Explaining Southern California's economy

Retailers start feeling the pinch of West Coast port shipping delays

Kenneth Wu Guns

Corey Bridwell/KPCC

AirSplat CEO Kenneth Wu, in front of an aisle of airsoft guns.

Tensions keep building over congestion and delays at West Coast ports from Tacoma to Long Beach. Retailers and other businesses that depend on goods moving from cargo vessels to warehouses to store shelves are getting anxious, as shipping companies and the union representing dockworkers blame each other for the cargo slowdown

The owner of Irwindale-based AirSplat.com says whoever’s to blame, the cargo backlog is costing his company money.  

AirSplat sells paint ball and Airsoft guns, as well as the tiny pellets they fire.  Around 60 employees sell and fulfill orders out of an 80,000 square foot warehouse in Irwindale. A lot of the products come from China and Taiwan, traveling through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  AirSplat founder Kenneth Wu says he started seeing delays a month ago, and they've gotten worse.


From paratrooper to the workforce - USC program helps veterans conquer civilian life

Baker in Afghanistan

photo taken by Army specialist Justin Carrier

Jennifer Baker is pursuing a Master's of Business for Veterans at USC. She jumped out of airplanes and trained female Afghan police officers while serving as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.

Jennifer Baker

Brian Watt/KPCC

28-year old Jennifer Baker is one of 50 students currently enrolled in the one-year Master's of Business for Veterans at USC.

There has been plenty of bad news about how tough it is for veterans to find their way in the civilian job market once they've completed their military service. A recent report found that a quarter of L.A.'s veterans were unemployed or earning near poverty wages.  One program attempting to address the problem is housed at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, where last year they began offering an MBA curriculum specifically designed for military veterans, with the intention of preparing them for professional jobs.

The idea came from military personnel who'd gone through the school's Executive MBA program. They felt a lot of the material was similar to what they'd learned during their military service, according to the program's director, James Bogle. "They asked if there wasn't a way to modify it a little bit for the military," says Bogle.  


Dodgers hire 'Moneyball' protege Farhan Zaidi as general manager


Farhan Zaidi, seen in a screenshot from MLB.com.

Just weeks after the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman, a Bear Stearns analyst turned baseball wunderkind, as president of baseball operations, the team kept their offseason going and announced an even more intriguing hire Thursday: Farhan Zaidi.

Zaidi will be the Dodgers' new general manager, replacing Ned Colletti, who was removed after the Dodgers failed to advance beyond the Division Series in this year's playoffs. Colletti was given the title of special advisor to the president and CEO.

Colletti is an old-school baseball guy who grew up in Chicago and wears cowboy boots on the field. Zaidi is Muslim, grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT for undergrad and got a Ph.D. in behavioral economics from Berkeley.

According to a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Zaidi decided he wanted to go into baseball after reading Michael Lewis's book about Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, "Moneyball." The book described, with certain liberties, how Beane took advantage of advanced metrics to assemble a winning team on the cheap.


Shipping companies accuse Longshore Workers Union of slowing down ports of L.A., Long Beach

port shipping containers

Photo by John Harvey via Flickr Creative Commons

For the last six months, the ILWU and the shipping association representing terminal operators and carriers have been negotiating a new labor contract to cover workers at 29 West Coast ports.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is accusing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) of contributing to the congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

In a statement, the PMA said the ILWU is refusing to dispatch hundreds of workers qualified to move containers in terminal yards in the Southern California port complex:

On short notice, the Union informed the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) that starting Monday, November 3rd, it would not dispatch qualified ILWU members, most of whom have significant experience operating yard cranes in the terminal, placing cargo containers on trucks and rail cars for delivery to customers.

The ILWU would not address the specific allegations, but acknowledged some "worker frustration." ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees repeated a response to similar allegations by the PMA earlier in the week, explaining that congestion at the key ports is the result of three factors: shortage of truck drivers, truck chassis, and rail car capacity to haul cargo away from the docks. "The employers have delayed dealing with these problems," Merrilees said.


Election 2014: LA business groups brace for labor-friendly Board of Supervisors with addition of Kuehl

Sheila Kuehl

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Supervisor-elect Sheila Kuehl stands in her home office, where she hangs family photographs and TV Guide covers from her acting career.

As much as was possible for two liberal-leaning Democrats to distinguish themselves from one another in the race to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky on the powerful Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl stood out as the labor candidate and Bobby Shriver as pro-business. With Kuehl's victory - it seems labor will have another champion and that has raised concern among business interests.

Leading up to the election, the differences between Kuehl and Shriver were reflected in their fundraising totals, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. 

The Times found that union-affiliated donors contributed $2.1 million to help elect Kuehl, a former state senator endorsed by major county labor groups. That's nine times the amount of labor-related donations supporting Shriver's supervisorial bid.

Former Santa Monica Councilman Shriver and committees supporting him have taken in about $1 million from individuals and companies associated with the real estate, financial services and construction industries. That's more than four times the comparable donations received by Kuehl.