Saturday, April 22, 2006

May 1 ‘Great American Boycott of 2006’ for immigrant rights gathers momentum

The national call for a May 1 “Great American Boycott of 2006: No Shopping, No School, No Work” to demand full rights for immigrant workers and their families is gathering momentum. This call, initiated by the March 25th Coalition Against HR4437—a grassroots coalition that grew out of the Los Angeles action that brought hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers into the streets last month—has likened the May action to the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott of 1955. Organizers want to exercise both political and economic power on that day.

The call has struck a chord in many immigrant communities. For many immigrant workers May 1 is celebrated in their home countries as a day to commemorate the working class struggle and is marked with marches and rallies worldwide.

In Los Angeles, taxi drivers have vowed to shut down LAX airport and trogueros (truck drivers) will be closing the harbor. Demonstrations are being planned in both major and smaller cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago and New York. Wherever possible, students and workers are planning both individual and group action. Many small businesses, particularly in the Mexican community, will be closing.

On the weekend of April 22, organizers will meet in Chicago to form a national network to continue this momentum. Following the meeting, there will be a press conference in Washington, D.C., on April 24, the date that Congress reconvenes.

In New York City, the Million Worker March Movement and the Troops Out Now Coalition, which were planning a May 1 rally and march from Union Square, voted to support the immigrant rights movement and the “Great American Boycott” action. The coalitions had held a march and rally last year to revive May Day and were actively making plans to march again this year. Chris Silvera, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 808 and president of the National Teamsters Black Caucus, proclaimed, “We support and embrace this movement.” His union local is hosting the May 1 Great American Boycott 2006 Coalition, which is composed of the many immigrant communities of New York City including Latino, Filipino, South Asian, African, and Caribbean communities.

Nationally organizers are making plans to politically and legally support any worker or student who is retaliated against for their participation in activities.

Change to Win Ad Highlighting Out of Control CEO Pay Refused by Cable Network Parents General Electric and Viacom

Preserving the Middle Class Too Controversial for MSNBC and Jon Stewart

Cable networks MSNBC and Comedy Central have refused to air a Change to Win ad that contrasts the vanishing middle class with runaway CEO pay.

Despite coverage of rising income inequality in mainstream publications such as the New York Times and USA Today over the last two weeks, cable network parents Viacom and General Electric refused to run Change to Win's ad, which launches its nationwide Make Work Pay! campaign.

"American democracy is threatened when pointing out that income inequality is rising and the middle class is in jeopardy is somehow controversial?" asked Greg Tarpinian, Executive Director of Change to Win, a labor federation of seven unions and 6 million members.

"One has to wonder if the real reason this ad isn't being run is because MSNBC and Viacom are worried that it will offend Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, who made $24 million dollars last year, and GE CEO Jeff Immelt who made $15 million," Tarpinian said. "The people who should be offended are the millions of hard working men and women who can't even afford cable, let alone healthcare. We call on Viacom and General Electric to show this ad nationally on their networks, and acknowledge what the American people already know -- the middle class is shrinking and it's time we did something about it."

Change to Win is airing the ad in major markets across the country to call attention to the fact that for many hard-working Americans, a 40-hour work week no longer ensures the basics of the American Dream. We are uniting the 50 million workers in the hospitality, construction, retail, food, health care, transportation and other critical industries whose jobs are vital to our economy and cannot be outsourced. Make Work Pay! seeks to deliver all working people a paycheck that supports a family, affordable health care, retirement security and the freedom to join a union in their workplace.

UPS Q1 profit at $975 million

United Parcel Service Inc.'s profit for the first quarter grew about 11 percent, as its revenue jumped almost 17 percent.

The Atlanta-based package delivery company had net income of $975 million on $11.5 billion in revenue, compared with net income of $882 million on $9.9 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2005. Earnings were 89 cents a share, up from earnings of 78 cents a share in the first quarter of 2005.

"This was a quarter of outstanding growth that resulted in strong returns and excellent cash flow," said Mike Eskew, UPS chairman and CEO. "To drive future results, we will continue to invest in our network, technology and products to bring even more value to the customer."

U.S. Package Revenue grew 9.6 percent to $7.5 billion and volume grew 6.8 percent in total, or 848,000 packages per day. Revenue gains were a result of robust growth across all products combined with firm pricing, UPS said. Average daily ground volume rose 6.2 percent, or almost 650,000 packages per day.

UPS' International Package revenue grew 17.3 percent to $2.2 billion as volume grew 29.1 percent to 1.7 million packages per day. Export volume growth had a 16.3 percent increase, reflecting strong performance in all major regions of the world. Recently, UPS added international flights to and from China and expanded its operations there. The company also enhanced Trade Direct service between the United States, Canada and Europe.

Supply Chain and Freight revenue grew 53.9 percent to $1.9 billion, driven primarily by acquisitions. Freight forwarding and logistics operating profit was impacted by increased expenses and lost revenue due to the integration of the former Menlo Worldwide Forwarding unit. However, these results were somewhat offset by solid less-than-truckload revenue and shipment growth in the ground freight operations.

YRC to Buy Back Up to $100M in Stock

Transportation service provider YRC Worldwide Inc. on Friday said its board approved a plan to repurchase up to $100 million of its common stock.

The repurchase program does not have an established expiration date, and the company may repurchase its shares in the open market.

"Our plans to pay down $100 million of debt in 2006 remain unchanged," said Bill Zollars, chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement.

YRC Worldwide is the holding company for brands including Yellow Transportation, Roadway and Reimer Express. The company has about 57.4 million shares outstanding.

Shares of YRC climbed 79 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $39.08 in morning trading on the Nasdaq. The stock has traded between $36.07 and $57.08 in the past 52 weeks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wachovia Holders Seek Severance Control

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Wachovia Corp. shareholders want the right to sign off on any severance packages worth three times more than the departing executive's annual salary and bonus, according to a nonbinding proposal approved during the bank's annual meeting Tuesday.

About 57 percent of voting shareholders approved the proposal from the Trowel Trades Index Fund, a mutual fund that owns about 54,000 shares of Wachovia stock. The fund is administered by the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

"We're not terribly surprised," said Jake McIntyre, assistant to the union's secretary-treasurer. "Everyone in the institutional community supports reasonable restrictions on severance plans."

The move is part of a broader effort by labor union pension and investment funds to force limits on executive pay, benefits and severance packages. Unions representing carpenters, government workers, teamsters and electrical workers have also submitted shareholder resolutions to force limits at McDonald's, Bank of America and Duke Energy.

Wachovia CEO Ken Thompson told reporters following the meeting that the nation's fourth-largest bank holding company is "comfortable" with the restriction, despite opposing it.

The bank's concern, he said, is that "if we were acquiring somebody that had contracts above that, we wouldn't want that to be the reason that we failed to make a good acquisition."

Thompson earlier told shareholders that Wachovia's board of directors would take the proposal "into consideration if future agreements are contemplated." A spokeswoman declined to further explain how the company would address the resolution.

Shareholders rejected three other proposals, including one requiring that nominees for the board receive a majority of votes rather than a plurality.

Thompson told shareholders the bank is eyeing expansion through growth in existing international businesses, including real estate capital markets. Over the longer term, the bank is open to broader options.

"Over the next five or ten years, as consolidation occurs in the financial industry, it will be global," he said. "As it makes sense, we will look internationally to expand, but it will be done in a measured way."

He also said rising oil prices could effect the bank's performance over time.

"They certainly will have an impact if they persist because it basically takes money out of consumers' pockets," he said. "Over time, that's a tax on the consumer and it will reduce their buying power for other things. It will certainly make it more difficult for our consumer bank, but our consumer bank's doing a great job of executing right now and I've got a lot of confidence that that will continue."

Wachovia has reported four consecutive years of double-digit earnings growth and has seen its shares increase by 123 percent over the past five years, while its dividend has increased by 113 percent since the end of 2001, Thompson said.

Arkansas Best Declares 15-cent Dividend

By Arkansas Business staff, Daily Report

Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith on Tuesday declared a quarterly cash dividend of 15 cents per share.

The dividend is payable May 16 to shareholders of record as of May 2.

Shares of Arkansas Best (Nasdaq: ABFS) were trading at $40.37 on Tuesday after closing at $39.03 on Monday.

Arkansas Best is a transportation holding company with two primary operating subsidiaries, ABF Freight System Inc. and Clipper.

YRC Worldwide to develop its inland freight business in China

Apr. 19, 2006 (China Knowledge) – YRC Worldwide, formerly known as Yellow Roadway Corp., an inland freight giant from the U.S. has recently announced that it would develop its trucking business in China, and will adopt the new name, YRC Worldwide Inc.

Previously, YRC Worldwide set up the JHJ International Transportation Co. Ltd in China, a joint venture logistics company with China’s Jin Jiang International group.

Currently, its business covers over 70 countries in the world.

“Wal-Mart and the Home Depot, Inc need more reliable logistic partners”, said Zhao Leshi, the CEO of YRC Worldwide. The company aims to become make retailers such as Wal-Mart and the Home Depot its major customers in China.

YRC Worldwide will set aside about 100 trucks to service the four to five American customers in China, being responsible for the transportation of products such as electronic products, toys and shoes between the U.S. and China’s ports.

As a listed company from the U.S. among the Global Fortune 500, YRC Worldwide holds about 1,000 branches and offices in the world, and is also the largest LTL (less than truck-load) transport company in the U.S.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Wal-Mart Roils P&G, Levi Strauss With Plan to Trim Inventory

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, is roiling major suppliers with a plan to buy less of everything from paper towels to jeans.

Procter & Gamble Co., Levi Strauss & Co., battery maker Spectrum Brands Inc. and trucking company YRC Worldwide Inc. have either cut forecasts or lost sales since Wal-Mart outlined plans to reduce inventory in its 3,800 U.S. stores.

Clorox Co., Kellogg Co., Playtex Products Inc., beverage supplier Cott Corp. and health-care product maker Prestige Brands Inc. may also be hurt by the change, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report last month. Wal-Mart's plan to restrain buying is part of a broader effort to upgrade merchandise and add more exclusive brands to boost sales.

``It will cut across a large group of consumer product and transportation companies,'' said Robert Millen, a money manager at Portland, Oregon-based Jensen Investment Management, with about $2.8 billion in assets including Procter & Gamble shares. ``It's going to slow down Procter & Gamble for a quarter.''

Wal-Mart is focusing on inventory to reduce costs, said Goldman analyst Adrianne Shapira in a March 24 note. Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott is also concentrating on luring upscale shoppers with a new advertising campaign and upgraded stores.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores USA, told investors and analysts at a retail industry conference on March 22 that the retailer wants to make the stores easier to shop in.

Reducing Clutter

``There will be a very large emphasis on partnering with suppliers to reduce store clutter,'' Castro-Wright said. ``It is driven by what the customer needs.'' Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, will work with suppliers to determine the right amount of store inventory, he said. Castro-Wright and other Wal-Mart executives will speak at the company's annual two-day media conference starting tomorrow.

Wall Street has taken notice and is beginning to handicap the impact on vendors.

The retailer's ``inventory focus is rippling through its partners,'' said Goldman analyst Shapira.

An 18 percent reduction in inventory could cut Wal-Mart's working capital needs by $6 billion, she said in the report. That could give the company a ``sizable source of capital flexibility and lifts returns by 43 basis points, a key inflection point to drive stock performance,'' she said.

Shares of Wal-Mart fell 13 cents to $45.77 on April 13 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has declined 5.8 percent in the past year. It fell 11 percent in 2005, the worst performance in three years.

P&G Cuts Forecast

P&G, the largest U.S. maker of household goods, may be feeling the pain from Wal-Mart's changes. On March 13, the Cincinnati-based maker of Pampers diapers and Bounty paper towels cut its forecast for organic sales growth by 1 percent, citing ``recent customer inventory reductions.'' That sales measure excludes acquisitions and divestitures.

In an interview on April 11, P&G spokesman Doug Shelton confirmed that the customer is Wal-Mart.

Should Wal-Mart buy fewer disposable diapers and paper products, that could also hurt Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark Corp., which makes Huggies diapers and Scott tissue, said William Schmitz, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities. He has a ``hold'' rating on Kimberly-Clark shares.

``There's concern about Wal-Mart reducing inventory,'' said Schmitz. ``Diapers and paper products take up a lot of room and are the first products to be reduced when stores need to make more space.''

Kimberly-Clark spokesman Joey Mooring declined to comment.

`Inventory Adjustments'

In March 23, YRC, the largest U.S. trucking company, cut its first-quarter profit forecast because of a drop in shipments. It forecast net income of up to 70 cents a share, down from an earlier forecast of up to $1.05.

``Some of our largest retail customers have made significant inventory adjustments in the quarter,'' the Overland Park, Kansas-based company said in a statement.

BB&T Capital Markets analyst John Barnes wrote in a report that YRC may have been hurt by Wal-Mart and Home Depot Inc.

Atlanta-based Spectrum Brands Inc., the maker of Rayovac and Varta batteries, said on April 6 second-quarter profit missed forecasts partly because of ``inventory adjustment initiatives'' by one of its largest customers.''

Dave Doolittle, a Spectrum Brands spokesman, would not identify the customer that cut back orders.

``While we were surprised by the magnitude of the inventory impact, the trend is in line with recent commentary from both Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart,'' wrote William Chappell, an analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in an April 6 report.

Naming Wal-Mart

While many companies haven't put the blame on any company, at least one hasn't shied away from naming Wal-Mart.

In its April 11 earnings report, jeans maker Levi Strauss said fourth-quarter revenue fell 5.8 in part because of reduced sales to Wal-Mart. Levi Strauss, based in San Francisco, said Wal-Mart gave more space to its private clothing brands, which include George. That reduced sales of the Levi Strauss Signature brand of jeans.

Not everyone is convinced that Wal-Mart is the true culprit for profit and sales cuts at consumer-goods makers.

Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Christopher Ferrara wrote in a report on April 12 that vendors' fears may be overblown.

``Since P&G's announcement, other companies have noted similar issues,'' he wrote. ``We think the market is overplaying this.''