Analyzing the top news stories across the web

April 10 2014 1:05 PM

UPS Reverses Firing of 250 Workers That Held a Strike

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

UPS has reversed its firing of 250 workers for taking part in a 90-minute strike in February, the company told Business Insider on Wednesday.

The reversal comes after a public uproar over the mass firing, which we reported last week.

UPS officials decided to rehire the workers as part of an agreement reached Wednesday in a meeting with union officials.

“The 250 UPS employees involved in the walkout who were terminated for their actions will have their terminations reduced to a two week suspension without pay for each participant,” UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told Business Insider in an email. “UPS has chosen to settle the matter in order to return to normal operations at the site.”

As part of the agreement, the branch of the union representing the workers, Teamsters Local 804, will compensate UPS for damages associated with the Feb. 26 walkout, Gaut said. Union officials also acknowledged in the agreement that the strike was “illegal and unauthorized and will undertake other actions within the bargaining unit to correct the situation,” he said. 

The union disputes that claim.

”The work stoppage on Feb. 26 was legal and permitted under the union contract with UPS,” a Teamsters Local 804 spokesman told Business Insider. “Under the agreement reached with UPS, Local 804 acknowledges that the union’s internal procedures for authorizing a strike were not properly followed on Feb. 26 and we have agreed to communicate the proper procedure to all union members.”

The UPS employees who were fired walked out on their jobs on Feb. 26 to protest the dismissal of one of their coworkers, Jairo Reyes. As part of the settlement reached Wednesday, Reyes’ discharge will be reduced to a suspension without pay for the period from Feb. 26 until he returns to work. 

“We’re looking forward to turning the corner and getting on a new road with UPS,” Teamsters Local 804 President Tim Sylvester said. ”The drivers delivered they’re message to UPS about unfair treatment. Now every one them will be back delivering packages.”

A group advocating for the fired workers called the resolution a victory.

“After several weeks of sustained worker and community pressure, UPS has reversed the firing, and all 250 workers, including Jairo, are getting their jobs back,” Joe Dinkin of the Working Families Party told Business Insider in an email. “This is huge news. And it proves that even in an economy where the power of employers over workers is stronger than ever, when workers stand together, they can still win.”

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April 9 2014 12:59 PM

Bridgegate Investigators Give Christie’s Lawyers an Ultimatum

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Chris Christie’s lawyers with the firm of Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher may be getting a subpoena if they don’t turn over documentation to the New Jersey Legislature’s committee dedicated to investigating last September’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. A source in the state House said that, after meeting in closed session Friday, the committee gave the attorneys hired by the governor’s office a Friday deadline to hand over lists of the people they interviewed, any notes on the interviews, and other documents they viewed while conducting the internal review of the so-called Bridgegate scandal that was released last month. 

If Gibson Dunn does not turn over the requested documents, the source said the firm will be subpoenaed by the committee. Gibson Dunn attorney Randy Mastro said his team looks forward to continuing a “cooperative dialogue” with the Legislature’s investigators in a statement Tuesday evening.

“We reached out to counsel for the committee over a week ago to discuss sharing voluntarily the interview memoranda regarding the lane realignment upon which our report was partially based. In light of the committee’s statements this afternoon, we will look forward to continuing that cooperative dialogue,” Mastro said.

The lane closures led to several days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J. Some Democrats have suggested the lanes were shut to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year. 

At its meeting Tuesday, the source said, the committee also discussed other subpoenas it may send out. So far, the committee has sent more than 30 subpoenas to individuals and organizations including Christie’s office, his campaign organization, and several of his close aides. There are 12 members of the Legislature on the committee including eight Democrats and four Republicans. It is co-chaired by two Democrats: Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg. Bridgegate is also being investigated by the U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

The state House source that spoke to Business Insider said the Bridgegate committee wants to know with whom Gibson Dunn spoke while conducting their internal review. According to the report, the attorneys conducted “interviews with more than 70 witnesses,” though they were not all named. Gibson Dunn’s report found Christie “did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes.”

April 7 2014 2:09 PM

How HBO Let Game of Thrones Make an $8 Million Episode

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

After Sunday’s Season 4 Game of Thrones premiere, the HBO show couldn't be more popular.

It’s one of the highest-rated cable shows, its twists make the Internet go crazy, and viewers sell out fan events in minutes. To find out what helped the series become such a phenomenon, we have to go back to Season 2’s climatic “Blackwater” episode. “Blackwater” not only brought Thrones to the masses; it was also one of the most costly episodes ever produced for television.

Here’s how the epic $8 million episode came together.

April 5 2014 7:52 AM

Here’s How Much You Should Have Saved for Retirement by Now

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

The U.S. ranked a dismal 19th in the 2014 Natixis Global Retirement Index. As it turns out, despite having one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, income inequality and health expenditures are high compared with other countries.

Moreover, the responsibility for financial security is increasingly falling on individuals who have to put money into 401(k) plans or individual retirement accounts.

With that in mind we pulled the "retirement savings checkpoint" from JP Morgan Asset Management's 2014 "Guide to Retirement." This guide suggests that if you're 50 years old and make $100,000 a year, you should have saved $390,000 by now, "assuming you continue annual contributions of 5 percent going forward." This is of course a rough guide, but helpful in keeping you on track for your retirement.

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Courtesy of JP Morgan Asset Management

April 4 2014 1:23 PM

Here’s Why Developers Keep Favoring Apple Over Android

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

These maps showing the locations of 280 million individual posts on Twitter show a depressing divide in America: Tweets coming from Manhattan tend to skew in favor of iPhones. Tweets coming from Newark, N.J., index more heavily from Android phones.

April 4 2014 9:15 AM

In a Six-Day Period, Nadella Completely Changed Microsoft

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

In the span of six days, Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has totally shaken up the company. 

First, he announced Office for iPad, releasing a touch version of Office for Apple’s tablet before Microsoft had a touch version of Office for Windows. 

Then during Build, Microsoft’s conference for developers, Microsoft announced that Windows would be free for all devices with 9-inch or smaller screens. Basically, Windows is free to tablet- and phone-makers, just as Android is free to device-makers. Really, Windows is more free than Android, since nearly every Android device-maker has to pay a patent license fee to Microsoft. 

In between those two announcements, Nadella enacted a mini-reorganization at Microsoft, shuffling the executive ranks.

These are major changes for Microsoft. For years, analysts and pundits have been telling Microsoft that its business model would not work for phones and tablets. In the past, Microsoft charged computer-makers about $100 for a Windows license. For phones it was charging less, between $15 and $20. 

With Google producing a more popular operating system and charging nothing for it, there was little incentive for a phone-maker to use Windows. The same thing applied to tablets. But in Microsoft’s world, it made no sense to give away its software. It's not an advertising company like Google. Google makes money when you use the Internet; Microsoft makes money when you pay for its software. 

Now, with Windows free, Microsoft is going to try to make money on services and other software that come with Windows. It’s a risk, but the alternative is watching Android completely take over the planet. Just as people have been telling Microsoft to give away its software, they’ve been begging Microsoft to get Office on the iPad. Analysts estimate it could generate billions in revenue. 

Even if it doesn’t generate billions, it's important for the future of Microsoft. A whole generation of computer users growing up on tablets could get used to the idea of going without Office. 

Credit for these decisions should not accrue solely to Nadella. Former CEO—and media punching bag—Steve Ballmer set much of this in motion before he left. But Nadella is a considerably different leader at Microsoft. He's less bombastic. He's a little boring, frankly. But that’s OK: Not every executive needs to light up the stage. 

What Nadella has said during both his presentations this week seemed more realistic. Nadella says that Microsoft is no longer the dominant force and that it needs to act like a hungry startup. With these changes, it’s not just talk from Nadella. Microsoft is acting like a different company. 

April 3 2014 2:01 PM

UPS Fires 250 Employees for Staging a Strike

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

UPS is firing 250 Queens, N.Y., drivers for walking off the job during a 90-minute protest in February. 

The company dismissed 20 of the workers after their shifts Monday and issued notices of termination to another 230 employees, notifying them that they will be fired once the company has trained their replacements, UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told Business Insider.

The workers were protesting the dismissal of longtime employee and union activist Jairo Reyes, who was fired over an hours dispute, according to Gaut. The New York Daily News first reported on the firings.

Local politicians are threatening to cancel city contracts that give UPS millions of dollars in breaks on parking fines.

“They took a grievance with one employee and turned it into notices of termination with 250 workers,” New York City Councilman Jimmy van Bramer told the Queens Courier. “That’s outrageous. These are good, hardworking employees who have a contract for UPS. To try and break this contract, break this union, is something that is unacceptable and we can’t tolerate.”

UPS fired back that it might need to terminate additional employees if the city alters its contract.

“UPS appreciates its business with the New York public offices,” Gaut said. “Ultimately if that business is reduced or eliminated, the result will be reduced need for UPS employees to serve the pick-up and delivery requirements of City offices, potentially impacting the livelihoods of the many local UPS employees that did not join in the illegal work stoppage.”

UPS employs 1,400 workers at the Maspeth distribution center where the strike took place on Feb. 26. 

“When a group of 250 employees walk out for 90 minutes it is a significant disruption in the delivery of parcels or packages to customers on that day,” Gaut said. “We get penalties if we don’t deliver on time.”

For that reason, strikes are not an approved method of conflict resolution in UPS’ contract with the union, he said.

The local branch of the Teamsters union that represents the dismissed workers has described the firings as “a heartless attack on drivers and their families.”

“The company fired a group of drivers to try to divide us, create panic, or try to get Local 804 to cave in and sell out. That is not going to happen,” the union wrote on its website

One of the workers facing dismissal had just returned to his job after a serious accident, according to the Daily News.

“Domenick DeDomenico, 40, was in a coma for 10 days after getting hit by a car last year while delivering packages for UPS,” the Daily News’ Ginger Adams Otis reported. “He fought back from serious brain injuries and needed a year of speech and physical therapy.”

April 2 2014 6:24 PM

This Map Shows the Most Unique Job in Each State

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Some jobs are disproportionately concentrated in certain states. Fashion designers flock to New York, Texas has an outsize share of petroleum engineers, and Floridians are much more likely to be motorboat operators than are other Americans.

We made a map that shows the most over-represented job in each state, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recently released May 2013 "Occupational Employment Statistics." Each state has far more of these jobs per capita than the nation as a whole.

We'll discuss the methodology later. First check out the map:

April 1 2014 3:04 PM

The 10 Most Common Jobs in America

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

The top three are all basically in the retail industry: salespeople, cashiers, and fast-food workers.

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Bureau of Labor Statistics

Of the top 10 jobs, nearly all are “low paying” work, with the exception of registered nurses.

This chart compares how they all compare to the average.

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Burea of Labor Statistics

March 31 2014 1:12 PM

Why I Finally Signed Up for Obamacare

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

I’ve been mostly uninsured since the summer of 2005. But starting May 1, 2014, I’ll have health insurance again, which I’ll be able to get because of the Affordable Care Act.

Many Americans, most of whom receive health coverage through an employer, don’t realize that insurance on the individual market has always been shockingly expensive. While the ACA won’t make it possible for everyone who is uninsured to find affordable health insurance, there are many people who will be able to find good coverage for the first time. I’m just one of them.

Why I Was Uninsured

For many years, I didn’t have health insurance primarily because I couldn’t afford it. (I'm not on staff at Business Insider, so I don’t get coverage through the company.)

My wife and I did pay for health insurance for about a year, from late 2010 to late 2011. During that time I went to the doctor for basic preventive care, and I got a broken toe splinted back into place—the kind of things you can do with health insurance.

Visiting a doctor also cost me nothing when I was living in Spain and South America. In Ecuador, I visited a hospital to get rid of a stomach parasite acquired in the Amazon. When I asked how to pay, the doctors laughed.

But when my wife and I moved to New York in 2011, the cheapest market coverage we found cost more than $700 a month, with a $10,000 deductible. That was too expensive for us—and we’re not alone. High costs are the No. 1 reason 47 million people were uninsured in 2012.

Why I Wanted Coverage

Back in 2010, when a car hit my bike and bounced me off the windshield, I refused treatment and a ride to the hospital. I was too worried I could end up with an ambulance bill that could be thousands of dollars.

And two summers ago, when something snapped or popped inside my knee during a soccer game, I didn’t want to get it checked out. I knew I couldn’t afford surgery and didn’t want it to count as a pre-existing condition if the ACA was repealed. I still feel it when I run.

Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but studies estimate that somewhere between 18,000 and 45,000 Americans die each year because they go without coverage. I fit in the category of “young and invincible,” and I’ve been lucky. But if something serious were to happen, I didn’t know what I’d do. I wanted health insurance.

The Individual Market

I’ve been a freelancer, contractor, paid intern, full-time temporary employee, and worked for small bars and restaurants. In none of those positions has an employer ever paid for health insurance—and that situation is not unique, with around one-third of the U.S. workforce participating in the “freelance” or “gig” economy.

Instead of getting coverage from an employer, freelancers who want insurance have to buy it on the individual market, and the ACA has improved things in a few ways.

First, it’s now easier to compare plans. Back when I bought coverage in 2010, I searched the Web for insurers but didn’t really know how to compare one against another, even after reading long coverage documents. They all were described differently.

Second, in some places—like New York—the ACA has made the cost of health insurance go down.

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These are the cheapest plans I found on the New York market, before applying a subsidy. Note that these prices are for a couple.

Screenshot of the New York State of Health

But it’s still pricey, and it still wouldn’t be affordable for me without a subsidy.

How Subsidies Work

If you can’t find a plan that costs 8 percent of your income or less, you don’t have to buy insurance and won’t have to pay a fine.

But subsidies are provided for people who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $62,920 for a couple. The cheapest plan for a couple that I found on the New York exchange cost $614.24 a month, before subsidies kicked in. But couples that earn between $62,920 and $92,136 won’t be able to find coverage that’s defined as “affordable” (8 percent of their income) and will not be eligible for a subsidy. That leaves a pretty big gap.

Around 80 percent of uninsured people can sign up for subsidies, though only an estimated 21 percent of people who are eligible for subsidies have signed up so far.

Now That I Have Coverage

The signup process turned out to be really easy, in New York at least. My coverage kicks in starting May 1, which is when I have to pay my first premium.

The system needs many improvements, but providing health care to a greater number of people is better than the way things worked before—that’s something I know firsthand. Anyone who is uninsured and who hasn’t looked for coverage yet should at least try to do so before the end of the month.

I’m glad I did.

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