Comedian Bill Hader’s exit from "Saturday Night Live" after its season finale Saturday means the end of the line for his character Stefon. The club kid “correspondent” for Weekend Update usually drops in to share cultural recommendations.
Host Seth Meyers always prods him for traditional, family-friendly picks, but Stefon’s taste leans toward outré nightclubs with features like “pile after pile of expired Lunchables;” “Gizblow, the coked-up Gremlin;” and security provided by “an army of hobocops” – homeless robocops, Stefon helpfully explains.
Stefon’s clubs are fake, but how would they stack up as nightlife business plans? Longtime New York nightlife and gossip columnist Michael Musto gives us his take on a couple of Stefon’s favorite haunts.
From Stefon: New York’s hottest club is Wesh. Nine-year-old Tokyo pimp Ichiaku Guro is back with an all-new hot spot that answers the question, WHAT?! This place has everything: trance, stilts, throw-up music, an albino that looks like Susan Powter, Teddy Graham people. (It’s that thing of like when a guy has the stumpy arms, but with the belly).
Would it work?
Wesh could never exist, for various reasons, Musto says. Only the throw-up music is something you'll routinely find in clubs, especially those in the Meatpacking District.
From Stefon: New York’s hottest club is Crease. Club promoter Tranny Oakley has gone all out, and inside it’s just everything: lights, psychos, Furbies, screaming babies in Mozart wigs, sun-burnt drifters with soap-sud beards. (It’s that thing when a hobo becomes a rich man, so they take the big bubble bath).
Would it work?Crease could never happen in NYC. Screaming babies in Mozart wigs? I'm in my 50s and even I've been refused admission because I'm not carrying the right ID.
Try your luck with our quiz!
Some of New York’s real clubs are almost outlandish enough to make Stefon’s report. Take our quiz to see if you can tell which clubs come from Stefon’s fertile imagination and which are real current or former New York nightlife destinations.
(By the way, we’re not saying the real ones are “New York’s hottest nightclubs.” We just chose them for their Stefonesque names.)
When you're in debt, your phone becomes the enemy. Every time it rings, your stomach lurches. Is it yet another bill collector? Will they get nasty? Happily, the Federal Trade Commission has done a lot in recent years to try and protect consumers from humiliation or harassment at the hands of debt collectors. But still, you never know what to expect when one calls. So, we decided to turn to someone in the industry to find out. Jack Brown is president of Gulf Coast Collection Bureau in Sarasota, Fla.
"The perception of debt collectors is that there's a bunch of pit bulls out there who will beat up consumers, talk to them rudely, yell at them, lie to them -- do whatever they can to get a dollar out of them today," says Brown. "In any industry there are bad apples, bad actors, and there's 99 percent of the folks out there doing the right thing. They are out there complying with the laws and they are working. But there is that 1 percent out there that may cause some issues. If you ever deal with that type of agency go to AskDoctorDebt.com, get some information on what you rights are, what you can expect during a collection call, how you can get the calls to stop if they're not treating you in the right away. ACAInternational.org, that's our international trade association for debt collectors and you can also submit a complaint against an agency through that site if you have an issue."
Brown says the first step consumers should take when contacted by a debt collector is to make sure you call them back because they will continue to call and try to reach the consumer.
"If you don't address the account, it's not going to get resolved," he says.
Here are 7 easy tips on what to do if you are being illegally harassed by a debt collector
1. You are Not Alone. According to the CFPB, 30 million consumers are contacted by a debt collector.
2. Know Your Rights. Consumers have important rights under federal and state law, and deserve to be treated respectfully. By law, consumers cannot be harassed, threatened or be subjected to profanity and vulgar language.
3. Communicate. Avoiding a letter or call won't make the debt disappear. The reason for the contact cannot be resolved without the ability to communicate; whether it's to pay an owed debt, verify an alleged debt or confirm that the debt collector has reached the wrong person.
4. Identify. Debt collectors cannot call anonymously nor present themselves as being a representative of a government entity. When contacted, collectors must identify themselves and the name of the collection agency they represent.
5. Notify the Collection Agency if you Dispute the Validity of the Debt. By law, the collector must inform you of your right to dispute the debt and provide written verification if you dispute it in writing.
6. Seek to Work Out Complaints with the Collection Agency. Third-party debt collectors sincerely want to work with consumers to resolve complaints. According to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, in 2012 collection agencies resolved 86 percent of the consumer complaints received.
7. Protect Your Identity. Do not provide sensitive personal information (e.g., Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank accounts) until certain of the authenticity of the debt and the person seeking to collect. Check out whether the collector is a legitimate agency by using the Internet to search the company. Monitor accounts and immediately report any suspicious purchases to your bank or credit card provider. Consumers should also monitor their credit report. If you believe your identity has been stolen, contact your local police department and visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft for information on what you should do.
President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve John Williams made headlines yesterday when he speculated that the Fed may reduce its stimulus efforts in the coming months. Does this mean that the economy is moving in the right direction?
Economist David Wyss of Brown University explains to Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio whether or not Williams' comments should be interpreted as optimism about the economy.
If you have student debt these days, welcome to the club.
According to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York student loan debt in the U.S. has reached nearly $1 trillion, up $20 billion from last quarter. Excluding home loans, it now makes up a third of all consumer debt.
And it's hitting young adults, who are already having trouble finding work, the hardest.
Students in some states are struggling more than others though.
Share of Consumers with Student Debt:
Across the country, an average 16.2 percent of consumers owe some amount of student debt. But if you look at the state level, the country is split along the Mason–Dixon line, with a higher percentage of the population owing money in northern states than southern states.
Overall, Hawaii claims the lowest share of consumers with student debt, just 12 percent. While a whopping 25 percent of the population in Washington, D.C. owes student loan money.
Average Student Debt Per Borrower:
Students around the nation's capital also owe much more than others around the country. In the District of Columbia and neighboring Maryland, the average student is saddled with over $28,000 in debt.
Other states where students owe more are concentrated in the South and Northeast.
Percent of Delinquent Student Loans:
While the average student in the Northeast owes more, delinquency rates in the area are relatively low.
Around the rest of the country, the amount of delinquency varies significantly. Only 6.5 percent of South Dakota students have fallen behind on their loans, while a whopping 18 percent of West Virginia's are 90 days late or more on a payment. And another 13 states have delinquency rates of 13 percent or more.
Maps can only tell us so much. What is your experience with student debt where you live? Share your story in the comment section below.
For the first time since 2011, European auto sales went up according to new data out this morning. After 18 months of declining sales, new car registrations rose 1.7 percent for the European Union in April.
But don't celebrate yet. The reason for the uptick has a lot to do with this year’s calendar, as April has two more business days than it did in 2012. Click on the audio player above to hear more from the BBC's transport correspondent Richard Westcott.
It's been a big week for talk about farming and food on Capitol Hill. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have passed separate versions of the farm bill, which is long overdue for renewal. Next Monday, the full Senate is set to debate the bill. Debate on the on the floor of the House is expected in June.
The stickiest wicket has been around the size of the food stamp program, technically known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. At last count, about one in five Americans received food stamps, many of them elderly or working-poor families with children.
Use of food stamps has grown dramatically in the aftermath of the Great Recession, as more people struggled to get food on the table. Growth in the last decade has also come from easing of eligibility requirements for the program to make it more accessible.
In the House, many politicians have expressed concerns that Americans are becoming too dependent on food stamps. After debates involving dueling Bible verses, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill this week that would make it harder to qualify for food stamps, and cut more than $20 billion dollars to the program over the next ten years.
About two million people, or four percent of participants, would lose food stamps under the current House bill, according to calculations from the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It would be the largest cut in food stamps since the 1996 welfare reforms.
The Senate’s current version of the bill would also make cuts to the food stamp program, though far smaller ones. Spending would shrink by about $4 billion over the next ten years.
In an interview with Marketplace earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack argued that food stamps not only help those in need but also stimulate the economy, with every dollar spent in the food stamp program generating almost twice as much in economic activity.
“As more people can buy more at the grocery store, that generates opportunities for grocers to increase employment, for those who truck produce to grocery stores to keep employed, for those in the processing and shipping and packaging and warehousing of food products,” he said.
”Those are all basic opportunities that are maintained or expanded because we’ve got this Food Nutrition Assistance Program.”
A probe by the European Commission into possible manipulation of oil prices has just gotten bigger. Neste Oil Oyj, Finland's only refiner, has also been asked to help with the investigation. Earlier this week, EU officials raided the offices of three of Europe's biggest oil companies -- BP, Shell and Statoil -- and the oil price reporting company Platts, part of McGraw Hill Financial. So far, only Statoil has responded to the allegations, saying it has done nothing illegal.
From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard has the latest on the story.
The revelation that groups applying for tax-exempt status with words like “patriot,” “tea party” and “9/12” in their names were singled out for extra scrutiny has been an embarrassment for the IRS. But for the targeted groups themselves, it’s been free advertising.
The conservative Kentucky 9/12 Project applied for so-called 501(c)4 status back in December 2010. It took more than two years and thousands of pages sent to the IRS, but last month, the group won. And donations poured in.
“We had people coming in that were waiting on the sidelines saying, ‘Okay, where do I send my check now?’” says executive director Eric Wilson, who oversees the group’s modest $16,000 annual budget.
Wilson wouldn’t disclose fundraising details, but he says an even bigger tide of money and support rolled in after the IRS admitted it scrutinized groups like his.
“The reaction’s been amazing,” Wilson says.
For groups still waiting for IRS approval, the effect is more mixed. The Albuquerque Tea Party applied for 501(c)4 status in December 2009, but still hasn’t gotten final approval. Rick Harbaugh, president of the state group, says that instead of fielding new donations, he has been fielding calls from past donors who fear that the IRS will go after them next.
“Our donors are very nervous about getting their name before the IRS if we are getting targeted by the IRS,” he says.
One of the prime advantages of organizing as a 501(c)4, after all, is keeping those donors secret.
We're all taught that a free press is vital to a functioning democracy. And an important resource to that free press is the ability to protect the identity of sources. So what happens when, in the age of the internet, it's extremely hard to stay anonymous? The Justice Department says it subpoenaed the Associated Press's phone records to investigate a "national security leak."
Many journalists are up in arms about that. Long-time investigative reporter Kevin Poulsen might hold part of a solution. He created something called Strongbox for the New Yorker Magazine, with the help of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Google's been making a lot of headlines this week between its new update to its maps and social media services, its introduction of a competitor to Spotify, and its developers' conference in San Francisco. At the same time, the search giant has been engaging in a war of words with Microsoft over the new Windows Phone. Google says Microsoft was not serving ads properly on its YouTube app, opening up the possibility that Windows Phone users will lose the app as soon as next week.
Microsoft representatives have responded to a cease and desist letter from Google. They say they'd be happy to work with the search engine giant to make sure they can deliver the ads.
Mashable's business editor, Todd Wasserman has the latest on the story.
U.S. officials have been warning for months that the unregulated digital currency Bitcoin wasn't fully legitimate in the eyes of the law. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has frozen an account for one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges, a firm called Mt. Gox. The online firm, based in Tokyo, says it handles nearly 80 percent of global trading for this form of virtual cash.
Queena Kim, Marketplace Tech reporter, explains the latest on the story.
If you have debt that's getting you down, don't worry. You're not alone. Take a look at these eye-popping statistics from the website NerdWallet.com about the amount of debt American households carry:
- Average credit card debt: $15,162
- Average mortgage debt: $147,967
- Average student loan debt: $33,445
Of course, money woes and music go hand-in-hand and artists have been singing about debt since the first borrower defaulted on a loan. While you're trying to collect the money your cousin owes you or worrying about whether that's a debt collector ringing your phone, just breathe and enjoy our playlist of songs about debt. There are some hits on there -- like "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny's Child. I mean, who wouldn't like this lyric: "You triflin', good for nothing type of brother." Plus, we have some personal favorites from our staff in the playlist, like "Busted" by Ray Charles (our host Barbara Boagaev loves that song!). Take a listen and enjoy the music.
If you have ideas for songs about debt that we missed, please leave us a comment below or Tweet us @radiopiggybank #DebtJams.
Paying for college has practically become synonymous with financial ruin.
We've all heard the stories of graduates toiling at minimum wage jobs at best, weighed down by student loan debt.
That's given rise to a new strand of conventional wisdom that warns young people to steer clear of borrowing for college. The message: College isn't worth it! You don't want to join the ranks of debt-slaves with a diploma!
Hold on a minute. We know few students these days can afford college without borrowing some money, but the average student loan balance is about $24,000. And the median is around $13,000. These are onerous sums for newly minted college graduates in a lousy economy, but they're far from catastrophic.
Throughout our history the American dream has often come with a loan repayment schedule. The Pilgrims were able to settle in Plymouth, Mass., only because they were backed by London merchant bankers.
My fear is that the student loan scare stories will persuade young people to steer clear of college, especially those from low-income families.
Bottom line -- college remains the best investment most people will ever make in their lifetime. Case in point: graduates earn some 50 percent more than their peers with only a high school diploma.
Don't get me wrong. The financial aid system cries for reform. Many college graduates are hurting and tragically, some have borrowed more than they can ever repay. However, the student loan debts will eventually pay off in the form of jobs and wealth.
So, please, borrow sensibly. Go to a college you can afford. Avoid private student loans. And take out as few federal student loans as possible.
And by all means remember the Pilgrims.
Today, Texas lawmakers could give the state's craft breweries a Texas-sized boost. They'll consider a set of bills to loosen the rules for beer makers. Texas is no pioneer in the craft beer movement. In fact, it ranks 45th in the nation in breweries per capita. But that number doesn't tell the whole story.
To this point, the rule at Texas breweries has been "take only memories." People on a tour couldn't buy beer there. But if approved, this new legislation would let breweries sell pints. And, it would let brewpubs sell their beer to grocery stores.
"Craft breweries in the state have a hard time getting solid footing because of the restrictions in allowing them to have access to market," says Scott Metzger, who goes by @beermonkey on Twitter, and who negotiated the bill on behalf of craft brewers.
Metzger says Texans do drink a lot of specialized brews. It's just not beer made in Texas. And come on, there's no shortage of Texas pride. "It just goes to show that Texans really, really want Texas products," he says.
Nationally, states are placing fewer restrictions on craft breweries, says Jeffrey Klineman, editor-in-chief of BevNET.com. Compared to other states, he says, Texas is a little behind the curve.
"It's a really big state, and it's got a more slowly maturing craft beer market," Klineman says.
This law, he says, would definitely help speed that up.
Sometimes, having a manageable amount debt can be a good thing. It's an incentive to make a budget and stick to it. Plus, it gives you a sense of responsibility. Facing your financial mistakes can even strengthen your relationships or teach you better habits. We have some listeners who have stories along these lines, and financial adviser Liz Weston talks about possible silver linings of borrowing from and lending money to people important to us.
Weston has lent members of her family money, but she does it with trepidation. She says deciding whether to give money to someone really depends on the situation.
"Almost everything that has to do with money is situational," says Weston, who has also rejected certain requests for borrowing money from members of her family before. "It's really tough to say 'no' to someone who has asked you for help."
Mind Games & Money: A guide to exploring your emotions in personal finance What role do your emotions play when it comes to making financial decisions? To help you gauge how emotional you are about money, we've put together a special grid.
Maggie in Beaverton, Ore., sent us an email with some questions about how to get control over the debt she and her husband have accrued. Combined they owe about $50,000 in student debt and she's borrowed money from her parents as well. She wants to know how to pay off what she owes while saving up to start a family through adoption or fertility treatments.
Our Facebook friend Jeff in San Francisco wrote to us about rekindling a relationship with an ex whom he separated from because of money issues. Jeff feels money is important while his ex didn't. Jeff's ex feels that he treats her like a child when it comes to money. Recently, the two have been seeing each other again and he wants advice on how to know if his partner's outlook on money has matured.
"When you're good with money, you can come off like a parent in a relationship," says Weston. "My focus in this situation would be on myself and make sure that I'm not the parent and make sure that I'm not the one dictating the terms, as it were. One of the best things to do as a couple is simply talk about what are your first memories about money, how did they handle money in your family. So many discussions that you can have."
For more advice from Weston, click play on the audio player above.
While the Senate debates comprehensive immigration reform, hordes of lobbyists are vying for attention. The Sunlight Foundation estimates as many as 3,000 lobbyists have worked on immigration issues in the past few years. There are the usual suspects -- restaurant owners, farmers, and construction groups -- and then there are the not-so-usual suspects.
You may not expect to find lobbyists focused on immigration issues in Baltimore this weekend at the Pimlico Race Course, home to the Preakness Stakes. But the American Horse Council is lobbying Congress on immigration reform.
“Well, immigration has been an interest for a long, long time,” Jay Hickey says. He’s the group’s president.
The American Horse Council represents horse owners’ interests in Washington. The horse industry is worth $102 billion, and low-skilled workers from overseas are an important part of that.
“We use H-2A agricultural workers on a temporary basis on our breeding farms and our training facilities,” Hickey says.
Those visas are limited, and his group wants more of them. According to Hickey, these workers do jobs that are specialized and physical. Try as horse owners may -- and they do try, Hickey notes -- there aren’t many Americans who are willing do those jobs.
“You just can’t find them,” he says. “And if you can find them, they don’t want to do it, or they’re not qualified to do it.”
You’ll also find lobbyists focused on immigration issues in concert halls.
“Just like music is everywhere in our lives, it also shows up in all kinds of places in national policy,” says Heather Noonan, the League of American Orchestras’ vice president for advocacy.
Noonan says her group cares the most about what are called O&P visas, for soloists, “the non-immigrant, temporary work visas required to bring those artists into the United States to perform.”
It is her job, she says, to make sure visas for those performers are available.
“When the curtain goes up at 7:00 on Friday, the artist needs to be there, and the audience is expecting that they’ll be there.”
The League of American Orchestras is lobbying to make that visa process as efficient, affordable, and accessible as possible.
This week brought some bright news about an uptick in consumer spending -- something which might or might not mean a corresponding rise in credit card debt. Reporter Stacey Vanek Smith joins us to sort things out.
How much more are people spending in the U.S.?
Retail sales rose a tenth of a percent in April. That was a big improvement over what we saw in March, when consumer spending was actually declining.
Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics and demography at IHS Global Insight, says this might be a little deceptively positive. Because of so many months spent saving and scrimping and because of worries about the fiscal cliff and other things, Americans kind of broke down and went on buying sprees.
"It looks like the consumer's doing relatively well. However, a word of caution: it's not like they're opening up the champagne bottles and splurging everywhere, it's a very targeted type of spending," says Christopher.
So what kind of things are people buying?
Americans are actually spending less on necessities -- groceries and on gas. Part of that is that gas prices are lower. What they are spending on are restaurants and a lot of home improvement type things -- Lowe's, Home Depot, some bigger purchases. In any case, we are shopping again and not just for the bare necessities.
Are people using plastic for these purchases?
You'd think so, because some of the items that were selling last month were big ones, but according to IHS Global Insight's Chris Christopher, that's not what's happening.
"What is bought on credit, is a little on the auto side," says Christopher. "However, revolving credit -- credit card debt -- has been relatively flat for a few years. In no way are we returning to our old ways any time soon."
Amanda Husberg laughs when I tell her she doesn't look like she could be seventy-three years old. “It's because I don't have a husband and I don't have kids,” she jokes.
Husberg and I are standing in the narrow hallway of her Brooklyn apartment. It's also her office space. She's remembering a scene from five years ago.
“I came here,” she tells me, “and I caught my toe at the edge of the rug. I went flying, and my right shoulder hit the chair.”
She hit the ground pretty hard, she couldn't get up on her own.
“I banged on the floor,” she says, “with SOS, bum bum bum, dum dum, bum bum bum.”
That SOS message got a neighbor's attention, and that neighbor got her to the hospital. Husberg had a broken shoulder, and ended up in a sling for four months.
Since then she's had a few more falls. She's spent $40,000 to make her home easier to get around. She also now pays for an emergency alert service, they'll send an ambulance any time she pushes the button on her wrist band. But Husberg still worries about falling again.
“My biggest fear,” she admits, “is loss of independence.”
The Center for Disease Control says every year about a third of seniors suffer from a fall. It's the most common injury that causes death for elderly people. Doctor Cathleen Colon-Emeric specializes in geriatrics at Duke University Medical Center. She says there are high costs to these falls.
“There's the cost of going to the doctor, going to the urgent care or emergency room,” she says. There are also costs for things like x-rays and stitches. Most falls add up to around ten to twenty thousand dollars. And a hip fracture? That's about $18,000.
“And then,” Colon-Emeric tells me, “there are all the indirect costs, lost productivity, or needing more help around the home and having to have somebody else help you.”
Altogether, these losses come to around $30 billion a year in the U.S. Falls are twice as likely to happen in nursing homes. Which can lead to costly lawsuits.
“Nursing home falls,” Colon-Emeric says, “are the second most common cause for litigation in nursing homes.”
She and her colleagues have come up with a new staff training program. It teaches how to better communicate about risky situations that can lead to falls.
“It may be monitoring their medications,” she explains, “or trying to improve their vision, or changing their environment.”
So far, nursing homes that have used her training have seen a 20 percent decline in fall rates.
A federal court has ruled that Walmart can be sued as a ‘joint employer’ of nearly two thousand temporary warehouse workers at a major Walmart distribution facility in Southern California. The catch: the workers load imported goods like toys and electronics exclusively for Walmart. But they are not employed directly by the giant retailer, nor do they receive a paycheck from the company.
With this ruling, the class-action lawsuit, Carrillo v. Schneider, becomes a milestone in the effort of workers’ advocates to push legal and financial liability for poor wages and working conditions up the retail supply chain, to the marquee retailer at the top—in this case, Walmart.
“It’s the first joint-employer class-action that I’m aware of involving any company in that industry,” said Catherine Fisk, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine and an expert on employment law. “And certainly with Walmart, it involves the most high-profile retailer.”
“What it says is that since Walmart has such tremendous control over its supply chain, which is its key to its business model, Walmart has effective control over the workers unloading boxes in its warehouses,” says Fisk. “And it should be responsible for the rampant safety and wage and workplace violations in that workplace.”
The Case: Carrillo v. Schneider
The Carrillo case was brought in October 2011 on behalf of 1,800 low-skilled workers employed by temporary staffing agencies at a warehouse complex in Mira Loma, California, east of Los Angeles. The warehouse (Walmart distribution center #6060) is operated by Wisconsin-based Schneider Logistics. It is one of a series of massive warehouses nationwide that are part of Walmart’s proprietary distribution chain, though it does not own or operate them.
Workers at the Mira Loma facility have described widespread labor abuses dating back to the early 2000s. “They wouldn’t pay us overtime, so we would work sometimes from 6 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night,” says warehouse worker David Acosta, who is covered by the class-action lawsuit. “And we also had this fear that if we complained, we would often see the repercussions where our paychecks would be short during the pay period. We would sometimes notice that we would get $40 to $50 less. Most of the workers, their [immigration] status was questionable. But sometimes the supervisors would actually help falsify some of the documents.”
The California Department of Labor has investigated these and other allegations. In late 2011—prior to the lawsuit being filed—it fined the temporary employment agencies hired by Schneider Logistics more than $1 million for wage theft, retaliatory termination, and other serious violations.
Walmart and its contracted logistics companies in Southern California, Illinois and other national transportation hubs, have been battling a union-backed campaign to organize its temporary warehouse workers. The groups Warehouse Workers United (in Southern California) and Warehouse Workers for Justice (in Northern Illinois), have also been pressing state agencies to pursue workplace inspections and investigations. The groups met with Walmart executives last fall at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, but so far do not report any progress in addressing their grievances.
Walmart as Joint Employer
Until late last year, Walmart had kept itself at arm’s length from the Carrillo case. But Judge Christina Snyder of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has now ruled that Walmart can be added as a defendant alongside the warehouse operator and temporary staffing agencies.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs will now have the opportunity to prove in court that Walmart exercised effective control over the warehouse, its temporary workers, and operations, and will also have the opportunity to claim that Walmart should be liable for damages that could reach into the tens of millions of dollars, says plaintiffs’ lead attorney Michael Rubin of the firm Altshuler and Berzon in San Francisco.
“One hundred percent of the goods loaded and unloaded in these warehouses are destined for Walmart distribution centers,” says Rubin. “Schneider works for Walmart. We are trying to establish as a matter of economic reality—which is the short-hand test that the courts apply—that the companies higher up in the chain bear legal responsibility, because they have the right to control what goes on on the workplace floor, and because in many instances they exercise that control.”
Rubin says there’s already strong evidence that this is true, even prior to full discovery in the case. “We do know at this point that the key managers and supervisors employed by Schneider had Walmart emails as well as Schneider emails,” says Rubin. “And we’re trying to trace what role Walmart actually played in determining how much money is available to pay the workers, what the productivity levels would have to be, what sort of quotas would be imposed and so forth.”
Rubin continued: "This ruling is significant because it establishes that a company can't avoid owing a duty of care to its workers by using layers of contractors as a buffer between itself and those who do its work."
Walmart issued the following statement in response to the judge's ruling in the case: “Today’s action merely echoes the judge’s preliminary ruling last month so, while we disagree, today’s ruling wasn’t unexpected. So far, there have been no findings of fact as to the claims made in the case nor if Walmart would be responsible for any part of those claims, if proven true. We continue to believe that Schneider Logistics and its contractors are independently responsible for managing their people and that the facts will demonstrate that Walmart is not a joint employer of the plaintiffs. That said, it is important to note that we hold all of our service providers to high standards and it is our expectation that the law is always followed.”
A spokesperson for Schneider Logistics referred Markeplace to Walmart for further comment.
In her ruling, Judge Snyder laid out what allegations Walmart will need to defend itself against in the next phase of the trial. Walmart will now need to counter the plaintiffs' claim that its warehousing contracts (with Schneider) are structured so frugally, that subcontractors are likely to violate labor and employment laws in order to deliver their service at the low cost Walmart demands.
Agriculture, garment industry, now retail
Law professor Catherine Fisk says the case could set a significant precedent, if Walmart is indeed held liable for labor conditions of temporary workers in its contracted U.S. warehouses.
“Whoever is ultimately selling the product is in the position of forcing cost reductions down the supply chain, and they’re able to do it because they set up a bidding war among suppliers, who in turn set up a bidding war with the companies that supply labor, and the winner supplies the lowest-cost labor,” Fisk explains.
“Walmart has taken this to a whole new level of sophistication and effectiveness, to the point where every year Walmart demands that its suppliers produce goods for less money than they did the year before. It’s how they keep prices so low, by constant pressure on their suppliers. The theory of this case is that if warehouse workers in California’s Inland Empire are being paid piece-rate that works out to lower than minimum wage, for instance, Walmart’s contracting practices are forcing their contractors to do that, so Walmart should be responsible as a joint employer for those safety, wages and working conditions.”
Similar joint-employer theories have been used effectively in the past to press liability onto large corporations at the top of the supply chain in other industries where labor-subcontracting is rampant. These include the garment industry and agriculture, and more recently, janitorial services for commercial buildings. Fisk says this case pushes the strategy into the massive and lucrative U.S. retail industry for the first time.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld published his memoir, “Known and Unknown” in 2011. His latest book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules” suggests he still has lessons to share after a lifetime in politics and business.
The book is a collection of advice that he started collecting through a habit taught to him by his schoolteacher mother.
“If I didn’t know a word she’d say, 'Well write it down and look it up,'" he says. "Then I started writing down various other thoughts and rules and anecdotes.”
The anecdotes Rumsfeld recounts are pulled from his time in office with the Bush, Reagan and Nixon administrations.
Three of many Rumsfeld Rules in the book:
It’s easier to get into something than it is to get out.
“I thought of that when I was President Reagan’s Middle East envoy and we had 241 Marines killed at Beirut, at the airport. And I concluded then that the United States has to be careful about putting ground forces in because we’re such a big target. And I also over the years came to the conclusion over the years that the United States really was organized, trained and equipped to do nation-building.”
Rumsfeld says this was on his mind as the United States entered Afghanistan and Iraq. “When you do something, then someone wants you to do something else and then something else and then over time, the mission, historically, creeps into something else that was initiated at the outset.”
But in the end, “it’s not easy for countries to evolve and grow but I think that both of those countries are a whale of a lot better off than they were before.”
“I’ve been mistaken so many times I don’t even blush for it anymore.” – Napoleon
“You see things that don’t turn out the way you hoped.”
Monitor progress through metrics.
“I think that history over time will probably be a better judge than you or I, but I’ve been struck by the amount of criticism that the Bush administration has received and President Bush personally and the attempts to assign blame to him and I think it’s probably not going to sort out that way.”
He says President Bush’s decision to enter Iraq is “something that over time will be better understood.”
AUDIO EXTRA: Kai Ryssdal asks Donald Rumsfeld about a reputation for not tolerating dissent.