Explaining Southern California's economy

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.


If there's trouble in Tacoma, could it spread to Ports of LA and Long Beach?

port shipping containers cargo

Photo by Greg Bishop via Flickr Creative Commons

Stacked up port shipping containers

The association that represents shipping companies at 29 West Coast ports is accusing the union representing dockworkers of deliberately slowing down work at two Pacific Northwest ports. The union's response: it's a "boldface lie." Tensions appear to be rising in the midst of a long running contract negotiation that affects major ports all along the West Coast.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been negotiating a new labor contract for the past six months. Throughout the talks, the two sides have worked jointly to reassure those who depend on the ports that neither wants a strike or a lock-out.   

When the old labor contract covering 20,000 dockworkers expired on July 1st, cargo kept moving, and the two sides issued a joint statement saying normal operations would continue until a deal was done.  But on Monday, the union and the shipping association issued dueling statements regarding events at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. 


LA's Internet speed, cost ranked among worst major cities worldwide

When it comes to Internet security, many experts agree outsourcing can create added risks, even if they disagree on the merits of outsourcing in the first place.

Igor Stevanovic/iStockphoto

The newly-released report from New America's Open Technology Institute did note improvements in L.A., but those gains tended to be for the most expensive Internet plans that fewer people use.

When I called up Nick Russo, Policy Program Associate at New America's Open Technology Institute, I told him I had trouble viewing the report he co-wrote, "The Cost of Connectivity 2014." For the third year in a row, it documents that most U.S. cities have far slower Internet speeds than major cities in Europe and Asia. When I clicked to download the study, my Time Warner Cable Internet cut out, as it's wont to do - several times a day.

"I feel your pain," Russo told me from his Washington, D.C. office. "We're in the same boat over here."

Russo told me I would probably have better luck accessing the Internet in American cities that have invested in publicly-owned fiber optic networks, like Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"You pay $300 dollars for 500 megabits in L.A. and you pay $70 for 1000 megabits per second in Chattanooga," Russo said. He thinks Internet access in Los Angeles is pricey and slow because there's a lack of competition among providers; and L.A. is hardly alone among major U.S. cities with subpar data speeds. Russo predicts there will be even less choice for customers nationwide if Time Warner and Comcast complete their $45 billion merger.


Herbalife earnings up, but miss Wall Street expectations following class action settlement


A worker cleans the logo on the Herbalife sign as finishing touches are put on the company's building in Torrance, Calif.

Herbalife, the Los Angeles-based marketer of weight-loss shakes and other nutritional products,  posted its most recent earnings report after stock markets closed on Monday. Shares had climbed nearly six percent in the morning, during the first hours of trading since the company announced it was settling a class action lawsuit late Friday.

The new earnings report revealed a $125.1 million increase for the company's third quarter, or $1.45 per share. It was an improvement over the same period last year, but fell short of Wall Street analyst expectations - set at $1.51 per share. 

Late Friday, Bloomberg reported that Herbalife agreed to pay $15 million to settle a class action lawsuit, filed in April 2013 by a former distributor of the company's products.  Dana Bostick, a California housing inspector who'd tried to earn extra income selling Herbalife nutritional products, alleged that the company was a fraudulent pyramid scheme.   


Los Angeles gets $36 million to expand workforce centers, help job seekers

LA Trade Tech

Alissa Walker / Flickr Creative Commons

Mayor Eric Garcetti will announce on Wednesday the opening of a new job center at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to announce on Wednesday that the city has received $36 million – mostly from federal grants – to improve and expand its workforce centers this year, with a potential $180 million more coming over the next five years.

At workforce centers, job seekers can get help on their resumes, prepare for interviews or talk to a career counselor.

The grants are meant to bridge a skills gap in the workforce in Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate is holding steady at 8.5 percent. 

“I think we’ve turned a page and a new chapter for putting people back to work in Los Angeles," said Jan Perry, General Manager of the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department. “We have brought these services directly to the people we seek to serve and closed a skills gap by matching the jobs much more closely at locations like Los Angeles Trade-Technical College and Los Angeles Southwest College."