Posts Tagged ‘Business’

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Getting Fired for Medical Marijuana Use: Why Should Employers Drug Test At All?

09.15.10

Many people are affected by the drug war.  Just take a look at our southern border.

But those aren’t the only ones.

While the states work the whole federalism angle on the legality of marijuana use, there’s bound to be some snags.  And in the case of some people, it’s costing them their jobs.

Glenn Greenwald:

In some cases, workers have been fired for failing drug tests despite having prescriptions saying, in effect, that what they are doing is legal according to the laws of their states.

Here’s the thing: for an employer, you want your employees to be efficient, dependable, and hard-working. If an employee can accomplish all of this while smoking weed — legally prescribed or not — then what’s the issue? If he’s a total wastoid (yeah, wastoid, I said it, bringing it back along with high-tops and snap braclets), then his piss-poor performance should be enough to warrant disciplinary action, regardless of its cause.

Now, I do understand that there are HR costs involved with the hiring of a new employee so companies will want to best determine whether or not this applicant will be a quality addition to their team before they hire him — but, why test current employees?  You already hired them! They already passed your rigorous interview process (so, if they’re sucking at work then you might want to look into revamping your HR department, not firing your employee cause he takes a few puffs to ease his anxiety).  They’re doing their jobs competently, otherwise you could just drag them onto the carpet for their poor job review and cut the dead weight that way.   It’s pointless.

The problem with drug testing is that – NEWS FLASH!!!not all wastes-of-office-space take drugs and not all druggies are inept at work, despite what our current drug war culture would like you to believe. (Total mindblow, I know.)  It’s the whole “well, some pot smokers are lazy and don’t get anything done at work so we’re going to punish them all regardless of their individual aptitude” way of using a gravity bong when a simple one-hitter would suffice.

But since companies fancy themselves as some sort of moral authority now, why stop at drug testing?

  • Why not require me to bring in my hard drive so they can scan it for pirated software and music?
  • Why not scour my glove box to make sure that I indeed have proof of car insurance?
  • Why not stop by my apartment to make sure I’m not illegally leeching some wireless Internet from my neighbors?

I mean, all of those morally questionable practices could affect my job performance, believe you me. Without loads of music to fill my iPod, I’ll go insane at my desk and take my co-workers with me, kicking and screaming. Without car insurance, I could get into an accident, not be able to get a new car, be stuck taking public transport, and consistently arriving late to work irritable and making everyone around my desk miserable as a result.

And without the Internet at home… well, let’s just not imagine that dark, dark world, okay? I just had a glimpse into that lifeless hell when WordPress glitched up, forcing me to re-write this blog, nearly leading me into a total meltdown at my desk — a complete over-reaction, sure, but I almost went social (the post-modern version of going postal).

But, hey. At least I’m not smoking medical herb for my migraines, right?

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Do You Like Capitalism? Then, You Should Love Gay Marriage.

08.24.10

Marriage is big business.

Sure, it’s about love and being together forever and all that jazz, too.  But, let’s be real: it’s a serious moneymaker.

I just went to a wedding of one of my best buddies out in Rochester, NY this past weekend and it was on the second leg of my cross-country flight that it really dawned on me just how much money I was spending on his wedding.

First, there’s the flight from LAX to ROC.  It’s the summer and while Rochester is no resort town, it’s still on the other side of the continent.  I brought my girlfriend along, so multiply that by two.

Then, there’s the hotel. We went cheap and stayed at a Microtel.  But, since I was in the wedding, I arrived a couple days early to make sure I was there for all the festivities and the rehearsal dinner and everything else.  So tack on a couple extra nights.

And there’s also the rental car, the gas for the rental car, eating out for several meals, bar tabs. You can see how it adds up.  And that’s just for one guest and a plus-one.

I can’t even begin to compute how much the actual wedding cost — renting out the event center for the reception, the dress, the suit, the transportation, the hotels, the flowers, the two huge meals, the entertainment, the booze.  And this wasn’t even an overly extravagant affair; it wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t huge.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining at all. I gladly would spend it all over again in an instant to be there with one of my best friends on his wedding day.  It’s a unique, joyous occasion to celebrate love and the expansion of friends and family.  It’s moving.  It’s hilarious.  It’s inappropriate.  It’s something you don’t forget.  You make all sorts of new memories while revisiting all of the old.

But, still.  It costs everyone involved a small fortune.  Receiving that welcomed honor of being in a wedding comes with its price tag.  And while you can’t put a dollar amount on being able to sing and dance and laugh with friends that you only get to see maybe once a year if you’re lucky, you kind of can.  The flight. The hotel.  The car.  The gas.

It all adds up.

And then it made me think about all of the different industries that I, along with my fellow weddingers, were helping sustain for this four-day excursion into upstate New York in August.  The flight attendants, the fast-food-joint workers, the caterers, the chefs, the gas station clerks, the airlines, the DJs, the waiters and waitresses, the photographers, the flower arrangers, the chauffeurs, the hotel staffs.  I’m sure I’m missing plenty more, but you get the idea.

Given the state of our economy, local businesses and big businesses alike could use the help.  And even though times might be tight for everyone, it’s a lot easier to swallow some big expenditures when its in the name of something as happy and joyous as a wedding.

Let’s forget the obvious reasons to support marriage equality on an emotional level for the moment.  Instead, think of it from the capitalist mentality. This is, after all, America, so might as well speak to the language of the land: the dollar.

If marriage is already reduced to being a thousand federal benefits anyway, what harm could it to do just talk about it like it is?  A cash cow for multiple industries.  What could be more American than that?

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Unemployed for Over a Year: A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

07.06.10

My mom has been unemployed for over a year.

In that span, she has applied to hundreds of jobs — some she’s possibly qualified for; most others that she was beyond qualified for even a decade ago.  From those countless applications and resumes sent out to all those different hiring managers, she has only had six interviews.  And of those six, only three weren’t total jokes — what 50-something can afford to live on 12 bucks an hour?

She’s run the gamut of emotions.  Originally, she felt shame.  She avoided the topic when it came up in conversation with friends, offered up other excuses, anything she could to dull the humiliation of having to say that she didn’t have a job, that she couldn’t find a job, that she couldn’t even get an interview.  She felt unemployable.

Then the realization hit that she wasn’t the only one.  Many others were in the same boat as her.  While that helped ease the shame, it didn’t help the feelings anger or frustration, or helplessness.  The worst coming last winter when she was contacted by a recruiter for a coveted position in metro Detroit that promised a high salary, benefits, and other perks.

The preparation was intense.  It started off with regional phone calls and hours of studying for interviews, which she aced.  And then it was on to the big round, down in Detroit, where dozens of others were all going to try to win the precious few regional positions they had available in the state.  She spent hours studying material, doing mock interviews to prepare for anything that the hiring manager would throw at her.  She knew exact dates and times for all of her major accomplishments as well as her struggles and what she had done to overcome them throughout the past ten years of her job, and she was ready with specific work-related events and projects that she had done that would answer any and all of the possible questions they could throw at her.

By the time she drove the two hours down a few weeks later, she was ready.

And then came the interview.  She got stuck with one of the last interviews of the day, which didn’t bode well — after eight hours of interviewing, even the most seasoned interviewer would be tired and drained.  But she wasn’t deterred.  She sat down in front of the unsmiling man, ready for anything.  She had done her part, and expected him to do his.

“Okay, how about you walk me through your resume, starting with high school,” he said.

That just wasn’t what she had had in mind.  For all of her preparation, all her hard work, the manager simply wanted her to walk him through her resume, which he had no doubt had in his possession for weeks prior.  She abided, hoping that it would give way to some juicy interaction, but nothing ever did.  That was it.  They brought her in to just read through her resume, a well-prepared guide to be sure, but only meant as the Cliff’s Notes of her professional career to entice someone to bring you in for an interview to get to know the human being behind the collection of jobs on a piece of thick paper.

It was over before it even began.  They had no intention of ever hiring her, yet put her through the ringer as if she had a chance.  And it was months before she got another interview anywhere.

After that came the feeling of acceptance.  It wasn’t a lack of skills or experience.  It was just the state of everything right now.  Being in Michigan with its highest unemployment rate in the nation sure didn’t help things.  Neither did being over 50 years old battling with all of the recent graduates just entering the job market and asking for much lower wages than she.  Deciding that she might as well enjoy the time off – all the while continuing to search and send out resume after resume after resume – she picked up yoga, read more books for pleasure (which she rarely had had time for in the recent past), and finally found some relief for her excruciating and debilitating migraines that only got worse from the stress — being unemployed allowed her to check into an in-patient headache facility where they were able to get her pain under control and much more manageable, making her even more primed for getting back into the workforce.

Perhaps all of this contributed to the events of this week.  After having barely more interviews in one year than fingers on your hand, she’s now had nearly as many scheduled in the month of July.  She’s excited – for one in particular – but she’s trying to keep her expectations tempered.  It’s an optimistic trend, though, no matter how you look at it.  To go 12 months with nary an acknowledgment of applying for a job to actually getting called in for a face-to-face is quite the step in the right direction.

I’m feeling optimistic for her: based on what she’s told me, these job opportunities have legs.  They’re not piddly $25,000 a year jobs that don’t even bother utilizing her strengths and expertise.  They’re well-paying, solid positions for companies with room to grow.  After over a year of looking and hoping, and now with the unemployment extension being blocked in Congress, this turn of events couldn’t have come a moment too soon.

And I hope that this also bodes well for the American economy in general.  Too much of the news I hear and read is about deficits, balancing the budget, unemployment benefits, the way the stock market reacts to the European markets.  While all of those are important, they divert us to the big picture, the intangible, the ethereal.  Most of us can’t comprehend what owing trillions of dollars really means for anyone, let alone the federal government.  When money is simply a promissory note with a stamp of approval from the federal government declaring that this piece of paper is, in fact, money, how do the rules even apply to the entity that itself decides what is and is not money?

We’ve been going into debt for ten years, paying for these two wars on credit, and now it’s a huge problem that needs fixing immediately, without regard for those who are currently unemployed, scraping by, trying to make ends meet.  Now it’s vital to fix at this very instant.  Now it’s a matter of our grandchildren dealing with… what we’re dealing with now?  I don’t even know.  And whose grandchildren?  Mine?  I’m 28.  I don’t even have kids yet, but assuming that I did, I won’t have grandchildren who will even know how to pronounce the words “budget” or “economy” for another 30-plus years, at least.  Who knows what will be going on then?  Who knows what wars we will or won’t be fighting?  Who knows what the Euro will be doing or how strong the Zone will be at that point?

The news talks about falling unemployment rates, but says that’s actually a bad thing because that means that people are just giving up.  It’s not that they’ve actually found work, they’re just no longer collecting benefits from the state anymore; they’ve lost hope that they’ll find a job anytime soon.  They’ve stopped looking for work because there’s no work to be found.

Others who have jobs aren’t in much better positions: they’re finding that the only way they can keep their jobs is to take a 40 percent drop in salary and loss of all benefits just to stay employed.  But that’s not really working, is it?  You can’t buy a house on $12 an hour, not even here in Michigan.  You can’t build a savings.  You can’t invest.  You can’t pay for your children’s or grandchildren’s college tuition.

Some industries will never recover from this recession.  And what that really means is that the skills and training that many people have spent their whole lives honing may never again be profitable or marketable.  And that’s the real casualty of this entire mess, for which there’s no real remedy.

But, while the news is understandably bleak, there are pockets of hope if you skip over the broad strokes that make the airwaves and delve into the lives of those who are experiencing it right now.  I hope my mom gets one of these jobs.  I know she’ll flourish and succeed out of the gate.  She’s resilient and courageous.  And when she does finally join the workforce again, I hope that means that many others are also joining the ranks of the employed.  I hope it’s a sign.

Things have to get better eventually.  Might as well be now.

Photo by Ryan Mason.  Midland, MI, 2010.

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You Want Some Class Warfare? Look To AIG

03.18.09

I’ve gone back and forth on my thoughts over whether or not the government should bail out the Big Three.  If they were the only businesses failing right now, I think that I would be leaning toward letting them go bankrupt.  But when AIG gets TARP money AND and additional bailout with pretty much no strings attached – especially compared to what those automaker execs had to go through in front of Congress – I say, why not?  I’d much rather invest in a company that actually makes a product than one that invents derivatives to make money that eventually bankrupts millions of Americans.

Steve Parker gets it right in his blog:

And why do many members of congress (and the other usual suspects, including the US Chamber of Commerce) say that the wages fought for and won by the UAW should be tied to the lower wages paid to non-union workers by the “captive imports, foreign-owned car- and car parts-makers located mostly in the nation’s southeast?

Interesting that the government has required the UAW to restructure their contracts yet didn’t put any such stipulation on the execs that ruined AIG.  It’s okay for the working class to take pay cuts but not the white collar workers?  Now that sounds like class warfare to me.

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Commercial Production Companies Forced to Extend Loans to Bailed-Out Automakers

02.12.09

Here’s a look at how the auto industry’s failure and misuse of their bailout funds are affecting more than just those on the assembly lines in Detroit:

A privately owned, small business called Commercial Productions, LLC. (We’ll call it ComProd for short) produces television commercials for various industries, including for the Big Three, and have for years.  Car commercials are the bread-and-butter for some of these production companies, pulling in revenue from one spot that could sustain the company for the rest of the year.

Things have changed this year.  The entire meltdown caused the government to extend lines of credit to both GM and Chrysler in order to help keep their operations running.  Some of that money was earmarked for advertising, since that is a vital aspect of their business model.

Now, GM is telling ComProd and all the other production companies that in order to make their commercials, they’ll have to accept 50% of their fees 70 days after the first shoot day.  That’s over two months after shooting before the first payment arrives.  The rest of the fees will arrive 70 days after delivery of the finished commercial.  If you include pre-production, shooting, editing, coloring, and digital effects, it’s entirely possible that ComProd wouldn’t see their last dime until five months after getting the job.

Let me point out that these car shoots only last three to five days, tops, for the most part and everyone else involved in the production side must to be paid, by law, within a week of the work date.  Also, these aren’t regional ads for the local auto parts store.  These are spots for one of the biggest corporations in the world and can easily cost upwards of $1 million.  Where will that money come from under GM’s new plan?

From the small business owner.  From ComProd.

Since GM can’t get any money extended to them from the banks and they’re terrified of parting with any of the governmental funds they’re received (the executives have to get paid, after all), they’re forcing the ComProds of the world to front the roughly one millions dollars for the commercial by themselves.  It’s essentially asking companies to self-produce a commercial on spec in the hopes that you’ll get paid half a year later.  Only the commercial is actually already sold and airing on national television before you see a dime.  ComProd takes on all the risk with no promises of any reward other than the salaries that they are rightly owed.  That’s not risk sharing.  There’s no incentive.  Really no reason to accept this bad deal at all.

Or is there?

Of course, ComProd could say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the offer and go on their way.  The problem this causes, though, is that there will be a company out there that has the capital to afford to take the risk that GM asks of them.  Now it doesn’t come down to ComProd’s merit or quality in winning the bid for the project; it’s simply about who has enough money and is willing to gamble.

In the end, it’s GM that will end up failing.  Even if they get some company to take on their financial burden, it also means GM won’t be able to pick the most qualified company and director.  They’ll simply take what they can get from whomever gives it.  And when your product is already seen as sub-standard, putting out shoddy commercials really just sinks the ship even faster.

Unfortunately that won’t happen before these little companies like ComProd end up having to close shop because they were forced to act like banks and extend interest-free loans to these mega-corporations and then got screwed when GM ended up being unable to pay that second installment five months down the line.  I’m sure that’s not what the government was expecting when they agreed to the bailout deal.  The idea was that by keeping the Big Three afloat, we’re also keeping alive all of these numerous small companies – and all of their employees and their families – that do business with the auto industry.  It doesn’t work when they hoard the money for themselves much like the bankers did with theirs.

The commercial companies need to band together and all agree that none of them will be doing business with any of the automakers that are demanding such absurdly risky stipulations in their deals.

The automakers have already received plenty of taxpayers’ money.  They don’t deserve another dime.