- Created on 16 November 2012
(CNNMoney) -- A group of Wal-Mart workers are planning to stage a walkout next week on Black Friday, arguably the biggest holiday shopping day for the world's largest retail store.
The walkout builds on an October strike that started at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles and spread to stores in 12 other cities. More than 100 workers joined in the October actions.
One of the workers who plans to join next week's walkout is William Fletcher, who works at a Wal-Mart in Duarte, Calif.
Fletcher, who also participated in the October strikes, claims Wal-Mart cut his hours after he asked to move from the receiving department to another division because of a knee injury. He has since switched departments.
"I kept asking myself, 'when is the retaliation for speaking our mind and acting on our rights going to stop?' " he said. Wal-Mart did not have an immediate comment in response to Fletcher's claim.
The union-backed groups OUR Walmart and Making Change at Wal-Mart, and a watchdog group Corporate Action Network, are calling on the nation's largest employer to end what they call retaliation against employees who speak out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
On Black Friday, the organizations expect 1,000 protests, both at stores and online.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the number of workers who are raising concerns is very small and don't represent the views of the vast majority of its workforce of 1.3 million.
But labor experts say that even a small number of workers could make an impact.
"Even if there aren't that many people, it could have an effect, because their campaign in front of stores could discourage shoppers," said Ken Margolies, senior associate at the Worker Institute a Cornell University.
The strike could have an even greater impact if workers from its supply centers participate, according to Margolies. He said it could impede distribution of merchandise on what is usually the busiest day of the year.
Organizers have planned a social medial blitz, mobilizing workers through Facebook pages, a YouTube video, Twitter and Tumblr. They're also using online platforms to collect donations to sponsor striking workers. So far, the campaign has raised more than $22,200.
Wal-Mart workers have been battling with management over pay, benefits and their ability to speak up for years, experts say.
According to Anthony Bianco, author of Wal-Mart: The Bully of Bentonville, butchers at a Wal-Mart supercenter in Jacksonville, Texas, voted to form a union in 2000 -- the first time employees had done so. But soon after that, Wal-Mart eliminated butcher departments in its stores across the country, he said. It has been reported that Wal-Mart said it got rid of its meat department as a cost cutting measure.
A similar thing happened when workers at a Quebec store attempted to unionize in 2005, Bianco said. Wal-Mart closed that store a few months after that. The company said at the time that its decision was prompted by the union wanting to change how the store operated.
- Created on 15 November 2012
Chicago lags the nation in the number of minorities found in the boardrooms of its biggest publicly held corporations, according to a new study.
Overall, minorities account for only 12 percent of the boards of directors at Chicago's 50 largest firms, versus 15 percent at the 200 largest S&P 500 firms, said a new report by Chicago United, a nonprofit group that advocates diversity in executive ranks.
Among the city's 50 largest companies, nine lack any racial diversity at all in their boardrooms, and only three are above 25 percent minority.
That's the goal they should be striving toward, given Chicago's large pool of minority talent, said Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of Chicago United.
"It's not going to happen overnight, but it's reasonable we'd see nothing less than 25 percent of directors being not Caucasian in two years because there is a talent pool that would support that," she said in an interview.
The study also found that minority representation is even lower among chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other C-level positions, as well as other top executives.
At Chicago's 50 largest publicly held firms, by sales, minorities accounted for 10 percent of the top executives listed in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and 7 percent of the C-level executives.
Chicago United didn't break out its findings for individual companies except to say that the Chicago-area firms with the best track record for diversity are McDonald's Corp., where 29 percent of directors are minorities, followed by Office Max Inc., Tenneco Inc., Exelon Corp. and Molex Inc.
"Companies try hard and struggle with it," said Peter Crist, head of Crist Kolder Associates in Hinsdale, an executive search firm that focuses on C-level and board of director searches. "Every nominating and governance head knows they have to improve their minority and women representation."
It's a problem for Chicago's largest nonprofit groups, too.
One problem is that turnover on boards is typically very slow. Ms. Castillo said that as the economy improves many of the firms that were reluctant to change leadership during a downturn will be bringing in new blood, making her goal of 25 percent reachable in two years.
"I'm not going to argue the goal," Mr. Crist said. "I just fear the time to get there will be painfully slow. It's not about quality candidates," but "if one slot opens up every five years, it takes a long time to change."
Chicago United has done similar surveys of Chicago companies several times since 2001, finding little progress since the last study two years ago. This is the first time the advocacy group has used public records and outside consultants to add a national perspective to the results.
Chicago United's 2012 Corporate Diversity Profile, released today at a conference in Chicago, also contains for the first time case studies of companies that have successfully developed minority executives as well as a list of best practices and checklists for recruiting and promoting minorities.
"There are some really good practices taking root in Chicago," Ms. Castillo said. "These are the leading companies and they do show diversity throughout their C-suite and boardroom. We want to show who are the leaders, how is it impacting their company and how do we create tools so it can be replicated and we can actually start moving the needle."
Compiling best practices is a good idea, Mr. Crist said, but "it all starts at the top. If the CEO doesn't embrace and make it a true goal for the organization — at the board level and throughout the company — it's just going to fall short."
- Created on 14 November 2012
Empowering women with entrepreneurial spirits is what the BOSS Network strives to do and it succeeded again last weekend at the Power Professionals Networking Event and Career Expo.
Special panelists from different industries shared what makes them a powerful professional woman.
Entertainment Producer for WGN-TV, Tyra Martin, Executive Director of The LUV Institute, Cosette Yisrael, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Heart & Soul Magazine, Pam Taylor and CEO and Founder of Big Girls Cosmetics, Kiley Russell gave advice and shared secrets on how they became successful.
Bringing Out Successful Sisters is an organization for professional and entrepreneurial women who support one another through conversation and event based networking. Last Saturday it attracted about 75 women in all areas of their career to mingle, network and most importantly learn how to create their personal brand.
The Ven Sherrod Loft, 1906 S. Halsted, set the perfect atmosphere for a fun, classy and sophisticated night. The ticketed event provided free cocktails, turkey delectables from Creative Turkey Cuisine and free professional headshots.
Founder of the BOSS Network, Cameka Smith, shared her top seven steps to growing your professional network. Some which included stop and breathe and "perfect the art of the follow-up."
The panel told women to find skills that are invaluable, to research what others have done in their chosen field and make sure they are truly chasing their passions.
Tamika Price from Standout Style is wardrobe stylist and personal shopper. She gave the room tips on creating their professional brand.
"You don't want your look or image to close the door," she said.
"We as women of color have to be three times more on point. It is so much harder for us. Our brand and image have to be consistent."
Price suggested women leave popular stores like Forever 21 alone, and transition into the Macy's and Nordstrom's. If funds are low, she said thrift stores are not taboo like they were in the past. To assure women she takes her own advice, she pointed out the simple, fitted black blazer she wore was purchased from one. The room erupted in sounds of surprise and approvals.
Every professional woman should wear a wrist watch because it signifies responsibility. She joked everyone would go crazy if they lost their cell phone because they would not know what time it was.
Drawing closer to classic cuts over trendy is another good idea, she said, because classics can be played up more. Wearing comfortable, but stylish shoes is a necessity and finding your "thing," is just as important. Price recommended a pair of glasses or a certain shade of lipstick to become each woman's signature "thing."
Women also learned how to perfect their 30-second elevator pitch.
The BOSS Network has been named by Forbes.com as one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurial Websites for Women, and 10 Best Career Sites for Women. Black Enterprise.com named it one of the nice websites to follow on Twitter.
- Created on 15 November 2012
AP) — BP said Thursday that it will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the massive 2010 oil spill and will plead guilty to felony counts related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress.
The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines — the largest such penalty ever — along with payments to several government entities.
A person familiar with the settlement said two BP employees will also face manslaughter charges over the deaths of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders," said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP's Chairman. "It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims."
The settlement includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
London-based BP PLC said in a statement that the settlement would not include civil claims under the Clean Water Act and other legislation, pending private civil claims and state claims for economic loss.
The charges BP will plead guilty to include 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships officers, one felony count of obstruction of Congress and one misdemeanor count each under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act. The 11 counts related to the workers' deaths are under a provision of the Seaman's Manslaughter Act.
The obstruction charge is for lying to Congress about how much oil was pouring out of the ruptured well.
Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to discuss the settlement at an afternoon news conference in New Orleans.
BP made a profit of $5.5 billion in the third quarter.
The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the Department of Justice was a $1.2 billion fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in 2009.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, sank after the April 20, 2010, explosion. The well on the sea floor spewed an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil, soiling sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.
Nelda Winslette's grandson Adam Weise, of Yorktown, Texas., was killed in the blast. She says somebody needs to be held accountable, even if it doesn't end her family's pain.
"It just bothers me so bad when I see the commercials on TV and they brag about how the Gulf is back, but they never say anything about the 11 lives that were lost. They want us to forget about it, but they don't know what they've done to the families that lost someone," she said.
The spill exposed lax government oversight and led to a temporary ban on deepwater drilling while officials and the oil industry studied the risks, worked to make it safer and developed better disaster plans.
BP's environmentally-friendly image was tarnished, and independent gas station owners who fly the BP flag claimed they lost business from customers who were upset over the spill. BP chief executive Tony Hayward stepped down after the company's repeated gaffes, including his statement at the height of the crisis: "I'd like my life back."
The cost of BP's spill far surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. Exxon ultimately settled with the U.S. government for $1 billion, which would be about $1.8 billion today.
The government and plaintiffs' attorneys also sued Transocean Ltd., the rig's owner, and cement contractor Halliburton, but a string of pretrial rulings by a federal judge undermined BP's legal strategy to pin blame on them.
At the time of the explosion, the Deepwater Horizon was drilling into BP's Macondo well. The rig sank two days later.
After several attempts failed, engineers finally were successful in capping the well on July 15, 2010, halting the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico after more than 85 days.
The disaster also created a new lexicon in American vocabulary — such as top kill and junk shot — as crews used innovative solutions to attempt to plug the spewing well with pieces of rubber. As people all over the world watched a live spill camera on the Internet and television, the Obama administration dealt with a political headache, in part because the government grossly underestimated how much crude was spilling into the Gulf.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans was assigned to oversee tens of thousands of court claims spawned by the explosion. A trial date was set, but Barbier postponed it so BP could hammer out a deal with attorneys for Gulf Coast shrimpers, commercial fishermen, charter captains, property owners, environmental groups, restaurants, hotels and others who claim they suffered economic losses after the spill. Relatives of workers killed in the blast also sued.
Barbier gave his preliminary approval to that proposed settlement in May and scheduled a February trial for the remaining claims, including those by the federal government and Gulf states.
In a pretrial court filing, the Justice Department said it would argue that BP's actions and decisions leading up to the deadly blowout amounted to gross negligence.
"We do not use words like 'gross negligence' and 'willful misconduct' lightly," a Justice Department attorney wrote. "But the fact remains that people died, many suffered injuries to their livelihood, and the Gulf's complex ecosystem was harmed as a result of BP and Transocean's bad acts or omissions."
One of Barbier's rulings possibly insulates Transocean and Halliburton from billions of dollars in liability. Barbier said Transocean and Halliburton weren't obligated to pay for many pollution claims because of contracts they signed with BP.
The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation of the spill. Until now, the only person charged was former BP engineer Kurt Mix, who was arrested in Texas in April on obstruction of justice charges. Mix is accused of deleting text messages about the company's response to the spill, not what happened before the explosion.
The companies also sued each other, although some of those cases were settled last year. BP has sued Transocean for at least $40 billion in damages.
And there are still other claims against BP from financial institutions, casinos and racetracks, insurance companies, local governments and losses caused by a government-imposed moratorium on drilling after the spill.
None of those are covered by BP's proposed settlement with the private lawyers.
A series of government investigations have spread blame for the disaster.
In January 2011, a presidential commission found that the spill was caused by time-saving, cost-cutting decisions by BP, Halliburton and Transocean that created unacceptable risk. The panel didn't point blame at any one individual, concluding the mistakes were caused by systemic problems.
In September 2011, however, a team of Coast Guard officials and federal regulators issued a report that concluded BP bears ultimate responsibility for the spill. The report found BP violated federal regulations, ignored crucial warnings and made bad decisions during the cementing of the well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
BP has repeatedly said it accepts some responsibility for the spill and will pay what it owes, while urging other companies to pay their share.
BP waived a $75 million cap on its liability for certain economic damage claims under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, though it denied any gross negligence.
Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.
- Created on 13 November 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- David Siegel, the CEO who had warned his employees they'd face layoffs if President Obama was re-elected, gave everyone a 5% raise last week instead.
Siegel isn't backing off his gloomy predictions for the economy under Obama's second term. But he said his company, Westgate Resorts, had record profitability this year and he wanted to share the success with employees, most of whom had not gotten a raise the year before.
The CEO said he believes his employees will need higher wages to deal with increased costs he expects everyone will face under Obama. And he's not backing off his prediction that developments like Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulations will hurt the economy in the years ahead -- and could lead him to make staff cuts eventually.
"I never told anyone if Obama got elected, I was firing anybody. That just got twisted by the media," said Siegel in a phone interview on Monday.
What he did say in an e-mail he sent in early October to all 7,000 employees of the privately held company is: "The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration.
"If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company," he wrote at that time. "Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone."
In light of of Obama's win, Siegal says he won't push to grow the company the way he had planned to under a Romney administration.
"I hope I can maintain our profits," he said. "We're not going to be hiring people or expanding. But my goal now instead of growing is getting out of debt and staying profitable."
Before the election, he said that if Obama was re-elected, he might retire and even halt work on the 90,000-square foot home he now has under construction, which many believe will be the largest private home in the United States. But he said he's going to keep working, and building the home, "as long as I enjoy going to work and there are not more obstacles thrown in my way."
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