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Sherman A1

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Gender: Male
Current location: U.S.
Member since: Sat May 13, 2006, 07:37 AM
Number of posts: 28,686

Journal Archives

Walmart's Future Workforce: Robots and Freelancers

Over the past few weeks, Walmart executives have sketched a picture of the company’s future that features more self-checkouts and a grocery-delivery business—soon escalating to 100 cities from a pilot program in six cities. Personal shoppers will fill plastic totes with avocados and paper towels from Walmart store shelves, and hand off packages to crowdsourced drivers idling in the parking lot. Assembly will be outsourced, too: Workers on Handy, an online marketplace for home services, will mount televisions and assemble furniture.

The Walmart of the future relies more heavily on the gig economy and automation. This is an indication of the fierce competition between Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, and Amazon. A pair of recent studies suggests that it’s also a sign that the U.S. economy is tilting further toward jobs that give workers less market power.

One study, by Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Jeff Jacobs and Suresh Naidu of Columbia University, and Siddharth Suri of Microsoft Research, sought to learn whether crowdsourced workers benefit from being able to choose their tasks and hours. The answer matters to a lot of workers. Flexible work arrangements, which include crowdsourcing platforms such as Uber, as well as freelancers and independent contractors, increased about 50 percent from 2005 to 2015. These jobs account for 94 percent—nearly all—of the net employment growth in the United States over that time.

This shift could be good for workers, in theory, if the flexibility of the gig economy lets them switch more easily between employers to take advantage of higher-paying offers. Yet in their analysis of the online-task marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk, the researchers find that this isn’t necessarily happening. MTurk workers, or Turkers, get paid for repetitive tasks, such as tagging objects found in images or verifying restaurant phone numbers. According to the study, Turkers’ wages amount to less than 20 percent of their productivity—in other words, for every dollar of value produced on MTurk, workers receive less than 20 cents. The Turkers’ share compares with a share of 50 cents to 80 cents of every dollar for workers in the U.S. economy as a whole, Naidu says. “This suggests that much of the surplus created by this online labor-market platform is captured by employers,” the researchers write.


St. Louis County, Missouri April 3rd Election Turnout

From the St. Louis County Board of Election Website showing unofficial results.

PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 781). . . . . 781 100.00
REGISTERED VOTERS - TOTAL . . . . . 618,726
BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL. . . . . . . 91,646
VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL . . . . . . 14.81

This was pretty much an election of school boards, local city councils and very few things of much drama to get folks excited enough to get out to vote. In my polling spot with 2 precincts the turnout was just over 7% for an uncontested city council seat and school board election. One nearby polling place showed only 0.64% turnout, while another was at 27%.

Hopefully folks will be more interested come November.

The Lessons of a School Shootingin 1853


This weekend, thousands of people are expected to gather in cities and towns across America for the “March for Our Lives,” a national response to the horrifying school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Will it change policy? Skeptics doubt it, having watched time and again how previous shootings vanish from the headlines with no change to our national debate over guns. But there’s actually precedent, deep in American history, for school shootings to shift the gun debate.

Though little remembered now, the first high-profile school shooting in the U.S. was more than 150 years ago, in Louisville, Kentucky. The 1853 murder of William Butler by Matthews F. Ward was a news sensation, prompting national outrage over the slave South’s libertarian gun rights vision and its deadly consequences. At a time when there wasn’t yet a national media, this case prompted a legal conversation that might be worth resurrecting today.

The deadly encounter between the two men was triggered by a trivial matter: eating a bunch of chestnuts during class. William Butler was a 28-year-old teacher, a Yankee immigrant to Kentucky who had helped found the Louisville School, an institution that attracted students from some of the best families in town. One of those was William Ward, the son of a prominent cotton merchant. Butler, a stern teacher, confronted the young Ward about eating in the classroom. Ward denied it. His teacher called him a liar and administered a whipping. This was a severe form of punishment, but not unusual in the mid-19th century, an age when corporal punishment in schools was the norm in many places.

The punishment did not go over well in the Ward household. The next day the boy’s older brother, Matthews Ward, purchased two small pistols and returned to the school with William and another brother, Bob. Butler had no inkling that his actions had incensed the elder Ward brother, and he greeted all three brothers cordially. Matthews confronted the teacher, calling him a “damned scoundrel” and a “coward.” Matthews and William Butler scuffled, and in the course of the altercation, Ward pulled out his pistol and shot his opponent. The Ward boys fled the building; students rushed to Butler’s aid, carrying him to his house, where a doctor attended him. But to no avail. Butler died within days of the incident.

Claire's Stores jewelry chain files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection


Mall jewelry chain Claire’s Stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, hoping to escape huge debts preventing the company from shimmering in a dim environment for retail.

Claire’s is another victim of a string of private equity buyouts orchestrated by outside investors who loaded up on debt about a decade ago, saddling retailers with burdensome payments.

Others included Toys R Us, which last week gave up its fight to restructure its operations and decided to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, barring a last-minute chance to keep the 200 best locations open.

Struggling malls, online competition and nimble physical competitors have also proven problematic.

Pickle Juice Slushes Are Coming to Sonic

I think this is important news to share in these troubled times in which we live


Sonic Drive-In is adding a potentially polarizing new drink to their menu this summer.

Our sister publication Food & Wine reports that the fast food restaurant plans to roll out pickle juice slushes to locations nationwide in June. Yes, the salty brine is being mashed up with the famous icy drinks that dye your tongue bright colors.

F&W‘s Maria Yagoda got a chance to taste the bright green beverage during a recent trip to Sonic’s headquarters in Oklahoma City—and she was shockingly pleased with the product.

“It’s surprisingly delicious (and makes a good accompaniment to burgers and/or tots and/or corn dogs.)” she writes. “Sweet and tangy, the bright brine compensates for the over-savoriness you might have been worried about.”

Unions Push Back on Trump Administration's Plans to Shrink Labor-Management Agency

The federal agency tasked with overseeing labor-management relations in government is planning to shutter two of its seven regional offices, and federal employee unions are not happy about it.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority announced the closures of its Boston and Dallas offices in its fiscal 2019 budget justification, saying the reductions would save money and eliminate less-used facilities. The Boston and Dallas offices have seen the lowest case intake rates over the last five years, FLRA said, and would result in “operating efficiencies” enabled by technological advances. The agency moved forward with the closures after a majority of FLRA members voted to approve them.

Sixteen employees would be affected by the closures, all of whom will be offered reassignments in other regions or at the Washington, D.C., headquarters. FLRA has also received authority to offer the employees early retirement, and plans to cut its workforce by 8 percent overall.


Lawsuit claims sexual harassment rife in Microsoft's 'boys' club atmosphere'

Microsoft handled 238 internal complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination in a “lacklustre” way, according to court documents published this week.

Between 2010 and 2016, women in technical jobs at the company lodged 108 complaints of sexual harassment, 119 complaints of gender discrimination, eight complaints of retaliation and three complaints of pregnancy discrimination.

The plaintiffs accuse the world’s largest software company of systematically denying pay rises or promotions to women and has an “exclusionary ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere” that is “rife with sexual harassment”.

At least three women reported sexual assault or rape by male co-workers, including a female intern who alleged rape by a male intern, reported the rape to the police as well as her supervisor and HR, and yet was forced to work alongside her accused rapist.


Tipped workers in U.S. invoke #MeToo in fight to raise minimum wage

As a waitress, Nadine Morsch was used to having to force an occasional smile for an unpleasant customer. But when a man she was serving made a reference to grabbing her butt, she warned him he better not try. And he made her pay.

For the rest of the hour he was in the diner, she says, he was "running me around as much as possible."

Morsch says she tolerated him, because she needed a good tip.

Experiences like that are one reason activists are invoking the #MeToo movement in the push for more states to adopt higher minimum wages for tipped workers. They say a wage structure that leaves workers dependent on tips often forces them to put up with harassing and abusive behavior from their customers or risk not being paid.


Kroger Cincinnati/Dayton Associates Ratify New Contract


Associates working at stores in The Kroger Co.’s Cincinnati/Dayton division have ratified a new labor agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 75.

This is the first contract ratified under Restock Kroger, Kroger's plan to serve America through food inspiration and uplift. As part of Restock Kroger, Kroger is investing an incremental $500 million in associate wages, training and development over the next three years. This is in addition to the company's continued efforts to rebalance pay and benefits.

The agreement raises starting wages to at least $10 per hour and accelerates wage progressions to $11 an hour after one year of service. It also includes a premium increase for night shift work.

"UFCW Local 75 strives to negotiate contracts that secure better wages and affordable benefits, providing a voice for hard-working men and women and strengthening our communities and this contract does those important things," said Kevin Garvey, president of Local 75, which represents nearly 20,000 associates working at 109 stores in greater Cincinnati, Dayton, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.

Toys R Us may go out of business next week, close all U.S. stores: reports

NEW YORK — Bankrupt retailer Toys “R” Us may shut all its US stores as soon as next week, according to several reports.

That’s terrible news for the two biggest publicly traded toy companies. Investors are clearly preparing for the worst. Shares of Hasbro fell 3.5% Friday morning while Mattel plunged 7%.

Smaller toy company Jakks Pacific fell nearly 5% too. Canada’s Spin Master, which owns the popular line of Hatchimals toys, was down about 3% as well on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

And everything isn’t awesome for privately held European toy giant Lego either. The plastic bricks maker reported its first sales drop in thirteen years earlier this week. So these are clearly tough times for the toy makers.


This is going to have a tremendous negative affect on not only those employed by Toys R Us, but upward in the toy & game industry distribution chain to the manufactures. It may present an opportunity for small local operators (such as game, comic and gift stores) to fill the void, but that will only come to pass if such companies as Hasbro & Mattel strive to work with and embrace the smaller operators. Target has made a commitment to expand games in their stores as of last year, but time will tell if Target, Walmart and the remaining big box Retailers are interested in increasing sales in this category.
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