're expecting to achieve with the gigafactory ... we see a market that is well in excess of the production capability of the factory,” says Straubel.

The market for batteries is an offshoot of the booming business for solar panels, particularly in states such as California, where solar is becoming commonplace.

“We sign up approximately one new customer every minute of the workday," says Will Craven, director of public affairs at California-based SolarCity.

Much of the excess energy harnessed by solar panels is returned to the power grid, Cravens says. This means homeowners and businesses may earn a credit from their power companies, but have no say over when and how that energy is used.

The partnership with SolarCity will use rooftop solar panels fitted with Tesla’s battery packs to allow customers to keep that energy in-house. That means they can use it however, and whenever, they want. The concept puts Tesla in direct competition with utility companies.

“Stationary storage, or backup storage, is really being considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of renewable electricity generation,” says Ben Kallo, an analyst with the Robert W. Baird financial services firm.

Kallo points out that the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources makes them less reliable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.  But with the ability to store that energy, renewable energy sources can compete head-to-head with utility companies for customers.

“There are still many utilities out there who kind of have their head stuck in the sand and just hope that this goes away. What we're seeing is really building momentum,” Kallo says.

Forward-minded utilities might look at Tesla’s business model as an opportunity, he says.  Energy-storage technology could be used to build capacity in their existing grids, and also build new infrastructure for battery-powered cars and homes.

 

The skies feel very friendly for airlines

4 hours 40 min ago

As an airline representative gives the boarding announcement for passengers who purchased tickets for seats with additional room, Alice Friedman stays seated in the gate area.

She opted not to purchase any of the extras the airlines offered on this flight, since it’s just a quick hop from New York to Massachusetts. But she has paid for additional space on longer flights to Europe, for example.

Like many travelers, Friedman has heard about the airline industry’s improving bottom line, which can make their push to upsell passengers feel a bit uncomfortable.

“It’s not exactly unfair," she says. "But it does create all sorts of problems, I think, for the ordinary traveler; the casual traveler; the people with kids.”

2015 is looking like a good year for the industry, says Jean Medina, a spokeswoman with the trade group Airlines for America. Industry profits are up about 5 percent for the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year. “Largely, that was driven this year by a drop in fuel prices,” says Medina, noting airline revenues were up only slightly.

How much of those savings should be passed along to consumers?

Decreases in ticket prices tend to follow drops in the cost of oil, though they typically lag a quarter, says Helane Becker, a managing director for Cowen and Company who covers the airlines. In July, the average fare passengers paid per mile of travel fell 3.5 percent year over year. “It may feel to some people that they’re paying more, but when you look at the absolute numbers, they’re not,” says Becker.

While those fares don’t include things consumers now have to pay for separately, Becker believes it makes sense to ask people to pay for the things they want. “You know, you can stay in Ritz Carlton or you can stay in a Motel 6,” she says, indicating passengers have a choice in the level of service and amenities they choose.

She says airlines are companies, not public utilities. But consumer advocates disagree.

“The fact is, it’s in many ways a utility that’s treated as a free enterprise,” says Bill McGee, a consultant with Consumer Reports. McGee says the airlines are vital to the American economy and people’s lives. However, because of consolidation in the industry, airlines have less competition and people have fewer choices.

He thinks airlines should be passing more of their fuel savings onto consumers. “There has been a slight decrease [in fare prices], but it’s in no way correlated with the savings they’ve seen in fuel,” he says.

Plus, McGee says with the fees and extras, it can be hard for consumers to figure out what their final fare will be, which makes it hard to price shop. 

They're a hot investment, but are ETFs safe?

5 hours 17 min ago

More Americans are investing in their futures using exchange traded funds, or ETFs. They’re exploding in popularity as investors large and small sign up, seeking tax advantages and flexible trading that mutual funds lack. The industry now has $2.1 trillion in assets, on track to hit $5 trillion in 2020, according to research and consulting firm ETFGI.

As these rivers of money flood in, regulators and market pros worry about how much the pipes can handle. This came to a head during last Monday’s market turmoil, when pricing went haywire for a number of ETFs and mutual funds.

“ETFs are growing really, really fast and perhaps the technological infrastructure is not growing as fast,” says Seddik Meziani, a finance professor at Montclair State University, who also consults and writes about ETFs.

The ETF industry stands behind its products, preferring to view last week’s issues as more of larger market problem, rather than something specific to ETFs.

Like any investment choice, ETFs have pros and cons, risks and rewards. Flexible trading cuts both ways. It’s easier to make a smart trade, but also to stumble into a stupid one. ETFs are relatively new and trendy, but age-old investment advice still applies.

“Innovation is good, but it is important that you understand the nuances of a product before you go and buy it,” says Deborah Fuhr, managing partner of industry tracker ETFGI.

Mark Garrison: ETFs are soaring because they’re tax efficient, and unlike mutual funds, can be traded throughout the day. U.S. ETFs have $2.1 trillion in assets, on track to hit $5 trillion in 2020. As rivers of money flood in, regulators and market pros worry about how much the pipes can handle. Seddik Meziani is an ETF consultant.

Seddik Meziani: ETFs are growing really, really fast and perhaps the technological infrastructure is not growing as fast.

The ETF industry stands behind its products and sees last week’s issues as more of larger market problem. Like any investment choice, ETFs have pros and cons, risks and rewards. Flexible trading cuts both ways. It’s easier to make a smart trade, but also a stupid one. Deborah Fuhr is managing partner of industry tracker ETFGI.

Deborah Fuhr: Innovation is good, but it is important that you understand the nuances of a product before you go and buy it.

Even when something’s trendy, you still have to do your homework. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Obama visits a state that lives climate change: Alaska

5 hours 17 min ago

President Barack Obama is in Alaska this week to talk about climate change. Some environmentalists say it’s a bit hypocritical, because just two weeks ago the government gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. Some Alaskans, too, are concerned about the President’s message.

Just like last year, tens of thousands of walruses are coming ashore in Alaska. They’re reacting to disappearing ice because of climate change, hauling out on a beach, instead of on ice, to rest. Jesse Morris, a scientist with the University of Utah, says people in the Arctic aren't just talking about climate change, they live it.

"It’s challenging for us to wrap our minds around these low frequency changes that have been happening in the high latitudes for a long time,” he says.

So, it sounds like it’s time to develop a plan. President Obama is using the word "strategy." Dr. Stephen Langdon, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, says he doesn't know what that means.

“If that word means anything, it’s going to have to address numerous different kinds of topics,” he says.

Topics like an expanding Northwest Passage, which leads to sovereignty questions: who controls the waters of an Arctic Ocean that was, forever, not really an ocean? Not to mention the ongoing debate about drilling for oil both in Alaska and offshore in the Arctic.

Movie trailers become events of their own

5 hours 17 min ago

The official theatrical trailer for the next "Star Wars" movie, "The Force Awakens" isn't even out yet. But already the official "teaser" trailers have been viewed more than 75 million times online. And they've grabbed enough headlines to keep an army of Stormtroopers distracted for hours.

via GIPHY

The trailers have been teased or shown on Instagram and other social media, and every dribble of new Star Wars footage has been given the level of attention movie studios once reserved for movies themselves. Trailers no longer just promote movies, they are events in and of themselves, often with big budgets. 

Ellene Miles is a publicity strategist in Los Angeles. By "eventizing" a trailer, she says, the studio is "creating a frenzy. It is creating a deep, deep anticipation." 

Miles says there are a lot of ways to create buzz around the release of a movie trailer. Some studios offer exclusive "premieres" to media outlets like late night talk shows or popular websites. For instance, the red band trailer (as in R-rated) made its debut earlier this month on "Conan".

"Trailers have become the main event," says Miles. "Or pretty much the undercard to the main event."

In the first six months of the year, movie fans watched 35 million hours of movie trailers on You Tube, according to its parent company, Google. And that was just on their smart phones. 

Trailers have become enough of a draw that they often attract ads for other movies. So, you'll have to sit through one trailer before you can see the trailer you came to watch.

And the trailer genre has expanded dramatically. "Instead of just one theatrical trailer, you are getting the green band for everyone, the red band, R-rated trailer," says Frederick Greene, who researches movie trailers and movie marketing. "You have teasers, you have featurettes, you have a whole ecology of movie marketing materials.

Thanks to the web, there are also many more outlets for trailers, and opportunities to tailor them to different audiences. 

"Jurassic World," for example, had multiple full-length trailers, and at least two dozen different TV spots.

All this attention to trailers is fueling a boom in the industry. Greene says back in the 1980s, there were four major trailer houses. Today, there are closer to a hundred.

Chris Walter heads one of those companies, A Big Trailer. It has produced trailers for "The Hurt Locker," "Neighbors," "Despicable Me 2" and others. "You would think through the amount of trailers being created, the quality would go down," he says. "But they are actually getting better."

With trailers becoming their own events, movie studios have a lot to lose if they don't get it right. And a lot to gain if they do.

"Studios will triple vend, quadruple vend, meaning they will send a film to four of five different trailer houses," says Walter, adding that studios have been known to spend as much as a $1 million on one attempt. "Then, they will have a bake-off to see who does the best one."

But for all the new obsession, the goal of trailers is still the same. To get people to see the movie.

At Instagram, it's no longer hip to be square

Fri, 2015-08-28 13:00

Until now, if you wanted to advertise on Instagram, you were kind of boxed in.

"You needed to receive prior approval from Instagram and have rather lofty budgets in order to be appearing on their platform," says Nate Carter, managing director with eEffective, an ad agency trading desk.

This fall, Instagram is planning to open its app to all advertisers. And that’s one reason the company is changing its format beyond the traditional square box. It wants to be more flexible, in part, so advertisers can repurpose the ads they use on TV.

Already, one of every five pictures and videos posted on Istagram is not square. There are a number of apps designed to get around Instagram’s format.

“People have been trying to game the system already,” says Wally Krantz, an executive creative director at the branding firm Landor.

Legend has it that Instagram uses the square because Kevin Systrom, the company’s founder, used a Holga camera in college that took square photos.

“Traditionally, if you think of Rolleiflex cameras and Hasselblads,” Krantz says, the images were square.

Some are already regretting Instagram's move away from the classic format. Bret Hansen, a creative director with global branding firm siegel+gale, says fiddling with that look could be risky. “By changing it up, they’re kind of diluting their brand image a little bit.”

Still, says Carter, if Instagram manages to bring in more advertisers by dropping its box, it stands to make billions. It's pretty simple, he says,  “it’s no longer hip to be square.”

Weekly Wrap: The stock market, oil and Janet Yellen

Fri, 2015-08-28 13:00

Joining us to talk about the week's business and economic news are Nela Richardson from Redfin and the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. The big topics this week: stock market fluctuations, possible peril in China's economy, a 20-percent jump in oil prices and what is Janet Yellen thinking? 

Refugee smuggling is a big, bad business

Fri, 2015-08-28 13:00

Europe's refugee and migrant crisis appears to be getting worse by the day. In Austria, a truck found full of decomposed bodies is now believed to have held 71 people, including 12 women and children. The police say they were likely refugees from Syria. And an estimated 150 people drowned off the coast of Libya when a boat enroute to Italy sank.

Most of these people would not have even started their journey were it not for the fact that so many people want to get into the people-smuggling business. These shadowy entrepreneurs  create and maintain the routes to Europe's borders and beyond. They are rarely masterminds controlling an entire route. Rather, they mostly make up a network middlemen who charge refugees a toll along the way. The costs add up quickly. Which means that in many cases, only people of a certain means can even afford the attempted trip.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, refugees who survive a harrowing boat ride from Turkey have reason to celebrate.

“We tried two times to come here,” one unnamed refugee says. “The first time they let us come back to Turkey and the second one we succeed.”

She’s still got a long way to go – through Greece, and then on to Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. And at each point, she may have to strike a deal with a different smuggler. Often the middleman trick refugees, by offering teaser rates and then racking up the bill.  

“They start little and then on the way they make you pay more and more,” UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch says from the Hungarian border. “If you don’t pay here, you don’t pay there, then you are going to end up like this and like that.”

Often the price of transport varies, depending on the traveler. In Libya, across the Mediterranean from Italy, boat smugglers charge Syrians the most, upwards of a thousand dollars.

“The Libyans consider Syrians the most affluent of all the migrants,” says Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. “They will be charging top dollar to put them on a boat to Italy, all the way down to, say, a West African from Mali or Togo might be charged 400 Euros.”

 That’s about 450 dollars. But before you board a life-threatening fishing boat ride, you have to get yourself to a North African port. For many, that requires a trip across the Sahara Desert. Patrick Kingsley, migration reporter at the Guardian newspaper says that's when refugees or migrants are particularly vulnerable.

“The way that they pay is by being kidnapped and essentially held for ransom,” Kingsley says. “It’s very common for the smugglers to put a phone to their lips while they are being tortured. And they are forced to call their families, who then have to wire money to the smugglers. It might be one thousand dollars, it might be much more. It just depends on how much they think your family is worth."

Kingsley says a migrant taking an African route to Europe may encounter five stages of smuggler payments.  And the migrant may pay multiple times at every one of those stages. To drivers, militiamen, boat owners and border guards.

I spoke with Kingsley for more than half an hour about the business of smuggling refugees. It was a fascinating conversation. You can hear the entire interview below:

How fear plays a role in our finances

Fri, 2015-08-28 12:53

What was your reaction when you first saw the stock market drop earlier this week? Something like this?

Despite all the advice about playing the long game when it comes to the stock market, the first reaction a lot of us have when we see all that red is fear. David Zald is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, and it's his job to figure out what fear is and why it makes us do what we do.

"Areas in the brain such as the amygdala and hypothalamus start firing away, and they create multiple things going on at once. A major part of it also is what's going on physically. You know that tension in the stomach? Our eyes will basically go wide so we can take in any information that we need, adrenaline starts pumping. And there is what we refer to as a fight or flight response. But even in situations where there's nothing to run away from, we're still geared up to act in those situations."

 

But how we react to that fear depends on the person. Some seek fear — and can even get addicted to it

"There are very different thresholds for triggering these responses," he says. Where as some people will respond to even very minor provocations with a full-out, 'It's a disaster, it's a catastrophe!" sort of response, there are many others where you have to push it to a really high level before they start to respond to emotionally."

China's growing, but not fast enough for some

Fri, 2015-08-28 12:03

Though China is about 6,500 miles away from the U.S., uncertainty in the Chinese economy can create big changes in ours. This past week, big drops in the Shanghai Composite stock index created a mini-panic in our own economy.

Clayton Dube, director of USC's US-China Institute, says China's reach goes beyond the United States, too: 

"What has been going on for about five, six, maybe seven years, is that China has been responsible for the bulk of the economic growth worldwide. And that's because the economic engine of China has been humming along, when for part of that time, the American economy was sputtering in the great financial crisis. So, China has been driving the world economy. About a year and a half ago, the Chinese economy began to slow. Despite that slowing, Chinese investors have poured into the stock market, driving valuations really quite high. About two months ago, they began to pull out. Over the last 10 weeks or so, the market has dropped by 42 percent."

 

Click play above to learn more about China's economy and future.

 

One photographer, 35 years of campaign history

Fri, 2015-08-28 11:48

Jim Cole has photographed every New Hampshire primary since 1980. He's snapped photos of everyone from George H.W. Bush sticking his head out of an airplane to the Lobsterman who ran for president in 2000. He's back at it this time around for the Associated Press.

On how to get a good shot:

I’ve done so many primaries now that I try to concentrate on what they’re doing instead of what they look like.... I try as hard as I can not to touch another photographer when I’m taking a picture … I try and foresee what possibly can happen and where my best chance is of getting something that’s different and unusual.

On shooting newbie delegates:

The ones that are going through it the first time, at least this time around, they’re the ones that in my opinion are doing it right. They’re doing the hands on. They’re doing the small venues, the coffee shops and these town halls. The so-called veteran campaigns have everything all set up in stage where the candidate comes into the room, grabs the microphone, gives their 20-minute, 30-minutes speech and then says, "I’ll take questions, take questions," and then they go out the same door, say goodbye.

On knowing when he has a good picture:

If there’s something that happens and I press the button, I do feel good about what I have. I was taking pictures of Marco Rubio in Littleton, and when he was done talking, he went to speak with this woman who was in a wheelchair. There was a really nice moment of her holding with both of her hands, holding both of his hands and the two looking at each other right in the eye. And it made for a nice shot, and I got it, and I knew I had it.

Jack Lew is a fan of both Hamilton and "Hamilton."

Fri, 2015-08-28 11:13
115

That's the number of preschool students now enrolled in McMillan's First Steps, a New Orleans academy that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Owner Linda McMillan says the campus was under 7 1/2 feet of water, but with the school system in disarray, she saw a chance to expand through fifth grade. She did just that after taking advantage of 10,000 Small Businesses, a Goldman Sachs program that partners with local colleges to give small business owners. "I got to know who I was. What kind of business owner I was," McMillan says.

6

It's the number of years the market has been in a bull run, and a reason for the volatile week. Prices have gone steadily up, so the market would be more volatile even without this week's swings, experts told Marketplace reporter Gigi Douban. With the new economic reality, we're likely hear a lot more of the V word.

August 6, 2015

Because it's Friday: That's the date "Hamilton" — the smash hit musical based on life of first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton — opened on Broadway. Current Secretary Jack Lew attended a performance this week and told New York Magazine he loved it. He also chatted about Hamilton's legacy and place on the $10 bill, in light of Lew's own announcement that the bill would be redesigned to feature a woman.

$9

And... also because it's Friday. That's what you'll pay for your very own Kai Ryssdal. That is, the sandwich named for our host at new LA eatery Wax Paper Co. Eater notes that the Kai comes on a sesame seed roll with "pole-caught tuna, potato confit, celery, lettuce, and black olive aioli." Yum.

Do you care how much a barrel of oil costs?

Fri, 2015-08-28 10:38

We're going in depth on oil, and its role in our lives and the global economy.

We want to hear how oil prices impact your life. Send us an email, or reach us on Twitter, @MarketplaceWKND

 

Joseph Kim's escape from North Korea

Fri, 2015-08-28 10:11

Joseph Kim escaped from North Korea, one of the most isolated economies in the world, to the U.S. when he was 15 years old. Kim, now a college student in New York, recently wrote a book about his experience called "Under the Same Sky."

 

He was interviewed by Marketplace host Lizzie O'Leary. 

 

Lizzie O'Leary: Just before we started this interview, I asked you what you had for lunch, just to check our sound levels, and it really struck me that you had something pretty moving to say about that. Tell me what your reaction was when I said that to you.

 

Joseph Kim: I didn't mean to throw you a heavy topic at the beginning. Growing up in North Korea, my father died of starvation when I was 12 years old. I became homeless around that age. So back then, the world — the entire world and dream and everything was associated with food. But now that I came to the states, I just didn't realize that I hadn't eaten anything until today, until you asked me... I think it's a very ironic that I forget. The fact is that even at this moment, there are so many other North Korean boys and girls who are still — the dream is still to be able to have a full three meals a day. 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Kim (Copyright Martin Bentsen) 

 

O'Leary: You escaped North Korea, you went to China and you made your way here. What does the idea of security mean to you? There's been so much insecurity in your life, until now. What is security?

 

Kim: My world, in a sense, was very narrow. Like as long as I had a full meal per day, I didn't have to go starve. I think that was my ideal, perfect, I guess Utopian world.

 

O'Leary: Coming as a teenage boy from a place where you were thinking about daily things like food, and now you're in college in the US, I wonder what you think about money, financial success. And what you think about Americans' sort of obsession with it.

 

Kim: I shared earlier that my life was about finding food. But then coming to America, that was provided. I didn't have to work to like fight for it as I did in North Korea, so I was really struggling.... In a sense my dream was achieved. And I didn't know what to do with my life. I didn't know what else to look for, so that was a hard. Now that I live in the states, I think insecurity is probably what everyone struggles [with], whether you're rich or poor, more so with wealthy people. I think they're more insecure.

 

O'Leary: You think so?

 

Kim: Yeah,  I can see some of that patterns from — not my friends, but in the movies, like the more rich you are, the more you're kind of a slave to your entitlement, and money. I understand. 

 

O'Leary: And yet you don't seem ... angry at us, or frustrated at us for taking so much for granted.

 

Kim: I wanted to be angry, but I also know it's not [the] right thing to be. I can't hate because, they worked hard to get that too. And also, it was not their choice — it was not like they're like, "Oh let me born in America." It was never their choice. So, I can't really like hate them, or be mad about it ... for being who they are. But I would love to remind them that ... it's OK to not be billionaires. Like, you still get to live.

PODCAST: Mixed stock market indicators

Fri, 2015-08-28 09:23

First: The stock market has been in flux this week, but the overall U.S. economy seems to be doing well. Are the markets actually a solid marker of an economy's health? We take a look at the relationship between the two. Next: World trade has declined, raising the question of whether we've reached peak globalization. Plus: Economist George Chouliarakis has been named Greece's interim finance minister. 

 

NLRB decision pushes 'employee' debate

Fri, 2015-08-28 08:23

Businesses, labor unions and pretty much everybody in between is still trying to parse out what a big decision by the National Labor Relations Board is going to mean to them.

The board smoothed the way yesterday for subcontractors and maybe franchise workers to organize and negotiate not only with the companies they get their checks from, but also with the bigger companies that are contracting for their services in the first place. And this is just one of the things that's changing these days, about what it means to be an "employee" and an "employer" in this American economy.

Franchising and subcontracting labor haven’t always been the norm. 

“You had a situation over the last three decades where there’s been an effort by many major employers to offload large segments of their operations," says Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "And part of that was no doubt for efficiency reasons."

He says the other part was companies trying to avoid efforts by workers to unionize. Baker says that’s what the NLRB ruling is trying to target.

“We don’t want to create a situation where we create a whole set of labor laws, and then we tell companies, 'But if you don’t want to follow those, just call people independent contractors and you’re cool,'" he says.

Over the past few decades, whole business models have built up around this system. And those, according to corporate lawyer Elizabeth Sigety of Fox Rothschild, have now been upended.

“It flies in the face of economic reality, business reality for franchised businesses,” she says. Franchises like fast-food restaurant are worried about what the decision means for them.

And there’s another trend here, too. Just as more business were using contractors, new technology made it easier for independent workers to connect with companies. Think online temp agencies or, more recently, Uber.  

Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and an expert on the digital sharing economy, says the way to protect employees isn’t by making everyone a traditional employee.

“Instead we should sort of translate ... the rights that full-time employees have to a broader spectrum of the economy,” he says.

But the NLRB decision makes clear the board’s ready to change the system, saying in a statement that the current standard has failed to keep pace with the way people work. Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute thinks this decision is bad for U.S. businesses.

“So the NLRB decision actually fits in with some other guidelines and rules that the Labor Department has issued within the past couple of months,” she says.

Furchtgott-Roth says we should expect many legal challenges to this ruling.

Labor board landmark ruling affects contract workers

Fri, 2015-08-28 02:00

In what is being called a landmark decision by both proponents and opponents, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that a group of sanitation workers in Central California, who were deciding whether to unionize, can negotiate directly with the sanitation company for which they work, and not just the temp agency that hires and supervises them.

Business groups say the board's decision is wide-reaching and could threaten how business is done in a modern economy increasingly reliant on temporary and contract workers. They say it could also eventually impact franchise businesses, such as fast food restaurants.

Proponents say the board is simply catching up with the times, making sure that the growing ranks of contract workers have the ability to unionize.

"The work arrangements in the country are changing. And employer definitions are changing. The NLRB has to change along with it," says Thomas Kochan, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research.

Daniel Johns, a labor law attorney at the Philadelphia firm Ballard Spahr LLP, says the decision could have far-reaching impact on companies that have come to rely on subcontractors.

"Often times you use these arrangements so that you can have some distance with respect to the employment of these individuals," Johns says.

Labor board landmark ruling affects contract workers

Fri, 2015-08-28 02:00

In what is being called a landmark decision by both proponents and opponents, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that a group of sanitation workers in central California, who were deciding whether to unionize, can negotiate directly with the sanitation company for which they work, and not just the temp agency that hires and supervises them.

Business groups say the board's decision is wide reaching, and could threaten how business is done in a modern economy increasingly reliant on temporary and contract workers. They say it could also eventually impact franchise businesses, such as fast food restaurants.

Proponents say the board is simply catching up with the times, making sure that the growing ranks of contract workers have the ability to unionize.

"The work arrangements in the country are changing. And employer definitions are changing. The NLRB has to change along with it," says Thomas Kochan, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research.

Daniel Johns, a labor law attorney at the Philadelphia firm Ballard Spahr LLP, says the decision could have far reaching impact on companies that have come to rely on subcontractors.

"Often times you use these arrangements so that you can have some distance with respect to the employment of these individuals," Johns says.

A New Orleans Business Banks On New Connections

Fri, 2015-08-28 02:00

At McMillan's First Steps , a pre-school,  there's a big mural painted on the cafeteria wall. A smiling boy is held in the air by a doctor, a pastor, and a police officer.

Plus, a guy in a Home Depot uniform.

In another city that might seem weird, but not in a city that is rebuilding. Linda McMillan, who owns First Steps,  says the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina, destroyed her campus.

"This building had a lot of damage after Katrina," she says. "We had about maybe seven and a half feet of water in this facility."

So McMillan, who exudes tough energy, parked two commercial trailers on the playground and held classes there. She also saw a growth opportunity. With New Orleans' education system in disarray, she decided to expand beyond pre-school to the 5th grade. For that, she'd need an additional school building, and a big loan. 

Three years ago, a colleague told McMillan about a program called 10,000 Small Businesses, run by Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank partners with local colleges to give small business owners around 100 hours of free college courses. McMillan likens it to business school.

"They gave you accounting, marketing," she says. "They had different speakers to come out and do the training. I got to know who I was. What kind of business owner I was."

 As it turned out, she was a successful one. When McMillan finished the classes, she was approved for a $586,000 loan. Today, her academy has one hundred fifteen students.

Her lender is a small credit union that works in low-income areas. The money itself comes from Goldman Sachs. 

McMillan got something else out of those classes: an opportunity to network with other small business owners. She met landscapers, master plumbers, signmakers, even the owner of a demolition company. When it was time to expand, those were the businesses she called upon. 

Katherine Jollon Colsher is the National Director of Ten Thousand Small Businesses. She says she hears stories like McMillan's surprisingly often.

"It was unexpected to us that so many of the businesses that go through the program would do business with each other," she says. Nationwide, around 84% of businesses that go through the program say they use the services of a fellow business owner they met in class.

Goldman Sachs hopes to eventually reach 10,000 business owners. So far, 5,000 have completed the classes and successfully applied for a business loan. 

Jollon Colsher says they have seen impressive results.

This year, Babson College examined how companies were doing eighteen months after their owners finished the program.

Three quarters of them had increased revenue and more than half had created new jobs.

 

Pages