ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Workers need to be able to blow the whistle in a way that doesn't make the employees feel like they are sticking their noses into the proverbial propeller. It's very important.
Speaking of noses, at the City Hall Labor Day Hootenanny that was celebrated on Friday, the designated windbags batting for the City were Hugo Soto Martinez of CD13 and Tim McCosker of the one five.
Mr. Soto-Martinez, a longtime organizer, produced a roar from the crowd when he called Los Angeles a Labor Town.
Hugo Soto Martinez, CD13: We came in from the forecourt… to talk about our public policy and budgeting... to make sure we are sticking up for the workforce.
He went on to note that " We are the capital of the country when it comes to wage theft. [Roar]
The handoff to our in-house lobbyist and one five council member, Tim McCosker, was seamless.
Tim McCosker: "From labor leader to councilmember, "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."
McCosker introduced his Harbor Commissioner, Steve Neal. The Board of Harbor Commissioners sets policy for the Port of Long Beach and oversees the staff of the City of Long Beach's Harbor Department.
He then touted the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) a labor union that primarily represents dock workers since 1937.
Smart Speaker: I'd like to comment on behalf of a local handyman. This guy works hard shows up on time and charges competitive rates. Whatever those rates are ... he tells you before he starts what he thinks it will cost. He's usually right.
The other day he was confronted by a client in her underwear. She felt the price was too high on completion. "What are you going to do about it?"
The handyman was highly uncomfortable. He backed away and knocked the price down by $40. That right there is also wage theft.
Estimating has always been the bane of independent contractors. Some readers may remember the letter written by RM Schindler to Aline Barnsdall coming to the defense of a couple of Nudnik roofing contractors who just kind of made a bad estimate. The hard-line position adopted by the very rich lady had put the innocent duo in the very deep end of the pool...
Schindler, bless his heart, left behind a letter advocating for Watt and Long, that makes him seem like an absolute saint. Stepping up and in to advocate for the workers who were up against a very wealthy woman who might have been out of touch with reality; she routinely traveled here and there with multiple steamer trunks.
May 22, 1929
Dear Miss Barnsdall,
I hear that the case of “Long & Watt” is in the hands of your attorney. He will of course be able to take care of the legal side of it. However, the legal side of the case is not the only aspect. And to my mind not at all the most important one.
Being a neutral party in the transaction I feel it is my duty to bring the human aspect of the matter to your attention.
Long and Watt proposed to do a certain job for a certain sum. We bargained -- and they undertook to do the work for about eight hundred dollars less. Now it appears that the actual cost of labor and material necessary to execute the work is in excess of the contract price. This is a fact regardless of all additions and deductions that may have been made or not made during the period of construction.
Of course, it is the contractors’ mistake to under-estimate the work. However, it would not be fair to condemn them too harshly. Alteration jobs are the dread of any estimator and if both the building and the addition are of a new and unusual nature, the estimate becomes a mere guess. The only fair way to do such work is on a “cost” or “unit” basis.
As it happened, the contractors applied themselves for months to a task, which they knew would not pay them any profit. And I, who had constant dealing with them, marveled at the poise and goodwill they maintained in spite of the unfavorable financial background. They have proven to be gentlemen.
During the last few weeks, they realized that the cost of the work would not only eat up the profit but also their resources. Their present state is a sorry one with funds depleted due to the lack of income during the three months. Their credit has been ruined. They are forced now to hire themselves out by the day in order to eat. The mistake of a few hundred dollars in estimates is affecting their lives seriously.
If the whole deal were not entirely clear and honest on their part, I would not be interested. But it is my conviction that this is not a case to be settled by lawyers and judges.
I am sure a settlement could be reached which would be satisfactory to all concerned. Even if you reimbursed them the entire cost of labor and material, you would have the benefit of their own labor, gratis. It would leave the cost of the work to you below the figure of the next highest bidder and would constitute a bargain price for the job.
This does not mean that I am overlooking the merits of your position. But I refuse to admit that the fear of being taken advantage of should be the only motif power for our actions in financial matters. We clamor for peace between nations. . should we not start by overcoming our instinct of warlike attitude in our private life. Does not this seem to you too, a case for arbitration?
I could find no evidence that Ms. Barnsdall relented.
The Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a residence for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. Schindler worked very hard on the project and had many dealings with Barnsdall.
The building is now the centerpiece of the city's Barnsdall Art Park in Hugo's district.
Here's a letter several years later from Schindler asking Miss Barnsdall for a favor:
June 4, 1946
Miss Aline Barnsdall
Los Angeles, California
Dear Miss Barnsdall:
I don't know your address i am taking a chance on reaching you, because the matter I want to tell you about is something worthwhile, and I think you will want to know about it.
Lester Horton is trying to arrange for a more representative dance theatre in Los Angeles, and he wonders whether your residence on Edgemont is available for his group. He has plans to build a dance theatre as soon as possible, and he wonders if some of your property on the hill might be available for it. I think this would be a good group to have. I hope you remember the work Lester Horton's group has done in the past. He has no studio at present and it is very hard to find a suitable place for him. I feel you will want to do something for him if it is possible.
The New York Times:
In the New York Times piece on the redistricting debacle, dated September 3, 2023, there was a section on how Nury Martinez fought to keep the Sepulveda Basin in the sixth district, apparently in part because it is intended to host some Olympic activities. Well, Harvard Westlake has a very good relationship with the Olympic committee, as several of the School's trustees serve over there as well.
Smart Speaker: Say Hello to the Harvard-Westlake Basin Park Plan [and Athletic complex with two giant toxic doormats, a second Olympic-sized swimming pool, and an 80,000 square foot airplane hangar-sized gymnasium complex.
John Fetterman says he is in the U.S. Senate to fight for every person who’s gotten knocked down and had to get back up + every community who’s had to build themselves back up.
Smart Speaker: Go on. I received your fundraising survey, which said, to vote yes for $15 or vote no for $20. What was the question?
Fetterman has fought valiantly to get more disabled people in the halls of government, not fewer.
Smart Speaker: Thank you.
The Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has said that he wants Elon Musk as an adviser if he becomes president.
"I expect him to be an interesting adviser of mine because he laid off 75% of the employees at Twitter,” NBC reported. “And then the effectiveness actually went up.”
“What [Musk] did at Twitter is a good example of what I want to do with the administrative state … Take out the 75% of the dead weight cost, improve the actual experience of what it’s supposed to do.”
He said, if elected he intends to release the ‘state action files’ from the federal government – exposing every instance where the feds pressured companies to take constitutionally prohibited actions. Roll that log over & see what crawls out. Won’t be pretty.”
Temple of Hypocrisy Kleenex:
Smart Speaker: What about City employees who are forced to watch the public be disrespected and kind of violated week in week out?
Marqueece Harris-Dawson: What can we vote on?
City Clerk: 2-5, 7-11, as well as 13-16
Smart Speaker: So, not 12, not 1, not 6?
My heart went out to the very good public speakers from Labor and especially the TV writer from the WGA and the Colombian Actress from SAG. If they knew that they were appearing in close-up, because they have been tapped by god -- if you defined god as the corrupted city council president Paul Krekorian.
When the speakers observe carefully, they'll see that their union leaders and articulate members of the public and business leaders including a woman who arranges a song and sings it at every meeting, are only shown as tiny figures. Their faces are never visible on the channel 35 telecast.
It is not for me or Hugo Soto-Martinez or any individual to decide which aspects of the meeting viewers should see or whether certain participants of the meeting should be pictured in close-up, or from a face-obscuring distance, or at a certain audio volume or etc.
It's self-evident and required by Rule 93 that members of the public watching the telecast should be given a straightforward presentation of the meeting, whereby all participants are presented at the same volume and with equitable framing.
Channel 35 is taxpayer-funded so it's the public who owns the cameras, microphones and gavel with which Mr. Krekorian presides over City Council meetings. And it's not acceptable for them to be given a telecast in which those of their fellow Angelenos who made the considerable effort to contribute a public comment in person are barely visible, while the members of the Council are without exception presented in full close-up-- a fact that has not gone unnoticed by certain candidates currently running for office.
As a result of the city's camera policy, the author (making a public comment above left) has been reduced to the size of Councilmember Blumenfield’s nose.
The worst part is that city employees know about this travesy and are forced to suck it up, to go along to get along at City Hall. Very sad. Something for Hugo Soto Martinez to take care of once and for all. Tim McCosker can explain to Hugo why the city keeps violating the public.
Mom and Pop / Creative Accounting:
Q: Why should making a movie cost so much?
A: The cast could be 23 actors... they have to get paid, too.
Some crews consist of... 2 production managers 2 assistant directors 5 camera and electrical department members 7 sound department members 2 casting department members 4 editing department members 1 music composer/arranger 1 choreographer 4 production designers 3 set decorators 2 costume and wardrobe department members 6 make-up department members 9 art department members 4 stunt performers 5 additional crew members 16 visual effects department members.
Most visual effects in films are ones that audiences don’t notice — filling in skylines, removing telephone poles and wires from the background, car crashes with computer-generated vehicles, etc. And of course the writer/director and 4 producers, as well as several production companies responsible for getting the financing and putting together the production.
That doesn’t count equipment and facilities rental, supplies, utilities, film processing, meals, payroll services, taxes, location fees, permits, and all the other expenses associated with running any business.
Smart Speaker: In my experience, the creative accounting deployed by the studios stack the deck against the people who make the content. So, politely, GFY.
The Biden administration proposed a new rule Wednesday that would make 3.6 million more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay. The rule, which is subject to a public commentary period and wouldn’t take effect for months, would have the biggest impact on retail, food, hospitality, manufacturing, and other industries where many managerial employees meet the new threshold.
The proposed regulation, unveiled by the Department of Labor, would require employers to pay overtime to salaried workers who are in professional, administrative, and professional roles but make less than $1,059 a week, or $55,068 a year for full-time employees.
That salary threshold is up from $35,568 level that has been in place since 2019 when Trump administration raised it from $23,660, in a more modest increase than President Barack Obama’s earlier proposal.
Smart Speaker: For benchmarking, Katy Yaroslavsky's chip off the old Zev, Vivian Rescalvo will be heaving down $200 an hour and will only work 5-7 hours a week. She may have another job at Metro.
Still, at that rate, I'd happily consult for a few hours here and there but not everywhere, lest she go over the $75,000 annual cap. High end. [Off topic: Why capped at $75k?]
The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has estimated that about 15% of full-time salaried workers are entitled to overtime pay under the old policy. The new rule would almost double that to nearly 30%, according to Labor Department figures.
Smart Speaker: This proposal will shut down the opportunity to gain productivity off the backs of hardworking middle managers.
Predictably, business owners and Republicans oppose. I wonder about the San Fernando Valley Industry and Commerce Association. I bet they have a strong wrong-headed position.
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions of Mr. Preven are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)