Tuesday :: Apr 6, 2004

It's A Fact!


by pessimist

Ever notice how the Bush (mis)Administration always crows about its accomplishments in simple, neat terminology?

300,000 jobs created by the Bush Administration.

Simple. Easy. Any Joe Sixpack can understand this, even when their Final Four team is winning and the brew is flowing freely.

Then we liberals come along, and we go, "Wait a minute! That doesn't quite tell the whole story!", and proceed to make our case:

However the increase in Jobs was not due to 300,000 citizens getting full time jobs, but because 300,000 citizens took part time jobs because they could not get full time jobs. The number of people who worked part time for economic reasons rose to 4.7 million in March, up from 4.4 million the previous month (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Some other data that indicate that any celebration by the Bush forces might be premature:
. The average duration of unemployment has been more than 20 weeks, a 20-year high. . The March rise in payrolls reflects the resolution of a labor dispute at grocery stores in southern California that had idled 72,000 workers. The department said the return of those workers helped fuel a 47,000 increase in retail employment last month, but it did not quantify the impact.

. 71,000 of the new jobs created were in construction, which is notoriously subject to weather conditions. Weather was unusually harsh in February, driving this number downward, and unusually mild in March, producing a potentially unsustainable spike in construction hiring.

. Average weekly earnings slipped 88 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $523.70. As any economist knows, wage growth is the ultimate engine of economic recovery, as increased consumer demand drives spending, which drives manufacturing and retail. Hourly wages have grown just 1.8 percent in the past year, near the lowest level since 1986.

. The average workweek also shrank by 0.1 hours to 33.7 hours, while the manufacturing workweek fell by 0.1 hours to 40.9 hours. Economists watch the length of the workweek as a leading indicator of employment.

[Original from email from James Vines to various Alabama Democratic voter groups]

We've just taken Joe Sixpack out of the equation! We took a nice, simple declarative sentence and turned it into a statistical exercise which requires thought. Joe looks at that, thinks "too complicated", and turns to see what else ESPN is offering. Oh! Look - CURLING!

Then, there is this employer abuse of workers:

Altering of Worker Time Cards Spurs Growing Number of Suits

As a former member of the Air Force military police, as a play-by-the-rules guy, Drew Pooters said he was stunned by what he found his manager doing in the Toys "R" Us store in Albuquerque. Inside a cramped office, he said, his manager was sitting at a computer and altering workers' time records, secretly deleting hours to cut their paychecks and fatten his store's bottom line. "I told him, `That's not exactly legal,' " said Mr. Pooters, who ran the store's electronics department. "Then he out-and-out threatened me not to talk about what I saw."

Mr. Pooters quit, landing a job in 2002 managing a Family Dollar store, one of 5,100 in that discount chain. Top managers there ordered him not to let employees' total hours exceed a certain amount each week, and one day, he said, his district manager told him to use a trick to cut payroll: delete some employee hours electronically. "I told her, `I'm not going to get involved in this,' " Mr. Pooters recalled, saying that when he refused, the district manager erased the hours herself.

Experts on compensation say that the illegal doctoring of hourly employees' time records is far more prevalent than most Americans believe. The practice, commonly called shaving time, is easily done and hard to detect a simple matter of computer keystrokes and has spurred a growing number of lawsuits and settlements against a wide range of businesses.

"We're putting more people to work" but we are cheating them of their fairly earned wages.

"There are a lot of incentives for store managers to cut costs in illegal ways," said David Lewin, a professor of management who teaches a course on compensation at the University of California, Los Angeles. "You hope that would be contrary to company practices, but sometimes these practices become so ingrained that they become the dominant practice."

Compensation experts say that many managers, whether at discount stores or fast-food restaurants, fear losing their jobs if they fail to keep costs down. "A lot of this is that district managers might fire you as soon as look at you," said William Rutzick, a lawyer who reached a $1.5 million settlement with Taco Bell last year after a jury found the chain's managers guilty of erasing time and requiring off-the-clock work. "The store managers have a toehold in the lower middle class. They're being paid $20,000, $30,000. They're in management. They get medical. They have no job security at all, and they want to keep their toehold in the lower middle class, and they'll often do whatever is necessary to do it."

Another reason managers shave time, experts say, is that an increasing part of their compensation comes in bonuses based on minimizing costs or
maximizing profits. "The pressures are just unbelievable to control costs and improve productivity," said George Milkovich, a longtime Cornell University professor of industrial relations and co-author of the leading textbook on compensation. "All this manipulation of payroll may be the unintended consequence of increasing the emphasis on bonuses."

Officials at Toys "R" Us, Family Dollar, Pep Boys, Wal-Mart and Taco Bell say they prohibit manipulation of time records, but many acknowledge that it sometimes happens.

Of course, there is always THIS method of reducing labor costs:

Bank of America says it will cut 12,500 jobs

Bank of America Corp., newly merged with FleetBoston Financial Corp., said Monday it will cut 12,500 jobs - or nearly 7 percent of its work force - over the next two years. Approximately 30 percent of the cuts will come through attrition, the Charlotte-based bank said, with the remaining jobs - about 8,750 - being eliminated through layoffs and vacancies that won't be filled. The cuts will begin this month, as the company starts to notify affected employees from its combined workforce of 181,000.

Bank of America shares were up 45 cents at $80.96 in late-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

That was mostly simple and easy. We're cutting jobs. This is how we're cutting jobs. Oh! Look at how much the stock price rose! Now we look at the contrast between simple declarative statements and the complicated, statistical analyses that 'explain' what's going on.

First the complicated, statistical analysis:

Spokeswoman Eloise Hale said the bank would not specify where positions would be eliminated, saying only that they will take place "corporation-wide."

"When we discuss job reductions, we are talking about positions not necessarily people. These are difficult decisions and we are committed to supporting our associates during this time," said Marc Oken, transition executive for Bank of America.

Now the simple declarative statement:

"As a large employer, we will continue to create jobs over time."

Another complicated, statistical analysis:

The bank recently has fended off questions about the pending cuts, although Lewis has acknowledged that layoffs were probable after a large merger. Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis has said he wants to achieve about $1.6 billion in cost savings by the end of 2005. The two banks don't have a large number of overlapping branches that can be closed, which is a major source of savings in many bank mergers. Instead, the bank has said it expects to get about $650 million in savings from trimming overlapping operations and processes. For example, the bank will be able to consolidate headquarters for combined business lines, Lewis has said.

Another simple declarative statement:

As part of its merger agreement, the company committed to maintain overall employment levels in New England.

Once they run out of simple declarative statements, they revert to soothing the raw facts with nice-sounding, pie-in-the-blue-sky claims:

"In the near-term, employment levels in the (New England) region will drop, but this will be mitigated through new job creation," Bank of America said. "Job growth will occur around several businesses based in Boston, new businesses being extended into the market, and growth in consumer banking locations throughout the region."

Then, when all else fails, they make meaningless promises with a loophole big enough to drive Bush's federal deficit through, supported by a simple declarative statement of fact that has no real connection to the issue being discussed, but sounds good:

The bank will attempt to find new opportunities within the bank for workers affect by the eliminated positions. According to the bank, it filled more than 37,000 positions last year through a combination of internal transfers and external hires.

Now - aren't you about ready to return to watching the hockey playoff and let BushCo take care of business?

pessimist :: 1:55 AM :: Comments (9) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!