Explaining Southern California's economy

Los Angeles fast food workers protest alleged wage theft

Hamburglarized at McDonalds

Brian Watt/KPCC

Alberto Castro played the 'Hamburglar' and Jose Paz played the 'police' in some street theater to protest alleged wage theft.

More than a dozen fast food workers and their supporters spoke and performed street theater Thursday outside a McDonalds in South Los Angeles.  

Some of the performers were local examples of the results of a  recent national survey that showed 89 percent of fast food workers believe they've been the victim of wage theft. 

"Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar are stealing wages," shouted the narrator into a bullhorn.  23-year-old Jose Paz, who works at the McDonalds, played the policeman bringing the costumed 'thieves' to justice.

"When we punch in and punch out, those are edited out and sometimes we don't see hours or minutes that we worked for those two weeks," said Paz, who has worked at the McDonalds for three years.  He added that he's also been forced to buy supplies needed on the job, like dishwashing fluid and a hat. 

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In SoCal business news: 'Blackfish' impact on SeaWorld, Rubicon's IPO, a Google Glass class

Killer Whales performing at SeaWorld

flickr/MomMaven

Killer Whales performing at SeaWorld. The Los Angeles Times reports SeaWorld attendance was down 13 percent in the first quarter.

Good morning! Welcome to KPCC's business blog, The Breakdown. Every weekday, our staff compiles a list of interesting business stories in the region.

  • Is the film Blackfish scaring away SeaWorld visitors? Los Angeles Times reporter Hugo Martin says SeaWorld attendance dropped 13 percent to 3.05 million visitors in the first quarter compared to a year ago. Martin says executives said in the past that Blackfish didn't cause business to decline. The film is critical about the way SeaWorld treats its killer whales and it has caused some consumers like Kirra Kotler from Malibu to think twice about visiting the theme park. Kotler convinced her school to cancel their trip to SeaWorld San Diego and go on a whale-watching trip instead (NPR).
  • AwesomenessTV bought YouTube network Big Frame for $15 million (The Wrap). Reporter Lucas Shaw says combined, the companies will have 80 million subscribers on YouTube. Last year, I reported DreamWorks Animation purchased teen Youtube network AwesomesnessTV in a deal that could reach $117 million.
  • Meanwhile, director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and Discovery partnered to start an L.A.-based digital studio that produces online short-form videos (The Wrap)
  • Playa Vista-based Rubicon Project raised $81.3 million in "new capital" in its IPO (PandoDaily). Reporter Michael Carney says it shows that the L.A. start-up scene is doing well, with Disney's plans to buy Maker Studios and Facebook's upcoming purchase of Irvine-based Oculus.
  • U-Can Zippers in Long Beach is of the few zipper companies in the Western United States (LA Weekly). LA Weekly's James Bartlett says U-Can sold 2 million to 3 million zippers last year.
  • Orange County Visitors Association opened an office in Dubai, becoming the first U.S. regional tourism group to do so (Orange County Register). Southern California businesses have pulled out all the stops for foreign tourists because they tend to spend more money.
  • Another home delivery grocery service comes to L.A. Instacart delivers Whole Foods groceries to the doors of online shoppers (Los Angeles Times). Reporter Andrea Chang says Instacart is is crowd-sourced, using personal shoppers to buy your groceries for you. Last year, Amazon launched its own online grocery business in L.A. (KPCC).
  • Want to figure out how to work Google Glass into journalism? There's a class for that at USC, that will delve into "developing Glass-centric software for journalists" (Fast Company). Professor Robert Hernandez says in the article, "I'm not drinking the Google Kool-Aid. But it's the most mature wearable platform that's out there. And we need to be proactive and figure it out."  We'll see about that. 

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CA labor office sides with port truck drivers

Mercer 18651

David McNew/Getty Images

Trucks are driven near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the busiest port complex in the US,

Truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who want to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors have scored another victory. A California labor office has ruled in favor of seven drivers for transport company Pacer International

In an administrative ruling that awards the truck drivers more than $2 million, a hearing officer with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) wrote:

The Defendant considered the Plaintiffs to be independent contractors; however, the amount of control exhibited by the Defendant over the Plaintiffs was to such a degree that the Defendant knew or should have known that the Plaintiffs were employees.

An attorney for the drivers, David Arambula, said the ruling gives momentum to port truckers in a years-long dispute over their employment status.

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Dodgers become first MLB team to air all games in Korean on TV

Ryu Hyun-Jin - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Ryu is the first player to go directly from a Korean professional league to the major leagues in the U.S. He signed a six year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have announced that starting with Friday’s home opener against the San Francisco Giants, they will become the first Major League Baseball team to have Korean-language Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) available for every game.

Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers, who like the Dodgers, have their own Time Warner regional sports network, became the first NBA team to broadcast every game in Korean. I profiled the two announcers and their rather inauspicious studio during one of the first assignments:

To find the Korean broadcasters, you have to open the door to a small storage room, half of which is used to keep lights and cameras. With no producer, no engineer, and no staff, the announcers watch the game on a TV smaller than most of us have at home. 

The Dodger announcers – Richard Choi and Chong Ho Yim – will broadcast from the stadium, but as with the Lakers, the Dodgers are trying to broaden their appeal to L.A.’s second biggest minority. There are more than 300,000 Koreans in the greater Los Angeles area, 70 percent of whom don’t speak English at home.

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In SoCal business news: LA county losing jobs, LA Daily News on the block?, Disney's billion-dollar bracelet

Sign of the times? A "help wanted" sign in the window of a Philadelphia business last year.

Matt Rourke/AP

L.A. hasn't recorded positive job growth in the last 23 years, according to the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast, which is being presented today downtown.

Hope everyone survived April fool's day. Here are the stories we're following on the KPCC business desk today:

  • L.A. hasn't recorded positive job growth in the last 23 years, according to the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast, which is being presented today downtown. In fact, the county has lost more net jobs than any large metropolitan area in the nation from 1990 to 2013. The forecast predicts more unemployment ahead.
  • Digital First Media is shutting down its centralized news service, Project Thunderdome, "one of the news industry’s highest-profile experiments in centralized, digital-first, mobile-friendly, new-news-partner content creation," according to media analyst Ken Doctor. Doctor says DFM's papers, including the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, will likely go on the auction block, with the company's majority owner. Alden Global Capital, likely wanting out. "They’re not yet on the market, but expect regional auctions of DFM properties (with clusters around the Los Angeles area, the Bay Area, New England, Philadelphia, and Texas) — unless Alden can find a single buyer, which is unlikely," predicts Doctor.

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