More than a hundred truckers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on strike, calling for better pay and safety and accusing transport companies of hindering their efforts to unionize. The trucking companies say they pay fair wages and that drivers striking are only a small slice of the total workforce.
It’s the latest workforce disruption at an important trade gateway with a long history of labor unrest.
The ports are a key point for trade with Asia, with hundreds of billions of dollars in goods moving through. You probably own something with a "Made in China" label, and it most likely came through these California ports.
Right now, only three trucking companies are affected by the strike. Others are still rolling. The picketing isn’t large enough to cause a major disruption.
But if dockworkers walk off the job in support of the truckers, it could snarl trade, with nationwide impact if the strike drags on.
Forget your typical summer camp experiences: swimming, campfires, telling ghost stories.
“I thought it was really cool to know how to make an app,” said Aurora, who is spending the week at iD Tech camp at UCLA. “I’m only a kid. I’m 11. You don’t see a lot of kids making apps in the app store that might actually sell. So I thought it would be cool.”
The room at iD Tech — this one on the campus of UCLA — is humming. Kids are enthralled by their computers: clicking, staring, thinking, asking questions, clicking again.
It’s mostly boys. The camp says 15 percent of its 36,000 campers nationwide are girls.
There are rows of students working on computers tucked inside individual cubbies. Bright signs on the wall say "Game", "Code", "Tech", and "Create."
There's no threat of poison ivy here. No surprise run-ins with spiders. No chance a water fight will break out.
“When I was younger, I had gone to more traditional camps, where it was all fun, all games,” said 14-year old Gavriel, who is learning 3D modeling and animation. “But I felt like it was time to get more serious about what I want to do for the future.”
More serious about the future...at 14.
The pamphlet for iD Tech camp plays straight into that. It's there on page one: “Right now there are over 1 million unfilled jobs in STEM.”
The message is that $900-plus for this week-long camp can help prepare a kid for those high-skilled jobs.
“Technology is great. Computers are great. It is going to be a part of our future,” said Peg Smith, head of the American Camp Association. But, she says, you can learn 21st century skills at traditional camps, too. Skills like creativity, communication, collaboration.
“For kids to be able to be outside, in nature, actively involved, in authentic situations with other people, is a real advantage in today’s world.”
The funny thing, said Smith, is that computer camp used to be where kids went to play with exotic devices.
Now, computers are everywhere.
And it’s traditional camp where they experience the exotic: nature.
When a big American company tries to buy a small company overseas, it’s always worth asking the question: "Why?" Sometimes, it’s because the acquisition gives the big company access to a new and growing market. Sometimes, it’s because the small company has some cool technology the big company wants. And sometimes … it’s a big fat tax dodge.
Take AbbVie, a U.S. pharmaceutical company that wants to buy an Irish drugmaker called Shire. Shire won’t give AbbVie access to an exciting new market, or bring it any sexy new technology. What it will provide – if the merger happens – is headquarters in a country with much lower tax rates than the U.S.
This is called a corporate inversion. Companies that do this behave a bit like the homeowner who sells her beautiful, perfect house in one city and uses the cash to buy a hovel in a town with a great school. The house may be outrageously expensive, and it may be falling down, but the buyer doesn’t care about any of that – she only cares about being able to send her kid to the local school. She can work out the other stuff later.
The same goes for Abbvie: it doesn’t care much about Shire, it cares about paying less in taxes. The same goes for another U.S. pharma company, Pfizer, that tried to buy British drugmaker AstraZeneca earlier this year, as well as a company called Destination Maternity, which tried to buy British maternity retailer Mothercare recently.
The list of companies that have inverted is a long one. It includes Applied Materials, which acquired a Japanese company and reincorporated in the Netherlands; Chiquita Brands, which bought Irish company Fyffes and shifted to Dublin; Power Management company Eaton Corp. did likewise after it bought Cooper Industries; pharma company Perrigo bought Irish company Elan and moved; and publisher Omnicom shifted to the Netherlands after it bought French rival Publicis Group.
Moving overseas to save tax money isn’t a new phenomenon, and companies are careful to obey the law. But, the law has made things more difficult. Companies used to be able to just open an office in Bermuda and move, but they’re not allowed to do that anymore. Hence the inversion activity that we’ve seen recently – at least 20 in the last two years, according to sources cited by the New York Times.
Now, you may think that it’s fair enough for companies to do this: It’s entirely legal, and the 35 percent tax rate that corporations pay is a lot higher than in other countries. So why shouldn’t these companies move and save? They do it within the U.S., after all, moving from state to state to get tax benefits. Some Congressional representatives might agree with you. Others, like Republican Senator Charles Grassley, says inversion may not be illegal, but it’s “immoral.” I guess he doesn’t like seeing all those dollars leaking away overseas.
It looks as though the Obama Administration feels the same way. The New York Times reported recently that “the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are working on draft legislation for comprehensive tax reform that is expected to include new rules intended to curtail inversions while also trying to make the United States a more competitive place for multinationals to call home.”
Independent truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on strike against three large trucking firms. At the same time, a deadline for a new contract with dockworkers has passed.