Saturday, December 13, 2014

Disney alters platinum-plated perks to a $12,000-per-year club

Wow!  It appears that the ubber-rich are in an uproar against Walt Disney Corporation for rolling back their perks and raising their admission fees to an exclusive club in Disneyland.  From the Los Angeles Times:

Some of Mickey Mouse's high-roller friends have their tails in a twist.

For access to what is billed as "the most exclusive address in all of Disneyland" — Club 33 — many members pay $11,000 a year. Now some of those fans are piqued over what they say is a roll-back of their platinum-plated perks. Some are even contemplating canceling a membership so coveted that the waiting list is closed.
The current uproar has to do with how many extra VIP cards are allotted to platinum members, the highest level of non-corporate membership. This year each got three. 

The cards allow a lucky few to enjoy many of the benefits of a member, including access to Disney parks and dining at the secretive Club 33 restaurant, tucked away in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. VIP cardholders, who don't need to be related to the member, enjoy those perks without the member present.

But last week, platinum members received a letter that said in 2015 only the member and a spouse or domestic partner would have Club 33 benefits, while the price for the platinum level would rise to $12,000. Members' dependents, under the age of 21, retain some of the existing benefits.

"Disney pulled the rug out from everyone," one platinum member said. Like others interviewed, he declined to be identified, fearing Disney would revoke his membership.

Disney pulled the rug out from everyone???  Excuse me, but I certainly could not afford to pay the  $11,000-per-year admission fee to Disney's Club 33, let alone the $1,000 increase in their fee.  Certainly not on my contractor salary that has remained stagnant for the past 15 years.  I would certainly be curious to know who the identity of this "one platinum member" is who said this quote.  Is he a CEO, or a corporate board member, who was just as happy in cutting company labor costs, forcing workers to work the jobs of three people, and taking all the worker productivity gains from the last 20 - 30 years for that one platinum member's benefit?  How much did that one platinum member's salary and compensation increase from the previous year?  I'm guessing certainly more than the $1,000 increase in the annual fee to join Club 33.  

Of course this one platinum member is refusing to be identified for the article--Lord Sakes, we certainly do not want our increased $12,000-per-year platinum membership, from which Disney “pulled the rug out from everyone,” to be revoked by Disney for saying such hissy-tissy words to a fine, American corporation!

And Walt Disney Corporations response?  Continuing on:

Disneyland spokeswoman Cathi Killian declined to discuss the specifics of Club 33 membership, but said: "We're working with each member individually to determine the option that best suits their needs."

Walt Disney created the club, envisioning it as a place he could entertain investors and business associates, although he died before it opened in 1967.

The private Club 33 restaurant was closed earlier this year for renovations. It reopened in July with a new entrance, kitchen and jazz-inspired lounge. Now, members enter after climbing a curved staircase in the Court of Angels.

"Now that the renovation and expansion of Club 33 Le Grand Salon and Le Salon Nouveau are complete, we've turned our attention to evolving the membership program to bring you more value," Club 33 General manager James Willoughby wrote in the letter. "Each year we evaluate the business and Membership benefits and make necessary adjustments."
So, Walt Disney Corporation decided to close the club for renovations to make it even for fancy and exclusive to their exclusive membership.  Of course, all those fancy renovations means that the cost will have to be paid by their exclusive membership who are the only ones who can afford to pay for the $11,000-per-year membership fee.  What were these exclusive members thinking of—that Walt Disney would force the 99-percenter peasants to pay for Club 33’s renovations through increased park admission fees?  It is even more ironic that these exclusive VIP club members are complaining about their reduced perks and increased fees, when the club membership's waiting list has been closed.  If these VIP club members are so enraged, then why not give up your membership?  Let someone else pay the $12,000-per-year membership fee to the club that you're so pissed of at? 

Of course, the best quote from an enraged, platinum VIP cardholder was this:
“It really has turned into a money game for them.”
I guess that 'greed is good,' as long as you're not the one getting screwed by the outright greed....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Silicon Valley company busted for paying Indian workers $1.21 an hour in America

I found this story through the Huffington Post, with this story also showing up on the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and Yahoo News.  Another source story appears to be the San Jose Mercury News.

I am going to start with the Huffington Post:
A Silicon Valley company that digitizes images said Thursday that an "administrative error" led to it paying eight workers flown in from Bangalore, India just $1.21 an hour to work 120-hour weeks installing computers in the company's headquarters.
Electronics For Imaging paid the workers $40,000 in back wages and overtime and a $3,500 fine after the U.S. Department of Labor investigated the payroll violation based on an anonymous tip, a department official told The Huffington Post.
"These folks were not only not getting time-and-a-half when working extremely long hours, they weren't making the basic minimum wage," Michael Eastwood, assistant district director for the Labor Department's San Francisco division said.
In a statement, the company said it didn't realize it was illegal to pay workers temporarily in the United States the same wages they earn in their home countries. The $1.21 was equivalent to what the employees made in Indian rupees.
“We unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local U.S. standards,” the company said in a statement.
Eastwood said the company also failed to keep documentation of the hours worked by the Indian employees. Though the workers were only owed $20,000 in back pay and overtime, regulators doubled that amount to $40,000 in the settlement to compensate for damages..
The company blamed an “administrative error” and said it took steps to ensure it would not occur again.
I'll be honest, I really do not know what to say about this story, except for the extreme disgust I have for Electronics For Imaging.  Huffington Post reports that Electronics For Imaging (EFII, NASDAQ) earned a net income of $109.11 million last year, which increased from $$82.27 million in 2012.  Since January 1, 2008, the California minimum wage law has been set at $8 per hour.  Electronics For Imaging thought that they could scam the system by importing temporary workers from India, work them like dogs in a 120-hour workweek (There are 168 hours total in a week), and pay them a wage rate in rupees rather than dollars?  According to the San Jose Mercury News:
The eight employees were paid to help install the company's computer network and systems in connection with the move of the company's headquarters from Foster City to Fremont.
Investigators from the division's San Jose office learned that the technicians were flown in from the employer's office in Bangalore, India.
"This was discovered through an anonymous tip, and we need that kind of information to discover these sorts of illegal situations," (District Director of the U.S. Labor Department Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco Susana) Blanco said.
Electronics for Imaging said it brought some IT employees from India temporarily to help its local IT team with the relocation.
"During this assignment, they continued to be paid their regular pay in India, as well as a special bonus for their efforts on this project," said Beverly Rubin, vice president of HR Shared Services with Electronics for Imaging. "During this process we unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local U.S. standards."
 I guess Electronics For Imaging thought they could pay their Indian workers an Indian wage rate for work here in California--even better to pay them in Indian rupees instead of dollars for working in the U.S.  Of course the exchange rate is around 61 Indian rupees for one U.S. dollar.  To install computer systems?  You mean Electronics For Imaging could not find eight American workers to help move and install their computers during their company headquarters move?  In the Silicon Valley filled with high technology workers?  Of course not.

And while we're at it, you can bet that Guy Gecht was not paid with Indian rupees for his work as Electronics For Imaging CEO:
Although it is not among Silicon Valley's high-profile companies, Electronics for Imaging is successful. The company earned $109 million last year and awarded CEO Guy Gecht with a pay package valued at nearly $6 million, including more than $1.2 million in salary and bonuses.
Electronics For Imaging thought they could scam the system for bringing Indian workers into the U.S., work them like dogs in a 120-hour work week,  and pay them $1.21 per hour in Indian rupees to perform high tech computer work that no American worker would be willing to accept in pay or working conditions.  Electronics For Imaging thought they could get away with this type of screwing workers.  Instead, they got caught and were forced to pay $40,000 back wages and a paltry $3,500 labor fine.  This is the punishment for labor violation against a company that made $109 million last year.  Do you really think this will stop Electronics For Imaging, or any other Silicon Valley high technology company, from engaging in this type of scam--or any other scam to force their workers into substandard pay or crappy working conditions?   This is just business as usual for these companies--profit over everything else!  Even the company statement shows just how cavalier Electronics For Imaging was in their atrocious behavior:
During this process we unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local U.S. standards.
Am I to believe that the Human Resources department in Electronics For Imaging are so incompetently stupid that they "unintentionally overlooked" laws to pay foreign workers the U.S. and California minimum wage?

The only way to stop this type of atrocious wage theft by large companies is to either fine them in a large amount of money--in millions of dollars--or start tossing the CEO and top company officials into jail.  It starts at the top, where the one percenter "job creators" place company profit above everything else--morals, compassion, social justice, and even basic laws to keep a society functioning--such as a minimum wage law to allow workers to survive and live in a given society.  They do not really care at all--how much more money can the company take?  I checked the Electronics For Imaging website, and in their Senior Leadership Team webpage, the Vice President of Human Resources is a Jackie Cimino.  "She develops and executes on the company’s human capital strategy, overseeing all aspects of acquiring, growing, developing and retaining the high-caliber EFI team. Leading EFI’s global HR team since January 2006, Jackie is focused on delivering value to employees and managers."  Apparently this Jackie Cimino joined Electronics For Imaging in 2003, after Electronics For Imaging acquired printCafe Software, where she worked at.  She became Electronics For Imaging Vice President for HR, and has more than 30 years of human resources experience, with a focus in the area of compensation, benefits, and merger/acquisitions.  Am I to believe that this Jackie Cimino did not know that her department had "unintentionally overlooked" the state and federal labor laws for compensation?  Or that she did not bother to check if her lower-level HR executives were following the rules in bringing over these Indian workers?  This is a vice president with over 30 years of human resources experience, with expertise in employee compensation, and she did not know that Electronics For Imaging was in violation of a basic wage law?  And as this Jackie Cimino's profile is still up on the company website, she has not been fired for such a gross incompetence!  I also doubt that her pay has been penalized for the " unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local U.S. standards."

Business as usual.