Unionizing Burgerville: workers of the world unite…then quit.

Time passes. Things change.

That’s certainly been the case at Burgerville, where workers at the company’s restaurant at 3504 SE 92nd Ave. in Portland voted 18-4 in April 2018 to form a union.

burgervilleworkersunion

Over the next 12 months, employees at four more Burgerville sites followed suit:

May 13, 2018: 19119 SE McLoughlin Blvd. site – 17 yes, 5 no

Dec. 11, 2018: 1122 SE Hawthorne Blvd. site –  13 yes; 9 no

April 3, 2019: 8218 NE Glisan St. site – 15 yes, 9 no

April 4-5, 2019: 1135 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. site – 14 yes, 7 no

Adding it all up, 111 Burgerville employees at a total of five locations have voted on whether to form a union.

Burgerville says it hasn’t kept track of which specific employees participated in the union votes, so it can’t quantify how many of the 111 voters are still employed by the company. It has determined, however, that of the 142 employees who were working in the five unionized locations during their respective votes, only 94 of them, or 66%, are still employed at Burgerville.

Furthermore, the lead organizers of the unionizing effort at three of the five restaurants no longer work at Burgerville. Two resigned their positions less than one month following their locations’ votes and a third organizer just resigned.

The fast-food industry is currently grappling with record employee turnover. According to MIT Technology Review, the turnover rate in the fast-food industry is 150%. In other words, the typical fast food restaurant is seeing its entire workforce, plus half of its new hires, replaced in 12 months.

Burgerville is doing better, perhaps because of its expansive benefits, including health insurance, vacation pay and financial wellness training. Still, the annual turnover rate across its 42 restaurants in 2018 was 83% (up from 71% in 2017), according to the company.

What all this means is:

  • Three of the five union organizers are no longer working at Burgerville.
  • A significant share of all the Burgerville employees who voted in the five union elections since April 2018 are likely not still working at the company.
  • It is highly likely that few of the 142 employees who were working at the five unionized locations during their respective votes will still be employed at Burgerville 12 months from now.
  • Few of the employees at the five Burgerville locations 12 months from now will have participated in the original votes to unionize.

Why, then, should the employees at the five locations one year from now be forced to be members of a union?

Unfortunately, future employees at the five Burgerville  restaurants probably won’t be given an opportunity to vote on whether to be represented by a union and, if so, which one.

One option to address this situation could be automatic representation elections whenever employee turnover by a bargaining unit over time exceeds a certain percentage. A bill introduced in Congress in 2017 (H.R. 2763 – Employee Rights Act) proposed 50 percent be the trigger.

Another possible solution, suggested by both Samuel Estreicher, a Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, and Michael Oswalt, an Associate Professor of Law at the Northern Illinois University College of Law, is regularly scheduled union representation elections the same way we regularly schedule political elections.

Estreicher, who called his proposal “easy in, easy out,” suggested that every two or three years the employees in a unit, after an initial minimal required showing of interest, would have an opportunity to vote in a secret ballot whether they wish to continue the union’s representation, select another organization, or have no union representation at all.

Oswalt argued that regularly scheduled union representation elections would be better than the simple continuation of the status quo.

“…workplace culture would slowly shift, creating an atmosphere where workers would feel internal pressure to, at the very least, think about the ramifications of selecting or not selecting a bargaining agent,” Oswalt wrote.

That would  be a good thing for Burgerville workers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Scofflaw City: Eugene’s blizzard of unpaid parking tickets

 If you see a notice on your windshield that says, “Parking Fine,” it’s not a compliment.

eugeneparkingticket

Are you a University of Oregon student who has skipped paying a Eugene parking ticket? If so, you’re not alone.

It’s like the wild west out there, with thousands of students, locals and out-of-towners ignoring their parking tickets in Eugene.

In 2018, the city declared 8,356 parking tickets delinquent and sent them out for collection. Over the past four years the total sent out for collection reached a staggering 91,621 tickets. And still, a lot don’t get paid.

The city says it doesn’t track unpaid parking tickets by geographic area, so it doesn’t have data on where all the unpaid tickets were handed out, whether the University of Oregon district, for example, has a high delinquency rate.

Frustrated with all the scofflaws and sensitive to the loss of the ticket revenue, for the past four years the city has been sending delinquent parking tickets to Austin, TX-based Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP.  Linebarger, a collection agency masquerading as a law firm, is one of the nation’s largest government debt collectors.

“We help communities thrive,” the firm says.

With 46 offices and 112 attorneys across the country, the firm is a money-raising behemoth in the parking ticket business.  It claims to collect $1 billion annually in delinquent taxes, traffic citations, parking tickets and tolls.

Some other Oregon cities have contracts with different collection agencies. Bend and Salem for example, have contracts with Professional Credit Service (PCS), a Springfield, OR-based company.

For Bend tickets, PCS adds collection fees of 23% of the total balance and keeps that amount when collecting on a delinquent parking ticket.

In Salem’s case, PCS collects 25% of the principle amount, while the City receives the principle. In cases where there is interest, the City and PCS split this amount evenly.

If a delinquent $10 Salem parking ticket is sent to PCS, the total due becomes $12.50. If 10 cents in interest is assessed before the bill is paid, the total due becomes $12.60. PCVS would retain $2.60 of that and the city $10.10.

Under Eugene’s arrangement with Linebarger, the firm can retain a 20 percent commission of the total amount collected for its work.

Example: 

  • Parking citation: $100.
  • Accrued interest: $21.60 (Interest is calculated at a rate of 18% from the date the account is referred to Linebarger for collection until paid in full)
  • Total owed: $121.60 (Parking fine + Accrued Interest).
  • Commission to Linebarger: $24.32 (20% of $121.60)
  • Payment to City of Eugene: $97.28

If the city’s Parking Enforcement Department places an immobilization device on a vehicle for unpaid fines that have been sent to Linebarger for collection, those delinquent accounts are recalled back to Eugene’s Municipal Court. In such cases, the city isn’t obligated to pay Linebarger a commission for the collection of the citations.

The city considers it reasonable for Linebarger to pursue a collection claim for up to two years. That’s one reason why Linebarger has a reputation for being persistent in its mail and call center collection efforts.

Over the past four years, Eugene has sent delinquent parking tickets with initial fines of $3,072,918 to Linebarger for collection, according to data provided by Jill Wright, a Court Operations Specialist with the City of Eugene, in response to public records requests.

Joe Householder, a Managing Director and spokesman for Linebarger, said the firm’s collection efforts have allowed it to remit $911,003.00 to the city. That represented $627,420.02 in fines and $283,583.98 of interest charges, the city said. This means Linebarger recovered just 20 percent of the original delinquent fines, plus interest.

In other words, a whole lot of delinquent tickets still don’t get paid, even after persistent and extensive efforts to locate delinquent miscreants, forceful letters, and aggressive call centers.

Our overall results are what matter and our overall results are routinely strong,” Householder said.

“Some accounts take a day to resolve; some take years,” he added. “In some cases, we’ll connect with the person on our first outreach attempt but they’re not ready to resolve the matter – maybe they’re waiting till they get their tax refund, or some other expected money comes in. In those cases, we have to stay in touch week after week or month after month and remind them of the debt.”

“In other cases,” Householder said, “just finding the person can take a long time. They’ve moved multiple times, they’ve remarried and changed their name – any number of factors can make it a challenge.”

So, don’t assume you’re safe because you’ve managed to escape Linebarger’s reach so far. “We continue to pursue collections of the remaining outstanding tickets,” Householder said.

Furthermore, if Linebarger fails to collect the balance on your delinquent parking ticket, and your vehicle is found on a city lot or street, the city may still immobilize the vehicle with a boot device.

Linebarger collects a wide array of receivable types for government clients, primarily payments due on taxes, traffic citations, parking tickets, and tolls.

Much of Linebarger’s work is pretty simple. In Eugene’s case, the Court forwards a record of delinquent parking tickets and Linebarger follows up with letters and pestering recorded phone calls to miscreants urging them to pay up.

“Partnering with Linebarger allows our clients to focus their resources on their core responsibilities, while we focus on locating and contacting the relative few who have continued to ignore their delinquent parking tickets,” the firm’s website says.

To counter the thuggish image of collections agents, Linebarger portrays itself as a company with “a big heart beneath that law firm veneer,” and says its work collecting unpaid bills is helping communities thrive by raising money for parks, schools and essential service.

But it hasn’t been able to avoid some criticism.

For some unexplainable reason, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives the Linebarger firm an A+ rating, while at the same time giving it the lowest possible rating, just one star of a possible five, based on customer reviews. Hundreds of complaints have been filed with the BBB against Linebarger nationwide. Complaints range from inaccurate notices of delinquent accounts and rude call center employees to harassing collection calls and allegations of fraudulent charges.

“I am being charged for parking violations in Denver, CO,” wrote one BBB reviewer. “I live in Oregon and have never been to Colorado.”

“I got a letter, that I find threatening, regarding an unpaid parking ticket from 12 years ago,” wrote another reviewer. “Give me a break!”

Yelp reviews are similar, with an overall rating of one star out of 5.

What do Eugene’s Parking Services Manager, Jeff Petry, and City Manager, Jon Ruiz, have to say about all this? Nothing.

Despite repeated requests that they answer a series of questions relating to the parking ticket and collections program, neither responded. So much for government transparency.

 

______________

Parking Ticket Fines in Eugene

Overtime Violations

Parking meters and time limits are placed in high use parking areas of Eugene to encourage turnover which increases accessibility for everyone and supports local businesses that rely on street parking for customer access.

Time limit citations in Eugene are $16.

Other Violations

 

 Violation Fine Amount
Parking in Space Reserved for Persons with Disabilities
First Offense
Second Offense
$200
$400
Storage of Vehicles on Street /Abandoned Vehicle
First Offense
Second Offense
$25
$50
Parking on Sidewalk, Crosswalk, or in Front of a Driveway $25
Parking in a Yellow, Bus, Taxi or Tow-Away Zone $25
Parking on wrong side of the street (facing the wrong way) $25
Parking in Bike Lane $40

For more information on parking fines, see the Municipal Court’s Presumptive Fine Schedule.

Fines Increase If Not Paid Within 30 days 
Parking citations (tickets) that are not paid or contested within 30 calendar days will double. Citations not paid within 120 days will be sent to a collection agency, and interest will begin to accrue.

Source: City of Eugene, https://bit.ly/2tKY7wC

 

      

 

 

Will The Oregonian survive?

Local news coverage is dying.

dyingnewspapers

The latest casualty — the entire staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. All 161 of them, , including reporters and editors, are losing their jobs.

On May 2, the Times-Picayune’s rival, the New Orleans Advocate, bought the Times-Picayune and plans to merge the papers under a single masthead and website. The seller — Advance Local Media LLC, the parent of Oregonian Media Group.  Even winning  two Pulitzers for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina didn’t serve the Times-Picayune.

Randy Siegel, CEO of Advance Local, assured the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly that the sale of the Times-Picayune was a one-time thing. But what if it’s not? Is The Oregonian/OregonLive at risk, too?

Daily newspapers like the Times-Picayune and The Oregonian were once pervasive throughout the United States, with many communities having both a morning and evening paper, and sometimes a weekly local paper as well. But daily local newspapers are now in decline, dealing with cratering circulation, a reduction in print editions and drastic staff cuts.

According to the Wall St. Journal, nearly 1,800 US newspapers shut down between 2004 and 2018, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. Hundreds of communities have lost their local newspapers. Between 1,300 and 1,400 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have no news coverage at all, according to the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.

It was once unthinkable that papers such as the Cincinnati Post, the Albuquerque Tribune, the New York Sun, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Tampa Tribune would close, but they are all gone now. Nicco Mele, former director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, predicts that half of remaining titles will disappear within the next two years.

Newspaper consumption in Oregon is already dropping precipitously, with daily and weekly circulation combined falling from 1.4 million in 2004 to 796,000 in 2019, the UNC Center says.

Some of the remaining Oregon papers are what the UNC Center calls “ghosts”  because their newsroom staffing has been so dramatically pared back, often by more than half,  that the remaining journalists cannot adequately cover their communities.

In January 2018, when Willamette Week broke that The Oregonian was laying off another 11 newsroom staffers, the Portland Mercury observed, “After repeated rounds of layoffs, it’s hard to imagine The Oregonian having anywhere else to cut. But the news business’s grim prognosis marches on, so the cuts continue.”

“For those inclined to point fingers at The Oregonian or our parent company Advanced Publications: Ad revenue across our industry continues to plummet precipitously. Layoffs in local newsrooms are happening everywhere. And it fucking sucks,” Oregonian reporter Shane D. Kavanaugh tweeted.

Compared with its breadth and depth in the 1990s, The Oregonian/OregonLive has become a ghost. When I was a business reporter at The Oregonian in the 1980s and 1990s, the business team of reporters and editors was a robust 8-10 individuals covering a panoply of topics from energy and healthcare to labor and retail. OregonLive’s list of staff today includes just one reporter, Mike Rogoway, specifically devoted to business coverage , unless you also count Jeff Manning, who is listed as a reporter covering Health Care Business, OHSU.

Sports coverage is still robust, with 12 reporters and editors, but just one reporter, Gordon Friedman, is specifically assigned to covering everything going on at Portland City Hall.

When the Jan. 2018 layoffs were announced, The Oregonian/OregonLive’s editor and vice president of content, Mark Katches, said to the paper’s staff, “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end? I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company – as is the case across the media landscape.”

In August 2018, Katches abandoned ship himself to take a new job as executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times, another paper that has had its own struggles both before and since it acquired its competitor,  the Tampa Tribune, in 2016 .

With all the strife in the newspaper business, is The Oregonian/OregonLive ripe for the same fate as the Times-Picayune.

Don’t think it can’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confronting the homeless: after Denver, whither Portland?

It hasn’t gotten much media coverage in Oregon, but on May 7, 2019, Denver voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have allowed homeless people to camp in outdoor public spaces like parks, sidewalks and vehicles.

Fed up voters didn’t just soundly reject the initiative; they pummeled it 83% to 17%.

Portland Mayor Wheeler says he’s going to run again. If he doesn’t resolve Portland’s homelessness crisis, he’s likely to face the same level of public rancor.

portlandcampers2

Portland, OR campers.

In 2011, only 1% of those surveyed an annual poll of Portland-area voters by DHM Research that was commissioned by the Portland Business Alliance said homelessness was the biggest issue facing Portland. By 2017, the share of those polled identifying homelessness as Portland’s biggest problem had risen to 24%.

In a Jan. 2019 telephone survey of 510 likely voters in the Portland Metro Region, including an oversample of City of Portland voters, homelessness remained the top-of-mind issue, jumping to 33% overall and 47% among voters in the City of Portland alone. Nearly one in three who said the Portland City Council was ineffective pointed directly to its failure to address homelessness as the reason.

At the same time, half the people polled said they felt the Portland area was headed in the wrong direction. A majority of voters said the region’s quality of life was declining— continuing a trend from a December 2017 study. Only 7% said the quality of life in the Portland Metro Region was getting better.

“just last weekend, a homeless couple set up a tent next to my house in broad daylight…, “ wrote a commenter on OregonLive.” I find more and more used condoms and needles by my house (which I have to dispose of), while my neighborhood experiences daily burglaries and car thefts, all of which the city does nothing about. These problems have exploded just in the past few years. I pay thousands of dollars in property and other taxes per year and get nothing in return. When is enough, enough?”

“Wheeler keeps putting more and more money in to coddling them and tells police to not help residents when harassed or attacked by transients,” wrote another commenter. “Transients have more rights in this city than tax paying voting residents and thus more and more keep coming. We need a tough policy and kick them out. Portland is slowly becoming the shelter for America’s homeless by choice, mentally ill and young lazy transients.”

Even though Portland still has a reputation as an ultra-left city, it’s clear Portlanders’ tolerance and patience are slipping.

That’s clearly what happened in Denver. another liberal (some would say more of a live-and-let-live libertarian) city,

Responding to an explosion of complaints by downtown businesses, Denver began enforcing an urban camping ban to keep people from spending the night on city sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces. In 2016, the city began sweeps to enforce the ban, picking up tents, sleeping bags and other detritus.

denverhomelesssweep

Police sweep homeless camps in downtown Denver, CO in 2016

Still, surveys in 2018 showed the homeless population increasing, with more people camping instead of staying in shelters.

“Something needs to happen. It’s gotten to the point where it is hard to live down there,” River North (RiNo) resident Josh Rosenberg, told Denver’s Channel 7 in late 2018. “It’s not just one or two homeless guys sleeping on the street; there’s been times where they will set up camp and have tarps and suitcases and shopping carts and kind of make a little village out of it and they’ll be there until somebody calls the police.”

In late 2017, homeless advocates submitted enough signatures to get Initiative 300, referred to as the “Right to survive initiative, on the ballot. The initiative wouldhave effectively overturned Denver’s urban camping ban.

“Denver faces a choice: to do nothing, and let Denverites experiencing homelessness struggle to survive, to sleep at night, and to make it to their jobs, or to take action, and take the first step toward empathy, dignity and realistic solutions,” the Yes on 300 supporters said.

But opposition quickly became obvious. “The election was a referendum on quality of life,” said one online Denver Post commenter. “If you just moved here you don’t know, but those of us that have lived in Denver for 30 years have drastically seen quality of life decrease…”

An increasing number of Portlanders feel that way as well. If he’s not careful, Ted Wheeler could get pummeled, too.

_____________

You can find more about the survey and results at the Portland Business Alliance:

https://portlandalliance.com/assets/pdfs/2019-PBA-Jobs-Economy-DHMReport-January.pdf

Local school board elections: local no more.

Statewide political action committees (PACs) getting involved in local school board elections?

Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right.

On March 15, 2019, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon’s PAC announced its endorsement of 15 school board candidates in the state. One was John Wallin who’s running for re-election to the School Board of Lake Oswego, where I live.

NARAL+Pro-Choice+Oregon_1548349301

NARAL says it “works to advance the most progressive pro-choice policies in the nation.” All 15 of the candidates it endorsed “…have affirmed their commitment to advancing reproductive health equity for students in their school districts,” the PAC said.

“I’m very excited to have this endorsement,” Wallin said at an April 29 school board candidate forum. “This is a group that supports prevention of sexual violence and comprehensive health education. I sought it out, I met with them and talked about my beliefs. They stand for things I believe in.”

johnwallin

John Wallin

According to NARAL, it makes contributions to local elections such as for the Lake Oswego School Board because “Pro-choice school board members have the unique opportunity to protect and expand access to comprehensive healthcare, including access to contraceptives and evidence-based sexuality education for Oregon’s students.”

Wallin’s campaign website , however, says nothing about his views on NARAL’s positions. The only thing it says on student health and safety is:

 School should always be a place for learning and not fear and anxiety from concerns about physical safety, bullying, and schoolwork. We should work to strengthen the physical security of our buildings, mental health services, and student nutrition.”

Wallin’s submission to the Voter’s Pamphlet says nothing about his support for NARAL positions either.

Wallin didn’t say at the forum whether he also sought out the support of:

  • The United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 555, which has made an in-kind donation of $1390.40 for literature, brochures and printing, or
  • The Oregon School Employees Association (represents the school district’s classified employees) which made a $6,500 cash contribution to his campaign. or
  • State Senator Robert Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, who made multiple in-kind contributions totaling $2,395.22 for postage, plus a $1,000 cash contribution.

Taken together, the contributions above total $11,285.62, almost half of the $22,637.16 received by the Friends of John Wallin campaign committee as of  April 25, 2019.

What’s next, local school board races supported entirely by national unions and the Democratic National Committee?

The CEO-worker pay ratio: worse than useless

The annual release of data required by the SEC on the pay ratios of CEOs and the median worker at their company is out.

clownpay

The data show that Nike CEO Mark Parker makes a heck of a lot more than a typical Nike employee. The estimated ratio of Parker’s annual total compensation ($9,467,460) to the median annual total compensation of all Nike employees ($24,955) was 379 to 1 in fiscal year 2018.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did even better in 2018. His compensation package ($35.003,000)compared with Comcast’s median employee’s compensation ($82,205) resulted in a CEO pay ratio of 426 to 1.

As expected, the release of the data is spurring all sorts of overheated grievances.

“Look at all the overpaid, greedy CEOs.” “The facts are in. Inequality is destroying America. This proves it.”

There’s no question that CEO compensation has been escalating.

ceotoworkerratioi

The problem is the comparative CEO-worker data generated in response to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and implemented by the SEC is seriously flawed, misleading and unreliable and its collection a colossal waste of businesses’ time and money.

Passed in 2010 during the Obama administration, the pay ratio requirement took effect in 2017. Ostensibly, the purpose was to ensure that the devastating 2008 financial crisis wouldn’t be repeated, to increase the transparency of executive compensation and to provide investors with another piece of information to consider when determining whether the compensation of their CEO is appropriate.

“This simple benchmark will help investors monitor both how a company treats its average workers and whether its executive pay is reasonable,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who introduced the pay ratio provision in the Dodd-Frank Act.

But the numbers really say nothing useful about how a company treats its workers or whether the CEO’s pay is reasonable.

That’s partly because the real motive of the pay ratio advocates was to give the left a tool to propel its inequality agenda. The proponents wanted to promote envy and class warfare, to argue that the once-great America as a land of opportunity is vanishing and that more aggressive government intervention guided by liberal principles is necessary.

As SEC Commissioner Michael S. Piwowar said in a dissenting statement on the pay ratio rule when it was approved, “Today’s rulemaking implements a provision of the highly partisan Dodd-Frank Act that pandered to politically-connected special interest groups and, independent of the Act, could not stand on its own merits. “

“The bottom line is that this is one of the sillier and more pointless disclosures that I have ever seen,” David Yermack, a professor of finance at NYU’s Stern School of Business, told The Atlantic.

Nike, for example, spelled out all sorts of qualifiers in disclosing its pay ratio figures:

nikeparkerpayratiop

“The SEC rules for identifying the median compensated employee and calculating the pay ratio based on that employee’s annual total compensation allow companies to adopt a variety of methodologies, to apply certain exclusions, and to make reasonable estimates and assumptions that reflect their compensation practices. As such, the pay ratio reported by other companies may not be comparable to the pay ratio reported above, as other companies may have different employment and compensation practices and may utilize different methodologies, exclusions, estimates, and assumptions in calculating their own pay ratios.”

The ridiculousness of the whole exercise is illustrated by some of the sharp swings in some companies’ ratios from 2017 to 2018, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls  Industries Inc. and potash producer Mosaic Co.reported, for example, that the typical worker got half as much in 2018 as the year before. At Honeywell International Inc.,the data showed the typical worker’s compensation was 33 percent higher in 2018 than 2017.

The fact is, every company calculates the pay ratio differently, partly because the SEC rule gives companies wide leeway in identifying median workers.

Some year-to-year ratio fluctuations reflect acquisitions or spinoffs that revamp a company’s workforce. Others are attributable to whether the median employee has a traditional pension plan, or new ways of identifying that middle employee.

Companies don’t have to account for independent contractors if they don’t set their pay, for example, so, a company with a highly paid CEO and loads of low-paid independent contractors can massage its numbers to look better.

Companies can also manipulate the numbers by identifying their median worker in a variety of ways.

“To identify the median employee, the rule would allow companies to select a methodology based on their own facts and circumstances,” the SEC rule says. “A company could use its total employee population or a statistical sampling of that population and/or other reasonable methods. A company could apply a cost-of-living adjustment to the compensation measure used to identify the median employee.”

The pay ratio numbers also can fluctuate when there are different types of businesses. For example, at Goldman Sachs, an investment banking, securities and investment management firm where most employees are highly educated and highly paid professionals, the pay ratio figure will obviously be lower than at McDonalds where most employees are less educated and earn modest wages.

Businesses that employ a lot of part-time or seasonal workers, or that employ a lot of foreign workers in countries with comparatively lower wages, will also have high ratios.

Then there are the compliance costs borne by companies collecting and submitting the data. “The SEC total initial cost of compliance for all 3,571 registrants affected by the Section 953(b) requirements is expected to be approximately $1,315 million, “ the SEC  said in the Final Rule in 2015.

To top it all off, the disclosures required by the SEC rule do little to help investors make decisions on trades. Not only is the pay ratio calculation based on wildly different data used by different companies, but CEO-worker pay ratios are not especially reliable indicators of how a company will perform.

It’s not that reporters and editorial writers don’t know the pay ratio numbers are pretty much worthless and politically motivated. It’s just that a story that gives them a chance to rail about inequality is too much to miss.

As Stanford University Professor Joseph Grundfest said when the SEC rule was finalized in 2015, “Ultimately, the ratios that companies will disclose in their SEC filings will not be grist for meaningful debate so much as fodder for shocking headlines. Individually, factoids about executive compensation can be truly, deeply bananas, and some media outlets capitalize on that.”

Portland’s pay ratio surcharge – more lunacy

Occupy Wall Street protesters demonstrate in Portland

Protesters demonstrate in Portland.

Given the unreliability of the pay ratio numbers, Portland’s pay ratio tax is a farce, too, just another tool to raise revenue.

In December 2016, the Portland City Council voted to impose a surtax on CEO compensation that would be added to the city’s business tax on publicly traded companies whose chief executives earn more than 100 times the median pay of their employees.

The surcharge was set at an additional 10 percent in taxes if their CEO’s compensation is greater than 100 times the median pay of all their employees and 25 percent if the pay ratio is greater than 250 times the median.

The city initially figured the surtax would generate about $2.5 to $3.5 million per year.

Only Commissioner Dan Saltzman showed wisdom in voting against the proposal by then-Commissioner Steve Novick.

As noted earlier, Portland’s tax is based on unreliable data and will fail miserably in meeting Novick’s hope that it “would prod corporate America back to equitable pay scales.” The tax is surely irritating to businesses, but it’s not likely to change their compensation practices.

Moreover, even if some shamed companies reduce their CEO’s pay and spread around the cut, it won’t mean much to other employees.

For example, The Kroger, Co which owns Fred Meyer, reported its CEO W. Rodney McMullen’s pay was $11,534,860in fiscal year 2018, which Kroger said was 547 times its median worker’s pay of $21,075.

Even if Kroger reduced its CEO’s pay to $1 million, and distributed the rest equally to Kroger’s 453000 employees, they would each see an annual raise of just $25.46.

In other words, the surcharge is just another way to pad the city’s coffers.

portlandtaxes

 

 

 

The University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center: a step back

University of Oregon President, Michael Schill is excited about the $2.5 million Black Cultural Center under construction on campus. He shouldn’t be.

Portrayed by its advocates as a step forward, the Center, a response to demands by some black students after a 2015 demonstration, is actually a step back in encouraging diversity and inclusion.

Kingbrothers

 

Kevin Fletcher

Golden, Colo.

In an April 22 presentation to the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego, Schill said academic success and diversity go hand in hand, so completion of the new Black Cultural Center is a huge priority.

If diversity is so important to academic success, why is the university facilitating construction of an identity center that will spur division and encourage black students to self-segregate?

It’s a contradictory effort that only hard-left academics could endorse, arguing they’re for inclusion while espousing policies that support separateness.

“Civil rights leaders put their lives on the line working for a color-blind, non-race determined society,’ “ Richard Vedder, Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University, wrote in 2018.  “The bitter struggle to break down racial distinctions in education lasted for decades, yet now universities are reintroducing segregation.”

 After generations of schools denied admittance to blacks and only under pressure eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures, how ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by allowing, even facilitating, separation by race.

Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, founders of the New American Civil Rights Project and Congressionally appointed members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, lambasted the reversion to separateness when opposing black housing at the University of Connecticut. Rather than expand the horizons of young black college men, this “safe space” will ghettoize them, they said. The same principle applies to other black identify centers.

Some weak-kneed academics, overly eager for student approval and worried about being labeled racist, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students…on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College/CUNY.

“The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of knowledges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience,” Macdonald said.

This is very professorial, but it sounds suspiciously like something segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language.

wallaceinauguration

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” George C. Wallace at his 1963 inauguration as governor of Alabama.

There are also those who justify racially-based identity centers on the basis of research that affinity groups are a benefit to students who may not identify with the prevalent or dominant culture. The problem is that this is a slippery slope, leaning to justification for splitting  everybody into little niches, rather than reinforcing the common good. Furthermore, it’s one thing to facilitate a coming together of people with common interests; it’s quite another to encourage racial division.

As Kevin Fletcher wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “What is the purpose in the purported effort to achieve ‘diversity’ by colleges in the selection of their entering classes if the result is the segregation of these same students by ethnic group in student orientation programs, residential arrangements and graduation ceremonies?”

If racial divisions end up worsening on the University of Oregon campus because of things like the Black Cultural Center, it will be a self-inflicted wound.

In short, the University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center isn’t the way forward. It’s a way back, way way back.

__________________

Peter W. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars,  and Dion J. Pierre

a research associate at the association and primary author of its new report, “Separate But Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in Higher Education.”, wrote an opinion column on this same topic in the Wall St. Journal on April 30, 2019. Because only WSJ subscribers can easily access their column, it is copied below:

Segregation by Design on Campus

How racial separatism become the norm at elite universities like Yale, Brown and Wesleyan.

 

In his inaugural address in January 1963, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama thundered: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” About “tomorrow,” Wallace was right. More than half a century later, racial segregation comes as easy as breathing to many American colleges and universities.

Wallace had in mind the exclusion of blacks from white-only institutions. Today’s racial segregation, by contrast, consists of ethnic groups walling themselves off within institutions. In the past two years the National Association of Scholars surveyed 173 colleges and universities, public and private, in all 50 states. We found 46% of schools segregate student orientation programs, 43% segregate residential arrangements, and 72% segregate graduation ceremonies. Though these arrangements are ostensibly voluntary, students can’t easily opt out. The social pressure to conform is overwhelming.

This kind of racial separatism on campus isn’t new. We pursued case studies of Yale, Wesleyan and Brown universities, where we found that black students began to organize exclusive groups with separatist agendas as early as the 1960s.

Begin with Yale, the subject of a 210-page study released by NAS this week. The Black Students Association at Yale, or BSAY, was founded in 1964 as the Yale Discussion Group. Black students started the organization because they felt Yale recruited them merely for show. The accusation may have been unfair but it touched something real.

In 1964 Yale’s newly appointed president, Kingman Brewster, declared an all-out “effort to cure racial injustice.” This meant discarding Yale’s old policy of admitting only highly qualified black students in favor of aggressive outreach to the inner cities. Brewster’s like-minded admissions dean, R. Inslee “Inky” Clark, openly set forth a plan to enroll black students regardless of their test scores or other evidence of academic achievement. Brewster and Clark believed they could turn anyone into a Yale man. (The university didn’t admit female undergraduates until 1969.)

The new zeal to boost numbers brushed aside hard questions about college readiness and cultural adjustment. The results were catastrophic for the students. More than a third of the 35 black students Yale enrolled in 1966 dropped out during their first year, and many others lagged behind academically and felt unwelcome.

To stem the exodus, Yale set up a summer remediation program for black students. It did little to encourage their academic success, but it unexpectedly reshaped relations between black students and the university. The program isolated the black students as a group and gave them a sense of solidarity and shared grievance.

Out of this seedbed sprang BSAY, which was Yale’s first racial identity group. BSAY found its voice by demanding that Yale provide an ever-greater number of accommodations, including separate advisers, a separate orientation, and a separate center in a separate building. BSAY also became the leading advocate for a separate curriculum—the African-American studies program—that entailed hiring new faculty members with appropriate qualifications. A new world began to open up at Yale bearing a strange resemblance to the “separate but equal” arrangements that the Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.

Though this happened more than 50 years ago, the pattern set down in the turmoil of the late 1960s continues. BSAY’s goal wasn’t a university where racial difference ceased to matter, but a university that aggrandized race and celebrated separation. Brewster agreed to almost anything activists wanted, apparently hoping a golden age of racial integration would follow.

Instead, BSAY grasped that racial intimidation yields rich rewards. The intimidation expanded beyond BSAY itself to a broader coalition of identity groups. Yale now steers its course with a compass of group rights, with each group asserting its own demand to be compensated for past wrongs. The most famous example is the 2015 mobbing of Prof. Nicholas Christakis over Halloween costumes. Yale President Peter Salovey responded by praising the “affirming and effective forms of protest,” and the trustees soon set aside $50 million to meet protesters’ demands.

Yale is a private institution with abundant resources to deploy as it pleases. But Yale is also one of the templates for American higher education as a whole. Its readiness to appease racial separatists who hold the ideal of racial integration in contempt has become the campus norm.

Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., became one of the first schools to embrace residential segregation when it created the Afro-American House (now called the Malcolm X House) circa 1968. In 1972 Cornell began accepting black students to its Ujamaa Residential College, a 144-resident building for blacks who have “personal knowledge” of the black experience. Other elite schools, such as Columbia University (Pan African House), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Chocolate City), the University of California Berkeley (African American Theme Program), Stanford University (Ujamaa), and Amherst College (Charles Drew House), made similar arrangements. In 2016 the University of Connecticut opened the Scholars House for black male students. The crush of protests across academia in fall 2015 was driven by racial organizations composed of students primed to see themselves not as individuals but as members of persecuted racial groups.

Today’s campus segregation puts people in a racial box. And like other forms of segregation, it has been a major source of tumult in higher education across the decades. Institutions of higher education should stop deliberately balkanizing their student bodies, and work instead to unify them around the common purpose of seeking truth and knowledge.