Rumors have circulated that General Motors is considering building Buick SUVs in China which would be sold both there and in the USA. The timing of the leaked plans could not be worse as China markets continue to collapse, spreading contagion to world markets. The timing also coincides with GM’s negotiations with the UAW, raising the suspicion that GM is using the rumor to leverage their bargaining power with the UAW.
Why is GM focusing so much on the Chinese market at the worst of times? Regardless of the weakening Chinese economy, it would be challenging to convince American consumers to purchase SUVs built in China given the perception of lower quality and safety standards. China also has not been the best of US allies considering ongoing computer hacking allegations, aggressive military build-ups and unfair currency devaluation tactics.
Some would call it punting. Others would call it common sense. Both summations might apply. On Monday, August 17, the National Labor Relations Board unanimously ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University cannot form a union. In overturning a March 2014 regional NLRB decision, the board concluded that allowing union organizing at one campus, but not at others, would be disruptive. The ruling read: “Our decision is primarily premised on a finding that because of the nature of sports leagues…it would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction in this case.” While the decision is a rebuke to the players’ request, its scope is narrow. By declining to rule on whether student-athletes qualify as “employees,” the board has kept the door open for similar cases.
Oh, sure, after another dismal performance (operating loss of $47 million) for Tesla Motors during the most recent quarter, its stock price took an immediate dive of 9-10 percent. But while that merely returned the electric automaker back to irrational exuberance territory – as compared to the drunken sailor highs it has enjoyed in recent months – it didn’t take long for some market analyst to restore the inflation.
General Motors’ shares have taken a hit this week with the catalyst for the latest downturn being news out of China. Continued weakness in China (including weakening car sales) has led the country to devalue its currency in an attempt to bolster its economy at the expense of its trading partners. This latest news confirms my views that GM’s China gamble puts the company and its shareholders at increased risk. The horrible performance of GM’s stock over the past few months also brings into question the rationale for the much-hyped share buyback that was instigated by ex-Obama Auto Task Force member, Harry Wilson, in photo.
Observers lately have taken to calling Puerto Rico “America’s Greece.” That might qualify as an insult – to Greece. And the American public may have to cover the debts. On Monday, the island government announced that its Public Finance Corporation was unable to make its full scheduled loan payments over the weekend. The $628,000 in disbursements was a mere blip on the $58 million due, itself a blip on composite debt of over $70 billion, all of it rated at or near “junk” levels. Yet suddenly the specter of collapse has become real. Moody's Vice President Emily Raimes, terming the partial payment a “default,” stated: “This event is consistent with our belief that Puerto Rico does not have the resources to make all of its forthcoming debt payments. This is a first in what we believe will be broad default on commonwealth debt.”
When it comes to coercion, government employee unions are masters of the game. But now they must contend with masters of the courtroom. On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hearFriedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), a case previously dismissed by district and appeals courts. Several school teachers across California, led by an Orange County teacher, Rebecca Friedrichs (in photo), assert that the CTA has no authority to levy political fees on non-members without prior consent. In light of its 2012 Knox decision, and the political character of many “non-political” bargaining issues, the Court may overturn its 1977 Abood ruling authorizing the public-sector union shop. The CTA and allies counter, less than convincingly, that the plaintiffs are “free riders” mooching off dues-paying members.
General Motors recently announced that it will spend $5 billion on a joint venture with Chinese state-owned SAIC Motor to develop vehicles for emerging markets. The announcement came around the same time that GM reported results for 2015 second quarter earnings, which showed cash and cash equivalents decreasing $2.2 billion in the first six months of the year. Marketable securities also declined by $2 billion during that time frame.
It appears – two years after Boeing had fire incidents from installed lithium ion batteries that shut down deliveries of its vaunted Dreamliner 787 – that its “solution” to “vent” heat and flames outside the aircrafts has prevented any catastrophes, so far.
But it hasn’t alleviated concerns about the batteries’ physics and makeup. Last week Boeing issued a warning to its airline customers to not carry bulk shipments of lithium-ions because if they catch fire or overheat, they’re unstoppable. A spokesman told the Associated Press that the manufacturer has advised airlines not to transport the batteries “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” Likewise, the FAA simultaneously stated that its research has found that carriage of lithium ion batteries “presents a risk.”
New York State Senator John Sampson, a Democrat of Brooklyn, was convicted yesterday on three counts, including obstruction of justice. He was acquitted on six others, but the conviction should result in significant prison time. No date has yet been set for sentencing.
Between 1998 and 2008, Sampson allegedly embezzled approximately $440,000 from the foreclosure sales of four Brooklyn properties on which he was a court- appointed referee. The embezzlement charges were thrown out because the state of limitations expired. The charges on which he was convicted relate to the cover-up.