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Women a century away from breaking California glass ceiling, study says

Meg whitman
Women business executives in California hoping to reach parity with their male counterparts may have to wait awhile -– say, a century, according to UC Davis.

Women are a long way from cracking the state’s glass ceiling, since the percentage of female leaders at the 400 largest public companies headquartered in California –- which together represent nearly $3 trillion in shareholder value -- is growing just 0.2% a year, according to a new report.

Less than 10% of executives -– defined as the five highest-paid jobs at a company along with board members -– are women. As of June, there were no women in power at more than a third of California corporate behemoths, including companies such as Adobe Systems Inc. and Skechers USA Inc.

No company had only women on its board or management team. Only 13 had a woman chief executive, down from 16 last year, though the number of women chief financial officers jumped 28.6% to 45.

Orange County had the lowest percentage of women top honchos of any county in California, followed by Santa Clara County. Promotion of women didn’t seem to be a priority for semiconductor and software companies

San Francisco and San Mateo counties -– as well as the retail and wholesale industries -- ranked highest.

Bebe Stores Inc. had the best gender balance, with women claiming 40% of high-ranking spots in the company. Wet Seal Inc. improved dramatically, with a woman chief executive and women holding 36.4% of major roles, compared with last year, when just one executive post was occupied by a woman.


Americans still prefer male bosses, but not by much

When the glass ceiling crashed on Brenda Chapman

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Meg Whitman, current chief executive of Hewlett-Packard and former chief executive of EBay. Credit: Jose Luis Villegas / Reuters

Most companies plan on having holiday parties: report

A majority of companies plan to hold holiday parties this year, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas
The party must go on.

Despite a still-weak economy, a majority of companies still plan to hold holiday parties this year, according to an annual report released Tuesday by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Nearly 68% of businesses reported that they plan to throw a year-end bash in the coming weeks, down from the pre-recession period of 2007, when about 90% of companies surveyed had such plans.

The economy's slow pace has left some companies with little reason to celebrate. Some businesses have put off hiring, equipment upgrades and other big expenditure to stay afloat. Yet many refuse to abandon the holiday party, said John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"For many employers, the holiday party is a way to demonstrate appreciation for employees' hard work throughout the year,"  he said. "Others see the parties as a relatively low-cost morale builder.  For smaller companies, the holiday party is simply an extension of a more family-like relationship that often exists between these employers and their employees."

Some companies have engaged in cost-saving measures. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they will cut down on the guest list by limiting attendance to employees only.

Still, almost half of the companies surveyed said they plan to offer alcohol at their holiday event. 


Use of retail medical clinics is rising, study says

Bond yields rise again in Europe; IMF offers new help

Toy report: Kids exposed to lead, carcinogens, choking hazards

-- Angel Jennings

Photo: Mindy Weiss of Mindy Weiss Party Consultants poses with "Santa and Mrs. Claus" at a holiday party for Ryan Seacrest's company. Credit: Curtis Dahl Photography

Americans still prefer male bosses, but not by much

Boss There’s a reason they still call it “working for the man”: Americans continue to prefer male bosses to female ones.

But the male edge is now the slimmest it's ever been. When pollster Gallup first began asking the question in 1953, 66% of Americans wanted Don Draper compared with the 5% looking for a female boss.

Now, male managers get 32% of the vote while female ones get 22%. Nearly half of people (including the majority of men) surveyed said they don’t care about the gender of their higher-ups.

But women –- especially ones older than 50 –- are much more opinionated. More women (39%) would like to report to a man than those (27%) who would rather have a woman in charge.

The gender of current bosses may have influenced the responses, Gallup said. Currently, 56% of Americans have a man at the helm while 30% are led by a woman. Thirteen percent said they have no boss.


Employees satisfied with co-workers, unhappy with benefits

Is meanness a moneymaker? Nice guys are paid less, study finds

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Female managers are catching up to men in American preferences. Though few would probably want one like Miranda Priestly, the tyrannical (and fictional) editor from the movie "The Devil Wears Prada." Credit: Barry Wetcher / 20th Century Fox

Employees satisfied with co-workers, unhappy with benefits

Officespace Your co-workers probably like you and your boss just fine –- it’s their pay and benefits they’re peeved about, according to a new Gallup survey.

Three in 10 employees are dissatisfied with the health insurance offered by their boss. The same amount also wish they earned more money.

Compensation issues in general leave workers disgruntled -– 26% are unhappy with their promotion chances, 28% want better retirement benefits and 34% say there’s too much stress at work.

Blame the nation’s unemployment problem, Gallup says. Compared with 90% job satisfaction before the recession, just 83% of workers are currently content.

Employees are likely enduring less favorable work conditions in order to avoid the dismal job market, while employers are cutting costs by scaling back salaries, promotions and benefits, Gallup said.

Still, compared with the fallout of the dot-com bubble a decade ago, workers are more satisfied overall. The study, which was conducted in mid-August, found that 72% are completely satisfied with the physical safety conditions at work.

The majority of employees are also pleased with their co-workers, their bosses and their work schedule.


Does fantasy football affect workplace productivity?

No August job growth as unemployment rate holds at 9.1%

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Most U.S. workers are more satisfied with their bosses than Ron Livingston, right, in 20th Century Fox's "Office Space." Credit: Van RedinPhoto

Does fantasy football affect workplace productivity?

New Orleans Saints Football teams are gearing up for the start of the season, as are more than 21 million U.S. workers in fantasy sports leagues. But bosses shouldn’t be alarmed, according to one employment consultancy.

Employees may spend as much as nine hours a week perfecting their fantasy drafts before the National Football League kickoff on Sept. 8, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The impact on workplace productivity, however, will be minimal, the firm said.

Challenger actually suggests that employers encourage company leagues to boost morale and output, claiming that “in the long run, this may lead to increased employee retention.” Other research has found that fantasy sports boost camaraderie among employees and networking.

More than 70 million free and paid leagues operate in the U.S. and Canada, with the average player belonging to more than two, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Assn. Membership has spiked 60% in the past four years to 32 million players – with 80% of them involved in football.

And of all full-time workers in the U.S., 19% are fantasy sports players.

A Challenger survey last year found that most fantasy participants didn’t find playing in a league to be very distracting. On a scale of one to 10, where one represented no influence on productivity, nearly 70% of players chose four or below.


Best study ever: Wasting time online boosts worker productivity

Is meanness a moneymaker? Nice guys are paid less, study finds

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (28) is tripped up by Oakland Raiders cornerback Walter McFadden (22). The Saints will play the Green Bay Packers during the regular season kickoff on Sept. 8. Credit: Cary Edmondson / US Presswire

Best study ever: Wasting time online boosts worker productivity

Laptops Spending time online updating your Facebook page, clicking through I Can Has Cheezburger and ogling Robert Pattinson may rot your brain, but new research suggest that it could also make you more productive at work.

“Browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function,” according to a report from the National University of Singapore.

So-called cyberloafing can refresh workers mentally after long periods of work, researchers said at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio this week.

Surfing the Web is even better for productivity than talking or texting with friends or sending personal emails, the study found.

And smart bosses would stop snooping, researchers said: Excessive Internet monitoring and surveillance only makes employees do it more, they said.

Now, if only someone will discover that napping, playing cards and watching "Jersey Shore" also boosts productivity ...


Is meanness a moneymaker? Nice guys are paid less, study finds

Abercrombie to 'The Situation' of 'Jersey Shore': Stop wearing our clothes

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: The gateway to greater protectivity? Credit: Lee Jae-Won / Reuters

Tensions mount as Southern California grocery workers protest outside employers' offices

As tensions continue to rise between labor and Southern California’s three leading grocery chains, hundreds of workers rallied outside of the local headquarters of Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs on Tuesday to protest possible cuts to their healthcare benefits.

The contract between the employers and the United Food and Commercial Workers expired in March, and members have authorized a strike. Negotiations are being conducted under the supervision of a federal mediator.

The three grocery chains are owned by larger corporations. Ralphs is owned by Kroger Co. of Cincinnati; Vons and Pavilions by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Albertsons by SuperValu Inc., of Eden Prairie, Minn.

Officials with area UFCW locals have said the chains want employees to pay more for premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Union leaders have said the latest contract proposal could result in some workers spending as much as 50% of their take-home for medical care. Many grocery union employees work far less than 40 hours a week.

And in a sign that the negotiations blame game is heating up, union officials on Tuesday accused the grocery stores of intentionally dragging their heels in the talks in order to gain potential political and economic advantages.

But as rank-and-file workers marched in front of Albertsons' regional headquarters in Fullerton, Vons offices in Arcadia and Ralphs in Compton, the grocery chains fingered area union leadership as being at fault for dragging out the negotiations process.

In a joint statement, the three companies said they presented their healthcare proposal to the union 42 days ago and have remained all along "committed to reaching an agreement with the union that is good for our employees and keeps our businesses competitive."

The employers added that they were “very disappointed with the response we finally received from the UFCW on Monday, which did nothing to address the rising cost of healthcare.”

Soon after, the UFCW’s Local 770 issued a statement that tossed the blame of stalling back at the grocers’ feet. “Managements’ proposal was a response to a union proposal made 47 days before that,” according to the local's statement.

The local added that “management only agreed to negotiate with grocery workers 12 days out of those 42 -- and most of those sessions were spent dealing with a pension issue” that had a June 30 deadline that needed to be met.

The talks are scheduled to continue next month.

-- P.J. Huffstutter


Strike could be near for Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons workers, union warns

Costs may come down for consumers

Mediator called into grocery labor talks

Photo: Grocery worker Marge Kohl uses the bullhorn during a labor rally in front of the Albertsons regional corporate headquarters in Fullerton over an ongoing contract dispute with Southern California’s big three grocery chains. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Grocery worker union locals call meetings to prepare for picketing

As the labor talks continue between Southern California’s major grocery stores and the union representing 62,000 of their workers, some of the union locals are taking yet another step to prepare for a potential strike.

At least two of the region’s United Food and Commercial Workers locals -- UFCW 324 in Buena Park and UFCW 770 in Los Angeles -- are holding meetings for stewards and picket captains next week to outline and clarify the roles union members would play on a picket line.

In an email sent this week to union members, officials from UFCW Local 324 wrote that its meeting on Thursday was being held “due to the lack of progress at negotiations and the managements’ insistence on take away proposals.... We will provide negotiation update and prepare for your role as picket captains.”

Ralphs said it was prepared, though it declined to discuss details. Representatives from Albertsons and Vons could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“While we have a plan in place, we remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement,” said Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for Ralphs.

This week, the grocery chains presented the union with an initial proposal for changes and cuts to workers’ healthcare coverage -- a proposal the retailers called “reasonable” and union officials described as “gutting.”

Both sides are trying to come up with a new contract to replace the one that was set to expire March 6 and is being extended day to day. The labor negotiations are ongoing. A federal mediator was brought in last month and has been meeting with both sides.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Southern California grocery labor talks hit latest snag: healthcare

Grocery Labor Strike Vote
The Southern California grocery labor talks apparently aren't going well -- still.

On Wednesday, the region’s major grocery chains said they have presented the union representing 62,000 of their workers with an initial proposal for changes to their healthcare coverage -- a proposal the retailers call “reasonable” and union officials describe as “gutting.”

Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons declined to discuss the proposal in detail on Wednesday. But according to a statement from the three retailers, the health and welfare proposal offers their workers “an excellent healthcare plan that allows them to receive comprehensive coverage for themselves and their families.”

“Although the proposal makes some changes to the current health and welfare plan, employees would pay as little as $9 a week for coverage, receive coverage if they work just 16 hours per week depending on their job,” according to the statement.

But officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers countered that the retailers are pushing to shift as much as 80% of the medical costs to the workers.

“Management has refused to compromise on providing health benefits, instead creating a plan that mirrors that of corporate healthcare villain Wal-Mart: expensive and ineffective enough that no employee participates,” said Mike Shimpock, a spokesman for UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles.

He added: “Instead of being good corporate citizens and partners in the health of our society, management is instead destroying their employees’ healthcare and risking another grocery strike to marginally increase their profits by 3%.”

The labor negotiations are ongoing. A federal mediator has been meeting with both sides since being brought in last month.

The negotiators are trying to replace a four-year contract that was set to expire March 6 but is now being extended day to day. The contract covers supermarket checkers, baggers, meat cutters and other unionized employees of Ralphs, which is owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co.; Vons and Pavilions, owned by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Albertsons, owned by SuperValu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

--P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770, greets members of the union at a strike-authorization  vote at the Pickwick Center in Burbank in April.  Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Grocery store and labor union continue contract talks

Striker and Santa As negotiations continue between the grocery workers union and Southern California’s three leading supermarket chains, both sides have agreed to automatically renew their main labor contract day by day -– although either side can cancel the contract with 72 hours' notice.

The contract, which had already been given a  monthlong extension, had been set to expire Thursday night.

In addition, both sides have scheduled six more days of negotiations through mid-April.

Labor and grocery officials declined to comment Thursday on the issues being negotiated. Previously, officials from both sides said the talks included employee wages, healthcare benefits and pensions.

The contract covers about 62,000 Southern California grocery workers at Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons/Pavilions stores. The workers are covered under a contract reached in 2007 with seven United Food and Commercial Workers locals.

According to the website for UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, the grocery chains recently presented the unions with several proposed changes to the current contract. The changes include reducing holiday pay and cutting certain overtime provisions for part-time and full-time workers, according to the site.

The local apparently was less than pleased with the offer, saying in a statement that the retailers “have presented numerous takeaway proposals that they know we cannot agree to as another way to stall these negotiations.”

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: A grocery worker on strike in Oxnard in 2003. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Jury awards fired Countrywide executive $3.8 million

A Superior Court jury in Van Nuys has awarded $3.8 million to a former Countrywide Financial Corp. executive who claimed he was fired because he refused to falsify a report to a bond-rating firm and exposed unsafe working conditions at a Countrywide building.

On a 9-3 vote, jurors found that Countrywide retaliated against Michael Winston for telling health officials that he and co-workers were sickened by a chemical leak and for his refusal to draft an allegedly fraudulent memo on Countrywide succession planning to Moody's Investors Service.

Mozilo-van nuys Reeling from losses on its aggressive mortgage lending, Countrywide was acquired in 2008 by Bank of America Corp., which took on its liability for lawsuits and was also a defendant in the case. BofA said Wednesday that it had not decided whether to appeal the verdict, announced last Thursday after the jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days.

"We're disappointed with the ruling and we're reviewing our options," BofA spokeswoman Shirley Norton said.

Winston, a corporate strategy expert who had worked for such prominent firms as Motorola and Lockheed Martin, was hired in 2006 to develop leadership training programs and executive succession plans at Countrywide, the giant Calabasas mortgage lender.

"Here's a guy who refused to lie to Moody's," his lawyer, Ted Mathews, said Wednesday. "He got in trouble for standing up and doing what was right."

Called as a hostile witness by Mathews, former Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo R. Mozilo said he had wanted Winston fired -- not in retaliation but because a leadership program he created was unimpressive and because Winston wasn't a team player.

In addition to wrongful termination, Winston also alleged that Countrywide defrauded him by misrepresenting the company as strong when it hired him. Winston testified that he was persuaded to accept a relatively low salary with the promise that he would make millions on stock options that proved worthless.

That allegation proved a loser. The jurors voted 9-3 that there had been no intentional concealment or suppression of any fact with the intent to defraud Winston.

The jurors awarded Winston $1.25 million in past economic damages and $2.57 million in future economic damages. They declined to award damages for emotional distress.


Mozilo testifies at Winston trial, saying he wasn't a dictator at Countrywide

-- E. Scott Reckard

Photo: Countrywide Financial co-founder Angelo Mozilo, dark glasses, outside Van Nuys Superior Court with his lawyers last month. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times



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