Business & Economy
Hong Kong Market Reopens for U.S. Beef PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 14:36
U.S. to Benefit from Expanded Export Opportunities

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the United States and Hong Kong have agreed on new terms and conditions that pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Hong Kong.

"This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies," said Vilsack. "Hong Kong is already the fourth largest market for U.S. beef and beef product exports, with sales there reaching a historic high of $823 million in 2013. We look forward to expanded opportunities there for the U.S. beef industry now that all trade restrictions are lifted," Vilsack said.

Under the new terms, Hong Kong will permit the import of the full range of U.S. beef and beef products, consistent with access prior to December 2003. The new terms become effective today, June17, 2014. Previously, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the United States to Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.

"Last year, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) granted the United States negligible risk status for BSE, further affirming the safety of U.S. beef and beef products," said Vilsack. "We welcome this move by Hong Kong and will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products in Hong Kong and around the world."

In December 2003, Hong Kong banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the United States (one of only four cases ever discovered in America). In December 2005, Hong Kong partially reopened its market to allow imports of deboned U.S. beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger produced under a special program for Hong Kong and expanded access to include certain bone-in cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age in February 2013.

Experts in the United States and countries around the world have confirmed that U.S. beef is safe, with extremely low risk of BSE. There has never been a recorded case of BSE transmission to a human through American beef.

While Hong Kong is officially part of China, it serves as its own customs and quarantine administration zone and so maintains its own rules and regulations.


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Staed Calls for Investigation into Wage Theft by Outback Steakhouse Cleaning Contractor PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Misty Rebik   
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 09:51

Center for Worker Justice plans Rallies


State Representative Art Staed has asked Iowa Workforce Development, the U. S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, and the Iowa Attorney General’s office to initiate an investigation into potential wage theft by a cleaning contractor at Outback Steakhouse restaurants across Iowa. Both the U.S. DOL and the IWD have agreed to proceed with investigations.

In a letter dated May 27, 2014 to Iowa Workforce Development, Staed lays out the case of Kossiwa Agbenowassi, an immigrant from Togo Africa, who worked 49 consecutive days for Sandpiper Maintenance and Repair cleaning the Outback Steakhouse in Coralville without being paid. Staed, along with the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) claims Agbenowassi may have also been illegally misclassified as a subcontractor, allowing the cleaning vendor to avoid paying taxes into the state.

“We must take a stand against business models that abuse workers, break the law and perpetuate a cycle of injustice.” Staed wrote. “For these reasons I formally request an immediate investigation into the wage practices of Sandpiper Maintenance and Repair and their wage and labor practices with Outback Steakhouse and other companies throughout Iowa.” Staed’s letter requested the investigation include all Outback Steakhouses in Iowa.

Staed has tried repeatedly to reach corporate representatives of Outback to resolve the matter and joined around 70 people associated with the Center for Worker Justice in delivering a letter to the Outback restaurant in Cedar Rapids addressed to Outback management.

The Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) is a coalition of immigrant, community, faith-based and labor organizations who have highlighted wage theft cases in Iowa. Agbenowassi originally contacted CWJ after her attempts to be paid were unsuccessful. CWJ contacted both Sandpiper and the Outback to resolve the issue prior to delivering the letter.

According to Misty Rebik, CWJ’s executive director, further actions are planned against Outback Restaurants across the state if the issue isn’t resolved. “People have a choice when it comes to dining out.

We want the public to know which restaurants are responsible employers and which establishments aren’t.

We plan to hold Outback accountable to their shady business model that undermines good businesses and workers.”

Rallies will be held June 18th in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Davenport.

Outback Steakhouse -  10901 University Ave, Clive, IA. 6 PM (515-265-1862 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Outback Steakhouse – 1235 East Kimberly Rd, Davenport. 6 PM (309-716-8622)

Outback Steakhouse – 3939 1st Ave SE, Cedar Rapids. 6 PM – 319-339-9873 or 319-361-3212

Outback Steakhouse – 4500 Southern Hills Dr, Sioux City. 712-276-0473

Last fall, Kossiwa worked hard 7 days per week cleaning an Outback Steakhouse to support her young children. Now, months later, she is still owed over $2000 in wages by the Outback’s unscrupulous cleaning contractor, who refuses to answer her calls.

This is a classic case of wage theft, when workers aren’t paid the wages they are legally owed. Studies say it’s a growing epidemic in Iowa, and across the country.  We can’t let this happen in our state.

The Center for Worker Justice (CWJ), Representative Art Staed, and our allies in labor, faith, and community groups have repeatedly contacted the cleaning contractor and the Outback to resolve this problem. They are refusing to respond.

Join us for a statewide day of action. We’re calling on the Outback to pay Kossiwa her hard-earned wages and end their contract with this cleaning contractor.





Governor Quinn Announces eBay Inc. to Expand in Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 08:33

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that global online marketplace leader eBay Inc. is expanding in Illinois and will create 360 new jobs in downtown Chicago. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward.

“I am thrilled that eBay Inc. is choosing to expand their world-class business in the heart of the Midwest,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois is home to an impressive technology community that will serve eBay’s foundation while creating jobs for our hardworking residents. By coming to Illinois, eBay will benefit from our state’s leadership in emerging technologies and access to a workforce with skills that are second to none.”

eBay Inc., which acquired online and mobile payment platform Braintree in 2013, is relocating its Chicago employees later this year to accommodate continued expansion. The company has leased 60,000 square feet in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, home to several technology-oriented tenants.

“Chicago is a hotbed for innovation and where Braintree got its start,” eBay Inc. Senior Director for U.S., State and Local Government Relations David London said. “We’re proud to be investing in the growing Chicago technology community.”

To encourage the move, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) provided eBay Inc. with a tax credit worth an estimated $12 million over 10 years. The credit, available under the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, program, applies to eBay Inc.’s state tax liability and is available to companies that are weighing an expansion in Illinois against sites in other states.

The EDGE agreement requires eBay Inc. to invest $24 million in its Chicago expansion. The company has pledged to create 216 full-time jobs by March 18, 2016 and another 144 by March 18, 2017.

“eBay Inc. will join a burgeoning community of technology companies that was built in part by the Governor’s visionary support for the 1871 digital hub and other ventures,” DCEO Director Adam Pollet said. “This job growth strengthens the state’s already diverse economic base.”


Are Baby Boomers Doomed to Irrelevance in the Workplace? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 16 June 2014 09:07
Media Expert Shares Tips for Aging Workers

Boomers may want to recall one of the poets they grew up reading, Dylan Thomas, and his most famous poem, named for its first line, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” a desperate appeal to resist the trappings of old age.

“As they retire, baby boomers need to stay true to their reputation for grand statements, and to mobilize their skill set in the business world,” says media expert Steve Kayser, author of “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard,” (

“In fact, many older Americans may have little choice but to adapt their mindset and survive longer in their careers if they want to maintain something resembling their current lifestyle during retirement.”

Kayser lists a few trends that may incentivize aging workers to clock in for a few more years:

• The number of Americans 55 and older will almost double between now and 2030 – from 60 million today to 107.6 million, according to the United States Census Bureau. That will likely strain public safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare.

• American life expectancy is at an all-time high, and death rates are at an all-time low, which means some people will outlive their retirement savings.

• The global economic crisis has wiped out or severely affected millions of middle- and senior-aged people’s life savings.

But with an increasingly competitive pool of professionals whose skill sets need to be regularly updated, how can boomers stay in the game?

Kayser quotes Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

He discusses his method for how older workers can maintain their value – by staying “R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T.”

•  What it means to learn, unlearn and relearn. The ever-shifting sands of technology pose a special challenge to older workers. Younger professionals not only grew up working and entertaining themselves with screens, they also learned to adapt to technological leaps. A program you learn today may not be relevant in a few years, so keep an open and flexible mind.

•  Being R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T… Take this mnemonic device to heart: Risk, Experiment, Listen and Learn, Engage, Value, Attitude of gratitude, No to negativity, and Time. “This is an ongoing, evolving note to keep in your mind no matter your professional situation,” Kayser says. “I’ve been around a lot of charismatic and effervescent folks in their 70s and 80s who are still successful and growing, both on a personal and business level. The acronym encompasses the ideas that seem to promote a proactive life.”

•  Answer the question, “What resonates with you?” This is a deceptively deep question when you apply it to your life’s trajectory. If life hasn’t turned out to be what you expected it would 30 years ago, then it’s time to recalibrate how you see yourself, especially if that’s as a perpetual pre-retiree. If you’re not sure of how you see yourself in today’s setting, start with what the spiritual writer Joseph Campbell called the “moving power of your life,” which can be sensed by the things that resonate within you. The things that resonate within you, such as an unusual book, may just be the compass you need to find your way.

About Steve Kayser

Steve Kayser is an award-winning writer, editor, publisher, former radio host and founder of Kayser Media. He has had the great fortune to interview and collaborate with some of the best minds in the business world, and his eclectic approach to public relations and marketing has been widely documented. He recently published “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heart,” (

On World Day Against Child Labor, 17 Senators Urge Largest Tobacco Companies to Prohibit Child Labor in the Supply Chain PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 13 June 2014 15:07

Letter follows the release of a national report showing children experience sudden, serious health ailments while working in tobacco fields, curing barns

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Seventeen U.S. Senators led by Tom Harkin (D-IA) today sent a letter to the ten largest tobacco companies urging them to prohibit child labor in their supply chain.  The letter comes on the heels of a new report by Human Rights Watch.  The report found that nearly three-quarters of the child tobacco workers in the four largest tobacco-producing states had experienced the sudden onset of serious symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and irritation to their eyes and mouths; while working on tobacco fields and in curing barns.  Many of these symptoms are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.

In the letter, the lawmakers urged the companies to develop company policies and industry-wide standards that would include the following:

·         A prohibition on child labor anywhere in the tobacco supply chain, including any work in which children under age 18 come in direct contact with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves, including in countries where national laws provide lesser protections;

·         Provisions in all contracts with growers and suppliers that child labor is prohibited, including work by children under age 18 that brings them in direct contact with tobacco;

·         Provisions stipulating qualified third-party monitors to conduct regular inspections of suppliers during peak season when children are most likely to work, and ensure that their reports are made public.”

·         Support for programs to prevent child labor in tobacco, including programs to support educational, recreational, and alternative skills building and vocational opportunities.

Noting that other major tobacco-producing countries, including India and Brazil, prohibit children under age 18 from working in tobacco, the Senators wrote, “We urge you, as the world’s leading tobacco companies and tobacco leaf merchants, to take the steps outlined above to ensure that all children are protected from nicotine poisoning and other health hazards in tobacco production.”

The letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  It was sent to executives at Altria Group, Inc., British American Tobacco PLC, China National Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, Japan Tobacco Inc., Lorillard, Inc., Philip Morris International Inc., Reynolds American Inc., Alliance One International, Inc., and Universal Corporation.

A signed copy of the letter can be found here.


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