The REAL War on women… New rules for contractors have unexpected consequences for The City’s strip clubs – The San Francisco Examiner

Consequences for The City’s strip clubs – by l_waxmann, Michael Toren – January 2, 2019 – The San Francisco Examiner

As some 30 dancers were handed the first employee paychecks ever issued to them by the Penthouse Club one evening in early November, a wave of panic swept the popular North Beach strip club.

“I opened mine in the locker room, and I was shocked,” said a former Penthouse dancer who asked to be identified as Jane. “All the other girls were also freaking out. Me and my friends decided right then that we were done. That was the final straw.”

Historically classified as independent contractors, the dancers were used to walking out of the club’s doors with cash each night — often hundreds of dollars — after their shifts ended. That changed suddenly when clubs across The City began enforcing a California Supreme Court ruling from April in an unrelated industry that set new standards for determining whether or not workers should be classified as employees.

The decision has shaken up the gig economy but is also having an effect in unexpected places, such as in the hair salons and the adult entertainment industry, where workers have traditionally not been considered employees.

At local clubs, the move to convert dancers to employee status is causing an exodus, with many of them leaving San Francisco establishments.

“This whole business will be completely ruined. The whole point about being a stripper is you go in, get fast cash, no one knows how you’re getting it, it’s not documented and it’s not taken from you,” said a single mother who gave her name as Darla, who also recently cut ties with Penthouse Club. Like other dancers The San Francisco Examiner spoke with for this story, she asked to maintain anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Club owners say the changes are costing them as well.

A sign posted mid-October in the dancers’ dressing room at the Gold Club in the South of Market neighborhood said the club “felt that it was protecting your right and freedom to be an independent contractor.”

“However, as a result of the lawsuits and ongoing demands by the suing dancers and their attorneys, the club is now being compelled by Court order to eliminate the independent contractor option and require all dancers to become the club’s employees,” the sign read.

Axel Sang, marketing director of BSC, confirmed in an email to the Examiner that the dancers were formerly contractors but are now “club employees being paid an hourly wage and commission on dance sales.”

“The BSC-managed clubs now have matching payroll taxes, unemployment compensation, workman’s compensation, Healthy San Francisco costs, Affordable Care Insurance costs, and SF sick leave pay for several hundred new employee entertainers in addition to the hourly wage,” he wrote.

He estimated that 200 dancers have quit their jobs since the change came down at BSC clubs, including Penthouse and Gold Club and said that the change has “dramatically affected the business and the profitability,” costing the clubs “several million dollars” a year.

“A substantial reduction in the number of entertainers performing as well as the substantially increased payroll and other costs make it very difficult to generate profits,” Sang said.

The California Supreme Court decision pushing the changes in the business came out of a lawsuit brought by two drivers for Dynamex, a same-day delivery, and logistics company that converted its drivers to independent contractors in 2004. Under the ruling, workers may now be considered employees if they perform work within the usual course of the company’s business, said David Peer, a labor attorney in Carlsbad who has written about the Dynamex ruling.

“If you are running a strip club, you would think that the dancers are performing work within the usual course,” Peer said. “If the club owners want to play it safe, they should certainly be paying minimum wage and following the wage and hour rules that most organizations follow when they hire an employee.”

Lawsuits alleging improper classification of exotic dancers predate the Dynamex ruling, according to Harold Lichten of Lichten & Liss-Riordan, a Boston law firm representing Uber drivers who claim the rideshare company misclassified them.

“When you improperly characterize someone as an independent contractor you don’t have to pay social security tax, unemployment tax, minimum wage or overtime,” Lichten said, adding that the incentives were “incredibly great” for companies to “misclassify people because they were saving so much money at the workers’ expense.”

Lichten said the Dynamex ruling became leverage in ongoing litigation against Uber and noted that it should also come as a benefit to the dancers, who now are now eligible for the protections afforded to all employees.

“The concern is that some companies may lower the amount they pay them to make up their losses,” Lichten said. “That would be unfortunate. But on balance, it’s much better to be an employee because you have legal protections.”

However, the dancers interviewed by the Examiner said that while they are now entitled to minimum wage, benefits and the option to unionize, the reclassification has done more harm than good.

“Not one of those girls had a check for two weeks over $300. There was a lot of upset. A lot of girls packed up to leave that night. I was one of those girls,” Darla said.

“I can go work at McDonald’s for $15 an hour, and not take off my clothes, and not put up with the crap I put up with as a dancer,” Darla added, noting that all of the Penthouse dancers “have considered leaving.”

The vast majority of the strip clubs in San Francisco — 10 out of 12 — are owned or managed by BSC Management. The only exceptions are the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre and The Crazy Horse.

Sang said the company is not paying dancers more than minimum wage because they “are paid commissions on dance sales which in most cases far exceed the hourly wage.”

But dancers said the commission structure for private dances has also been significantly cut.

Policies can vary for each club, but before the reclassification, dancers said if they arrived to their shift early enough they would keep 75 percent of their dance sales — which is where they made the majority of their money.

A dancer at the Gold Club, who asked to be called Mary, said it had been common for dancers on average to sell around $1,000 in dances a shift and keep $750.

Under the new commission structure at the Gold Club, however, dancers said they keep none of the first $150 they sell in private dances, 40 percent of the next $250 they sell, and 60 percent of sales beyond that.

Some dancers said they must also pay a $100 fee for renting the private room.

Dancers at the Gold Club said they now walk away with only $60 on the first half-hour private dance they sell.

“When I make a customer pay $400 and I see $60 of it, it isn’t computing for me,” Mary said. “We want to do our job, and previously our business was to sell dances. And we still need to make living. But at the same time, where is the incentive?”

Some dancers also feared being classified as employees would mean not being able to pick and choose which customers to serve.

Joe Carouba, an owner of BSC, declined to speak with the Examiner for this story because of pending litigation. But in a deposition he gave in October in connection with a lawsuit filed by Olivia Doe, he said he “firmly believed” dancers should be independent contractors so they can assert more control over which customers they will and won’t serve.

“I think they should control their own sexuality, they should control their own bodies,” he said. “The difference there being, of course, if you’re an employee, you don’t have a choice who you perform for, as an independent contractor you get to choose how you perform, whom you perform for, and what level you’re comfortable at.”

Dancers said many of them were poorly informed and caught unaware when the new contracts were rolled out.

Jane said she was one of the first Penthouse dancers to sign the new contract amid confusion and wasn’t given a copy or time to review it.

At the Gold Club, Mary said management called dancers into the office in the middle of their shifts, still dressed in bikinis and eight-inch heels, and told them to look at a new contract on a computer screen and immediately sign it. Some dancers had been drinking during their shift, she said.

“We were given no opportunity to look at the contracts or have paper copies beforehand,” Mary said. “There’s really been no communication, no transparency.”

Sang denied the allegations and said cameras were installed to protect the clubs from legal challenges over the new contracts.

“Signs were posted clearly that the areas were under video and audio surveillance. Each contract signing on video and audio clearly shows each entertainer was required to fully read the contract before signing,” Sang wrote in an email. “On camera, each entertainer was clearly given a copy of the contracts that they signed.”

Dancers said morale has plummeted at clubs across The City. Many are unhappy with how management announced and rolled out the change but fear losing their jobs if they complain.

Because BSC has a virtual monopoly on San Francisco strip clubs, dancers said if they are blacklisted at one club, they are afraid they won’t be able to work anywhere else in The City.

While dancers across the country have sued clubs saying they should have been classified as employees instead of independent contractors, those who spoke with the Examiner said not everyone wants to be an employee. There are advantages to being independent contractors — so long as they are actually treated as contractors.

Mary said being treated as a contractor would mean being able to negotiate dance fees with clients directly rather than have the club set prices and to pick which dates and times to work. Previously, as contractors, dancers could pick which days to work, but not which hours.

“Contractors should have autonomy,” she said.

An often-touted perk of being an employee is access to benefits, such as health insurance. But to qualify, employees must work enough hours to be considered full-time — which isn’t practical for most people dancing at a strip club. Dancers said even working three days a week is physically exhausting.

“You do what you need to do to maintain your boundary while making sure they have a good time. It takes a lot of emotional labor to do that,” Mary said. “I don’t think people realize that’s the most difficult part of our job. It’s not really talked about in the public perception of stripping.”

The drastic pay cuts and availability of cheap flights have pushed some dancers to seek work outside of San Francisco, traveling as far as Las Vegas and Reno one or two nights a week while continuing to live in The City.

“Girls are scrambling to find a job to fit their lifestyle or even make ends meet,” Jane said.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

mtoren@sfexaminer.com

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Report on Use of U.S. Armed Force Abroad: 1798-2018 – USNI News

The following is the Dec. 28, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2018. From the Report This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime […]

Source: Report on Use of U.S. Armed Force Abroad: 1798-2018 – USNI News

ALL 42,000 Coast Guard members are working without pay during the partial government shutdown – Coast Guard – Stripes

All 42,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard are working without pay through the partial government shutdown, which is heading toward its second week with no resolution in sight.

Source: More than 40,000 Coast Guard members are working without pay during partial government shutdown – Coast Guard – Stripes

AUSTIN, Texas — All 42,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard are working without pay through the partial government shutdown, which is heading toward its second week with no resolution in sight.

“We know we signed up to do this and it’s a mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer Chad Saylor, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard. “We’re protectors of life and property. If that alarm bell goes off, you know you’re going out and doing your job.”

If an agreement to reopen the entire federal government is not reached by Friday, Coast Guard members will not get their paychecks on Jan. 1, Saylor said.

In addition, about 7,400 civilian Coast Guard employees are on furlough and another 1,300 are continuing to work without pay. All servicemembers and civilians will be paid once the government reopens.

Though the other military service branches – Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines – are part of the Department of Defense, which has been unaffected by the shutdown, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, one of several federal agencies whose budget was not approved beyond Dec. 21, when the shutdown began.

An agreement to end the shutdown hangs on a standoff between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill over funding for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. President Donald Trump has said he will not sign a spending resolution without border wall funding. Congressional Democrats are refusing to relent to the president on this issue.

Saylor said the Coast Guard is providing servicemembers with financial counseling and employee assistance programs. An internal messaging network is keeping servicemembers informed of the shutdown and its impact to pay and operations.

“They’re reminded to take account of what bills they’ll have and what their financial obligations are and to meet them,” he said.

Leadership within Sector Houston-Galveston of the Coast Guard is keeping lines of communication open among its 350 servicemembers, said Petty officer 3rd class Johanna Strickland, a spokeswoman with the Coast Guard’s Public Affairs Detachment Texas.

“All supervisors in departments have been in touch with their members,” she said, including information about Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, which offers assistance for everyday essentials to servicemembers during financial hardship.

A welcome message on the program’s website addresses concerns caused by the shutdown and asks servicemembers to reach out to their banks, landlords and creditors who “can often help keep the ship afloat while the emergency situation recedes.”

During any single pay cycle, about $150 million is required to pay all Coast Guard military and civilian employees, the program’s welcome message stated. But the program does not have the resources to help everyone and the goal is to assist at least the 21,000 servicemembers ranked E-5 and below, said retired Rear Adm. Cari B. Thomas, chief executive officer for Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

“Our mission is to care for our own,” she said. “It is hard when the Coast Guard that you love doesn’t have the ability to pay you. It impacts you, your family, and your home. I have lived through earlier government shutdowns, and know first-hand how much life at home impacts your life at work. That is why we help those who help the public.”

Many day-to-day operations continue at Coast Guard facilities, with some exceptions.

At the Washington, D.C. public affairs headquarters, the civilian employee tasked with social media is furloughed, Saylor said. So the Facebook page isn’t getting updated as frequently. Furloughed civilians also handle purchasing for the office, so supply orders have to wait.

Outside of offices, Saylor said maintenance to navigation aids, such as buoys, is on hold, as is credentialing and merchant documentation. Some routine maintenance and training will also hold until the shutdown ends.

In Houston, where about 15 civilians are furloughed, another impacted operation is fishing enforcement patrols, Strickland said.

Security, though, remains mission essential, she said.

Thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

Saudis ‘helped citizen in Oregon hit-and-run case flee US’ – BBC News

While you worry about a Saudi Journalist, you may have missed this one…

 

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The suspect was flown out of the US by private plane on an illegal passport, officials suspect.

Source: Saudis ‘helped citizen in Oregon hit-and-run case flee US’ – BBC News

Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, 21, fled the US last year, and Saudi officials may have helped him obtain an illegal passport, the Oregonian reported.

He is accused of killing Fallon Smart, 15, in Portland, Oregon, in 2016.

The Saudi government only recently informed US officials of his return home, according to the Oregonian.

Mr Noorah faces first-degree manslaughter – with a minimum sentence of 10 years – as well as hit-and-run, reckless endangerment and reckless driving charges in the US.

On 10 June 2017, with two weeks until his trial, Mr Noorah removed his tracking device and disappeared, police say.

Federal officials told the Oregonian they believe he was probably taken out of the country on a private plane.

“We’re doing everything we can to get him back,” Eric Wahlstrom, a supervisory deputy US Marshal in Oregon, said.

After Mr Noorah’s disappearance, US investigators searched domestic and international flights, but found no clues to his whereabouts.

This summer, Saudi officials informed the US that Mr Noorah had returned to the kingdom over a year ago, on 17 June, according to the Oregonian.

They did not provide additional details to US officials.

The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, so the chances of Mr Noorah facing US justice are low.

In August 2016, Mr Noorah was allegedly driving a gold Lexus that fatally struck Ms Smart, the newspaper reported.

He was speeding through a crossing at up to 60mph (96km/h), police said. The teenager died at the scene.

Mr Noorah was arrested by Multnomah County officers after he returned to the scene of the accident.

He had been living in Portland as a student on a scholarship since 2014, with the Saudi government paying him a $1,800 (£1,400) stipend each month, the Oregonian reported.

The Saudi consulate also gave Mr Noorah the $100,000 he needed to post bail after his arrest in September 2016, according to records viewed by the paper.

The Saudi government has previously posted bail – even as high as $2m – for its nationals charged with crimes in the US.

Mr Noorah had turned in his passport and worn an ankle monitoring cuff after his release, but he was allowed to continue attending his classes at Portland Community College.

The day he vanished, he was reportedly picked up from campus by a black car.

The US Marshals Service and US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

The case follows an international uproar over the killing of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The US Senate blamed the Saudi crown prince for ordering Mr Khashoggi’s killing and criticised President Donald Trump’s pro-Riyadh stance.

Georgetown renegotiating solar, wind power contracts

GEORGETOWN — The city of Georgetown’s bill for wind and solar energy ended up being $8.6 million more than anticipated in the fiscal year 2018 because the falling prices of oil and gas meant it had to sell its surplus renewable power for less than forecast.

Source: Georgetown renegotiating solar, wind power contracts

GEORGETOWN — The city had budgeted $45 million for renewable energy but ended up paying $53.6 million, he said.

Georgetown was able to reduce the $8.6 million unanticipated extra to $6.8 million through savings from lower capital improvement utility project costs, Morgan said. It paid the remaining $6.8 million with reserves from the city’s energy fund, he said.

The City Council also approved a budget amendment Dec. 12 that will build the reserves in the electric fund, which helped to pay for some of the loss, from $1.9 million back up to $4 million in 2019.

Georgetown is in the middle of renegotiating its 20- to 25-year wind and solar contracts to try to get a better deal, Morgan said.

But at least one resident and a conservative think tank said the city should not have made the contracts for so long and shouldn’t be relying on green sources of energy.

Georgetown began getting 100 percent of its power through renewable energy in April 2017. The city has received international attention for its commitment to solar and wind power.

RELATED: How Georgetown’s mayor became a hero to climate change evangelists

Morgan said that when the city signed wind and solar contracts around 2012, it was looking at long-term demands and contracted for more energy than it needed to grow into it as the city of Georgetown grew. The city contracted for 20 years with a wind farm west of Amarillo and for 25 years with a solar power farm outside of Fort Stockton, he said.

“We took competitive bids in 2012 for all types of energy production and chose wind and solar because of the competitive nature of the pricing at the time,” Morgan said. “If we had chosen a natural gas project in 2012 for a long-term contract, we would still have the same situation, because it’s all about long-term contracting and where the energy market was in 2012.”

The city also had to pay more than anticipated in fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 for renewable energy because of depressed energy prices, he said. In 2016, the city projected the bill would be $33.6 million for renewable energy, though the actual costs were $40.3 million, Morgan said. In 2017, the city projected the power would cost $39.5 million, though it ultimately cost $46 million, according to city figures.

“These differences in projected and actual costs were previously offset by increased revenue, implementing a power cost adjustment and adjusting the timing of some large capital projects,” Morgan said.

Georgetown resident Richard Gottlieb said Thursday that he didn’t see wind and solar as viable sources of energy for the city. He said he was surprised the city would sign 20- to 25-year contracts for renewable energy and not hedge on them to limit the losses. Hedging is a strategy that protects an investment against loss.

Gottlieb also said he didn’t see why the renewable energy companies that the city contracted with would want to renegotiate their contracts. “Why would you negotiate? You have the city over a barrel,” he said.

Bill Peacock, the vice president of research for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, also questioned the city’s losses on its energy contracts.

“The city claims that this is just one of the challenges with doing business in an energy market and could have happened with any contract they had,” Peacock said Friday. “That’s not the case, because what they did was bought more electricity than they could use almost any day of the year. … They knew they would have to buy this and sell it, and that’s not the way most people work. It’s more evidence they are wanting to portray themselves as a green city rather than doing something for their consumers.”

The foundation has an ongoing lawsuit against Georgetown filed on behalf of a resident wanting information on how much energy is produced by solar panels on a city building.

RELATED: Lawsuit demands Georgetown provide information on solar panel cost

Morgan said it is very common for municipally owned utilities “to secure purchased power agreements that exceed their current electric demand.”

“This prevents community-owned utilities from having to secure new power contracts every year or buy expensive energy during the summer’s peak demand,” he said. The city of Georgetown sells its surplus energy to customers looking for energy in the power grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

City Council Member Tommy Gonzalez said Friday the city was in a tough situation.

“There was a mistake made when they (city staff) accounted for the plus side of what could happen and never stopped to think what would happen if the market goes down,” he said. “It’s a lesson learned.”

But Gonzalez said he thinks the city can renegotiate its wind and solar contracts.

“For some of these locations, we are their only customers — and it’s important for us to keep buying power from them,” he said. “It’s mutually beneficial for us to rework the contracts.”

Chuck Schumer’s Facebook ties came donations and a job for his daughter

Do you still believe that your concerns about Facebook privacy matter at all to those in power?

 

What does it take to friend a U.S. senator? If you’re Facebook, all you need is about $50,000 in donations – and a cushy job for the politician’s daughter.

Source: Chuck Schumer’s Facebook ties came donations and a job for his daughter

Facebook employees, including some at the top of its corporate pyramid, have helped fill Schumer’s campaign coffers – and he’s returned the favor by carrying water for the social media giant in Congress, according to a recent report.

And Alison Schumer, the senator’s youngest of two daughters, works as a Facebook product marketing manager – which pays an average of $160,000, according to Glassdoor.com.

“It sure looks hinky,” political strategist Susan Del Percio told The Post. “This is an industry that’s been trying for years to fend off heavy government regulation by actively cultivating relationships with senators and House members.”

Last week, it emerged that Schumer has been a strong advocate of Facebook on Capitol Hill. He pressured Sen. Mark Warner (D- Virginia), one of Facebook’s most aggressive challengers in Congress, to back off from investigating the company, according to The New York Times.

Schumer’s support of Facebook remained steadfast even as it emerged that Russian trolls were using the social media platform to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The company’s also come under fire for lax privacy standards leading to the exposure of users’ personal data.

“Facebook is a very powerful force,” Schumer said in March, as the problems began coming to light. “I think, overall, it’s been a very positive force.”

Top Facebook execs have contributed thousands to Schumer’s campaign fund for years.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave the senator $5,200 in 2013.

Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s high-profile chief operating officer, kicked in $5,400 – the maximum legal amount – to Schumer’s 2016 re-election campaign.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch gave the same sum in 2015.

Newly appointed board member Kenneth Chenault has been a loyal Schumer supporter since 1995. Most recently, he gave $1,200 to the senator’s 2016 primary election campaign and $2,700 in that year’s general election. Chenault has contributed a total of $6,900.

Critics have called out the cozy relationship. In April, right-leaning street artist Sabo plastered the city with posters reading “Conflict of Interest? The daughter of Chuck is working for Zuck,” The Post reported.

Alison Schumer worked for Facebook from 2011 to 2013 and rejoined the company in 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Schumer, who could not be reached Saturday, is set to marry Elizabeth Weiland in Brooklyn on Sunday.

“Sen. Schumer has worked aggressively to push Facebook to do more to purge fake accounts and bots used by the right wing and Russians to perpetuate a disinformation campaign and interfere with our elections,” Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said Thursday.

But evidence of the senator’s direct efforts to grease the skids for the company could fuel Republican proposals to clamp down on Facebook.

Conservatives say the company has suppressed right-leaning news sites – LaChance’s traffic cratered by 90% after Facebook introduced a new algorithm in 2017, he said — and has banned Trump supporters unjustly.

“It will force some action,” Del Percio said. “Facebook will see a lot more aggressive questioning and oversight after this.”