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January 31, 2005

Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2004 Unionization Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that private sector union membership was at 7.9% in 2004, about half of its rate in 1983.  Public sector unions have fared somewhat better, with 36% of government workers belonging to a union.  From the press release:

In 2004, full-time wage and salary workers who were union members had
median usual weekly earnings of $781, compared with a median of $612 for
wage and salary workers who were not represented by unions.

Posted by Matt White at 10:13 PM in Employees | Permalink | TrackBack

UW Researchers Make Human Motor Neurons

Researchers at the UW-Madison have made human motor neurons, spindly nerve cells that control nearly all movement in the body, using embryonic stem cells.  After two years of trial and error, the results were published in today's Nature Biotechnology journal.  Creating human motor neurons is seen as an important step towards someday replacing cells damaged by spinal cord injuries or diseases such as Lou Gehrig's.  These therapies are still years off, but in the more immediate future these neurons will be used to test new drugs for nerve ailments.  Read the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Posted by Brian Buchanan at 04:31 PM in Wisconsin | Permalink | TrackBack

Trademark Application Files Available Online

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is making full files for trademark applications— including decisions made by examining attorneys— available online.

The Trademark Document Retrieval (TDR) system makes available, as downloadable and printable PDF files, over eight million document pages.  This represents the approximately 400,000 trademark files created since USPTO moved to the paper-free First Action System for Trademarks (FAST).  The remaining 1.2 million  pre-FAST trademark registrations will be converted and moved to TDR over the next five years.

USPTO's Jon Dudas explains, "The TDR system improves our ability to provide timely and useful information to business owners as they develop their marks and prepare to file trademark applications.”

Posted by tRJ at 02:10 PM in Copyright & Trademark, Patents & Technology | Permalink | TrackBack

News of the Weird: McDonald's to Outsource Drive Through?

An Oregon McDonald's franchisee is considering outsourcing it's drive through operators to a franchise in North Dakota. 

From the article:

   The restaurant on Highway 395 has outsourced one of the most important jobs at the drive-through window -- order taking.

When a customer drives through, they'll be patched through to Grand Forks, North Dakota to place the order. Why? Because the minimum wage in North Dakota is $5.15, compared to Oregon's $7.25.

Posted by Matt White at 12:49 PM in Employees | Permalink | TrackBack

Ingredients For A Successful Business

MSNBC has an interesting article entitled "Three Top Tips For Running Your Own Business," in which the author cites persistence, professionalism and personality as three important ingredients to running a successful business.

Posted by Nick Infusino at 12:20 PM in Small Businesses | Permalink | TrackBack

Senator Kerry Wants A Comprehensive SBA Audit

Citing a December study showing that 2002 contracting abuses have cost small businesses $2 billion in federal contracting dollars, Senator John Kerry is calling for the SBA to do comprehensive audit of small business federal contracting figures for 2003. (Reported by the Chicago Tribune, 1/31/05; Registration Required). Kerry also wants the Bush administration to exercise greater oversight to ensue that future abuses do not occur. Finally, Kerry is asking the SBA to investigate 44 large to mid size firms (that were cited in the December study) for "willful and intentional violation of small-business law."

Posted by Nick Infusino at 12:12 PM in Small Businesses | Permalink | TrackBack

Tax Panel Wants to Raise $400 Billion in Extra Tax

Tax News is reporting that the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has recommended tightening up of several tax areas in order to increase revenue by up to $400 Billion over the next ten years.

According to the report, some of the revenue will come from tackling non compliance, but more than half of the total will come from changes in treatment of certain types of income and expenses to close off loopholes. Some of the main recommendations include: changes to employment taxes, dependent care assistance, transportation and other employee fringe benefits which could yield an additional $164 Billion in the 10 years.

Other changes include changing the taxation of income earned overseas by US companies, repealing the deduction for interest on home equity loans, expanding telecommunication taxes to all voice and data communications. and tougher rules to prevent taxpayers from inflating their deductions by overvaluing charitable donations.

Posted by Gerry Torres at 08:48 AM in Taxation | Permalink | TrackBack

January 30, 2005

Halliburton Decides Iran Just Not Worth It

When existing contracts end, Halliburton will end its operations in Iran. While clearly under fire because of government contracts in Iraq, Halliburton came under more fire earlier this month after it was awarded another giant project to develop the world’s largest gas field, South Pars, in southern Iran. Halliburton has avoided US embargoes by basing its operations with Iran through the Cayman Islands. In addition to public disapproval, the company has been under pressure from its largest investors. The US attorney in Housten convened a grand jury in July last year to investigate Halliburton’s activities in Iran.

For more information click here.

Posted by Chris H. Anderson at 08:50 PM in International Trade | Permalink | TrackBack

Brewers New Ownership Will Benefit Milwaukee

Richard Geyer, CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, says that the recently appoved sale of the Milwaukee Brewers will not only help the team, but will also help the city economically and improve its self-image.  The team was purchased by investor Mark Attanasio for over $200 million.  The column appears at wisbusiness.com.

Posted by Brian Buchanan at 12:22 PM in Wisconsin | Permalink | TrackBack

Payday Lenders Continue to Expand in State

Payday loan offices, where typically low-income consumers pay a $20 fee for every $100 borrowed, continue to increase in number in the state, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  61 new outlets opened in 2004, up 18% from the year before.  The total has increased from 17 to 399 over the past decade.  Lawmakers want to regulate the industry, limiting the number of times a loan can be rolled-over.  However, Governor Doyle vetoed a bill passed by the Republican legislature last year, and the two parties have had difficulty agreeing on a system of regulation. 

People who can't pay off the loan continue to roll the loan over, having to pay the $20 fee per $100 every time they do so.  Some people have as many as 15 payday loans at once, and there is no way to stop people from going to multiple payday loan stores at the same time, a common practice of gamblers.

Payday loan defenders, such as the industry's main lobbyist, say the industry is not a problem, and that it fills a niche, providing loans smaller than banks would ever be willing to provide.  They also say the fee is less than the fee banks charge for bouncing a check. 

Posted by Brian Buchanan at 12:03 PM in Wisconsin | Permalink | TrackBack