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NLRB ruling against McDonald’s: impact on small biz?

(Business News) As the NLRB rules that McDonald’s is jointly liable for their franchisors’ labor and wage violations, we must ask how this ruling impacts the small business world.

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McDonald’s at odds with the NLRB

The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) ruled that McDonald’s is an employer which exerts substantial power over its employees working conditions and should therefore be held jointly liable with franchise operators for labor and wage violations committed by the franchise operators. The NLRB rejected a $5.6 billion assertion that McDonald’s was not in control of employment decisions at its franchises. If the ruling of joint liability is upheld, it could pave the way for unionization options, as well as, higher wages.

This ruling comes after nearly two years worth of complaints were lodged by McDonald’s employees. According to this statement issued by the NLRB, 181 cases have been filed since November of 2012; 43 of these cases are said to have merit.

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Michah Wissinger, an attorney at Levy Ratner, who brought the case on behalf of the McDonald’s workers in New York City stated, “McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the NLRB shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple. The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”

And undoubtedly the NLRB agreed, however, McDonald’s plans on fighting the decision.

What does this ruling mean for small businesses?

McDonald’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Heather Smedstad, stated: “This decision to allow unfair labor practice complaints to allege that McDonald’s is a joint employer with its franchisees is wrong. McDonald’s will contest this allegation in the appropriate forum. McDonald’s also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against decades of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States. McDonald’s, as well as every other company involved in franchising, relies on these existing rules to run successful businesses as part of a system that every day creates significant employment, entrepreneurial and economic opportunities across the country.”

Herein lies the problem: while this ruling would undoubtedly benefit the employees by allowing them to create unions and ask for higher wages, what will it do to the existing small business model in the United States? Will this open the floodgates for other franchises to be led down the same path?

The International Franchise Association, which represents franchisees, has opposed the identification of McDonald’s as a joint employer stating: “If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build.” This is a tricky situation.

What do you think? Is this a win, or the beginning of another slippery slope?

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business News

You can now make Amazon returns at Kohl’s

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is teaming up with Kohl’s to give shoppers a few of the brick and mortar conveniences with online shopping.

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With online retailers giving brick-and-mortar stores a run for their money, some brands are choosing to collaborate, rather than compete. Kohl’s has announced that it will team with Amazon to create “Amazon Experience” mini-stores within Kohl’s locations.

The companies are testing the concept with 10 stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas. If it goes well, they’ll expand that number to 82.

The Amazon Experience stores will be staffed with Amazon salespeople, but Kohl’s employees will run the Amazon returns counter. Customers can even bring unpackaged items from Amazon, and Kohl’s employees will help them pack and ship it back to Amazon, free of charge.

It seems that Amazon is looking to have more physical presence with customers and to make returns easier, while Kohl’s hopes to downsize their store space and generate revenue by renting to other brands.

Just this month, Kohl’s opened four smaller stores that have 60 percent less footage and 25 percent less inventory than their typical stores. Customers can still access the entire Kohl’s inventory at kiosks that also offer in-store pickup.

It’s clear that Kohl’s isn’t afraid to combine the brick-and-mortar and online experiences, and their collaboration with Amazon is further evidence that the brand is adapting to the digital marketplace.

“This is a great example of how Kohl’s and Amazon are leveraging each other’s strengths — ” said Richard Schepp, Chief Administrative Officer of Kohl’s, “ the power of Kohl’s store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon’s reach and loyal customer base.”

Industry experts predict that Amazon may find other ways to utilize their physical presence in Kohl’s to better serve customers.

Amazon has been dabbling in the world of fashion, and having mini-stores in Kohl’s could present an opportunity for Amazon customers to try on apparel before they buy, bolstering Amazon’s in-house apparel brands.

Apparel analyst Tiffany Hogan told CNBC “We could potentially see new Amazon lines popping up at Kohl’s.”

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Business News

IBM is putting blockchains to work for banks

(BUSINESS NEWS) IBM is putting blockchain tech to work so that they can launch a banking system for international transactions.

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Earlier this year, IBM unveiled its “Blockchain as a Service” based on Hyperledger Fabric, creating a public cloud service for customers to build secure blockchain networks.

Now the tech company announced they’re teaming up with payment company KlickEx Group and blockchain startup Stellar to change up the cross-border payment game.

The team is launching a blockchain-based system for banks, aimed to lower the cost and reduce settlement time for global payments for both businesses and consumers. International transactions typically take days, or even weeks, to complete.

Blockchains could speed things up, minimize errors, and provide more flexibility and transparency to banks. According to IBM, the collaboration “is intended to improve the speed in which banks both clear and settle payment transactions on a single network in near real time.”

In case you forgot what blockchains are, here’s a refresher course. Blockchains are a secure digital ledger of transactions with bits of information stored across multiple nodes in a network.

Since there’s no centralized hub, it’s less vulnerable to hacking.

Any time an action is taken, the ledger updates and that data is available to anyone with access to the blockchain. Additionally, each transaction is secured with digital signatures and encryption, providing transparency and security.

Blockchains can be used to trace and track transactions along every step of the way, providing a handy place to combine all product information besides just financial dealings.

For example, IBM suggested a hypothetical in which their system connects a Samoan farmer with an Indonesian buyer.

In this transaction, they stated, “the blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalize transaction terms with immediate payment, conducting global trade with transparency and relative ease.”

Instead of scattered information, blockchains collect all relevant steps in a transaction. Currently, they system is used in twelve currency corridors, including New Zealand and the UK, as well as Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Within the next year, the system is expected to handle 60 percent of the South Pacific’s retail industry’s cross-border payments.

Bridget van Kralingen, Senior VP of IBM Industry Platforms, said in statement, “with the guidance of some of the world’s leading financial institutions, IBM is working to explore new ways to make payment networks more efficient and transparent so that banking can happen in real-time, even in the most remote parts of the world.”

Over a dozen banks are part of the initial pilot program, and plan to expand to Southeast Asia, South America, and other areas by early next year.

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Business News

A real life robot battle: America vs Japan

(BUSINESS NEWS) Robots are real and America is fresh out of a battle with Japan in a real life robot battle royale.

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What’s the future of sports look like?

Giant. Fighting. Robots.

That’s right, your childhood dreams have arrived, at least I know mine have.

Two years ago, American robotics firm, MegaBots Inc., challenged Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a showdown of the battle of the mechs. The challenge was accepted, but with one simple caveat: the inclusion of melee combat.

And so the Super Heavyweight Title Fight two-years in the making premiered on leading social video platform, Twitch, yesterday evening to tech and sci-fi fans alike who waited with baited breath for such an event.

In order to prepare for the match, the American team needed to build a new bot capable of fulfilling the duel requirement, as well as one that would be a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese fighting machine.

MegaBots, or “Team America,” was able to crowdfund the robot battle through a Kickstarter campaign earning over $500,000 by just under 8,000 backers. With this campaign, they were also able to upgrade their Mk.II behemoth that would be entering the rumble.

Meet Eagle Prime.

More metal. More power. More American.

According to MegaBots, Eagle Prime “weighs in at 12 tons, stands 16 feet tall, seats two, is powered by a 430 horsepower V8 LS3 engine, and costs a cool $2.5M.” This robot is massive; a good foot higher than its predecessor.

Founders Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti commented on the design of Eagle Prime, quipping, “We made it huge and strapped guns to it;” as American as apple pie.

Suidobashi’s robot, KURATAS, stands a few feet shorter (about 13 feet tall), but carries a more sleek and elegant design to it. With a tripod-wheeled base and twin Gatling BB canons with the ability to fire 6,000 bullets per second, it seemed a toss-up as to who would reign supreme in the first mech battle.

While this sounds like an epic episode of awesomeness, don’t expect Pacific Rim level combat just yet. Rather than give a play-by-play of the event, I’ll just tell you straight away that Eagle Prime came out on top in the brawl. To be fair though, it really wasn’t much of a brawl.

Eagle Prime had two years of extra time to be built in preparation for such a match against Kuratas. It was made bigger (and for “funzies”, added patriotic colors to the bot as well as a head of a bald eagle for a “head” as well as a chainsaw-sword-type of device that likely, and ultimately, ended up costing Kuratas a pretty penny in damages.

Really, Kuratas had no chance: there was a bit of overkill on the part of Eagle Prime.

The chain-sword alone raises some safety concerns, especially when we’re talking the future of sports. That said, the pilots of both mechs, Eagle Prime piloted by both Oehrlein and Cavalcanti and Kuratas by Kogoro Kurata, could use a bit more protective gear than helmets, even if the robots in action look like a couple of toddlers fighting.

But hey, it’s a start. And that’s the point.

Maybe one day we will be in giant stadium arenas watching huge robots piloted by humans hashing it out, but we’ve got a long ways to go. And maybe, just maybe, these things could be of use in natural disaster efforts.

Who wouldn’t want to be saved by an Optimus Prime-like, human-piloted “robot” that could withstand whatever was thrown its way?

It’s going to be an expensive endeavor that will require a nice chunk of change in investments and endorsements, though I will say, what a time to be alive.

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