Explaining Southern California's economy

Why do shoppers camp out for Black Friday?

Black Friday

Ben Bergman/KPCC

Kelly Williams will be camped out in front of Best Buy in West L.A. until the store opens on Thanksgiving night. "I’m a very frugal shopper, and I love knowing I got the absolute best price,” she said.

Kelly Williams doesn't want to miss an unbelievable bargain: $199 for a 50-inch television on sale at Best Buy starting Thanksgiving.

So she started camping out in front of Best Buy in West Los Angeles on Tuesday. There were already four people ahead of her.

"We did this last year, too," Williams said. She nabbing a great deal for a TV late year, too. That one went into her son's room. This year's big screen is going into her bedroom.

"I’m a very frugal shopper," she said, "and I love knowing I got the absolute best price."

Like shoppers who walk by her on their way into the store, Williams' husband is skeptical of why she should spend three days camped out for a television.

"It's not quite as insane as it looks," said Kit Yarrow, who's studied consumer psychology for two decades and is author of the new book "Decoding the New Consumer Mind."


Short-haul truckers end strike at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

port of los angeles long beach container ship

Photo by Lance Cunningham via Flickr Creative Commons

Truck drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have called off a strike against two remaining drayage companies.

Organizers of a strike by truckers against companies that haul cargo at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach say the strike is over. 

On Friday, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport, the last two companies targeted in the strike, agreed to continued discussions with the Teamsters Union, which wants to represent the truck drivers. Both companies, owned by XPO Logistics, issued statements that they won't retaliate against drivers who went on strike. 

The truck drivers have long complained that drayage companies misclassify them as independent contractors, rather than actual employees, and that misclassification causes them to lose wages and certain workplace protections and benefits. Their campaign, organized and supported by the Teamsters, has gathered momentum this year. They've seen favorable rulings in federal court, and from the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement.  


Obama's executive order doesn't fix tech companies' immigration problem


Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama is seen on a screen in the White House briefing room during an address to the nation on immigration reform November 20, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Tech company executives and lobbyists have complained for years that the country's immigration system is hurting American competitiveness. Now some worry an executive order announced Thursday night by President Obama does far more to help workers than companies, and in the wake of a threatened Republican backlash, could make the problem worse.

"This certainly complicates things," said Emily S. Lam, Vice President, Health Care and Federal Issues for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a trade group representing nearly 400 Silicon Valley companies. "The executive action makes a difficult situation even more difficult." 

That's because the order couldn't do what tech companies most want: to increase the quota of H1-B visas allowing U.S. companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers. Changing the quota from its current limit of 65,000 workers a year requires congressional action, which could be further delayed because of Republican opposition to Obama's order.


Truckers stage another strike amid growing tension at ports of LA and Long Beach

lbct teamsters

Brian Watt / KPCC

Teamsters supporters watch trucks pass at the Long Beach Container Terminal in the Port of Long Beach.

A group of short haul truckers for companies that move goods at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach walked off the job Thursday, adding a layer of uncertainty at a port complex already grappling with a cargo backlog.

The truck drivers and the companies had been in a cooling-off period brokered by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to end a brief strike in July.  But the truckers, backed by the Teamsters Union, said the companies had gone back to punishing workers for supporting the union's organizing effort, and went back on strike.

Exactly how many truck drivers have stopped working isn’t clear. But Maria Elena Durazo of the LA County Federation of Labor told the truckers they have support.

"On your picket lines, you will find electricians, city workers, grocery workers, hotel workers, Wal-Mart workers," Durazo said at a rally at Wilmington's Waterfront Park. She didn't mention Longshore workers.


Falling gas prices fuel improvements at Hollywood tour company

Starline Tour bus in downtown LA

Brian Watt/KPCC

A double-decker Starline Tours bus makes a stop in downtown Los Angeles.

Starline Tour Bus in traffic

waltarrrrr/Flickr Creative Commons

"Hop-on, Hop-off" routes at Starline Tours cover more than a hundred miles, with 20 to 25 buses traveling regular schedules every day.

The price of a gallon of gas has now dipped below three dollars at many stations in the Los Angeles area, and that decline has freed up a lot of cash for LA-based Starline Tours

The Daily Fuel Gauge reported by the Automobile Club of Southern California put Tuesday's average Los Angeles-Long Beach area gas price at $3.24 per gallon, down 40 cents from a month ago and dropping more than a dollar from the $4.32 Angelenos were paying in early May. But the tracking site LosAngelesGasPrices.com listed stations with prices as low as $2.89 per gallon.

Mapping LA: Average price for regular unleaded gasoline

"We’re filling up every single day with our buses; so when we see these prices fall, it certainly directly helps us," says Phillip Ferentinors, director of Starline Tours of Hollywood.  "The lower fuel prices have allowed us to use some of the money instead on technology," Ferentinors told KPCC.  He says the company is now investing in upgrades of its systems for ticketing, reservations and internal communications.