Tag Archives: index

Consumer spirit falls to lowest level in almost a year

Rah or blah? Worries about the global economy pushed American consumers’ spirits to the lowest level in almost a year, the University of Michigan reported.

The university’s consumer sentiment index fell to 87.2 this month from 91.9 in August. The third straight monthly drop left the index with its weakest reading since October 2014.

Richard Curtin, chief economist for the survey, said consumers are disturbed by signs of trouble in the Chinese economy, the world’s second-biggest, and continued economic stress in Europe.

“Consumers now believe that that global economic trends can directly influence their own job and wage prospects,” he said.

Last week, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, hurt by China’s slowdown, announced it would cut up to 10,000 jobs through 2018.

The Michigan index hit a low of 55.3 in November 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession. It began to recover and hit an 11-year high 98.1 in January. But it has now dropped in July, August and September.

“The drop poses modest downside risks for consumer spending,” Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays Research, wrote in a research note.

Still, the Michigan index is up from 84.6 a year ago.

The U.S. economy appears to be gathering strength. The government reported Friday that U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a robust 3.9 percent annual pace from April through June. Unemployment has dropped to a seven-year low 5.1 percent in August.

Madison earns perfect score on LGBT equality index

The city of Madison earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index, which looks at cities and efforts to ensure equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The average score for cities in Wisconsin is 76 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 59, according to the HRC Foundation, which released the study this week.

In the review of Wisconsin, which was limited to four cities, Green Bay scored a 54, Kenosha scored a 58, Madison scored a 100 and Milwaukee scored a 91.

Nationwide, progress this year has been noteworthy on transgender equality. Thirty-two million Americans now live in cities and towns that have taken bold action to embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws that go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government, according to HRC.

The MEI’s standard criteria for earning points this year, for the first time, included whether a city offers transgender-inclusive health care benefits.

“From Mississippi to Montana, mid-size cities and small towns have become the  single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality — changing countless lives for the better,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks from the MEI for their treatment of LGBT people has more than tripled.”

“Simply put,” Griffin continued, “in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law. It’s time our state and federal laws caught up.”

Cities such as Salt Lake City and East Lansing, Columbus and Rochester, Tampa and Tucson, St. Petersburg, Tempe and Dayton, are doing better by their LGBT residents and workers than their state legislatures, or Congress, the report indicated.

The report provides a snapshot of 353 municipalities of varying sizes. The cities researched include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the four largest cities in every state, the city home to each state’s largest public university and a mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.

The findings:

• 38 cities earned perfect 100-point scores. That’s up from 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012.

• Cities showing a commitment to LGBT equality are in all regions of the country, not just in those many people assume are most LGBT friendly.

• Cities continue to excel even in the absence of state laws: of cities that scored a perfect 100, 15 are in states that don’t have comprehensive relationship recognition or a statewide non-discrimination law.

• 42 cities, or 12 percent of those rated in 2014, are offering transgender-inclusive health care options to city employees. This is up  from 16 cities in 2013,and just 5 cities in 2012.

• 32 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state or the federal government.

• The average city score was 59 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 80 points; 25 percent scored under 44 points; and four percent scored fewer than 10 points.

• Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples, as tabulated by the U.S. Census,  tended, not surprisingly, to score better, and the presence of openly-LGBT city officials and LGBT police liaisons also were correlated with higher scores.

The study rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:

1. Non-discrimination laws.

2. Relationship recognition.

3. Municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive   insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors.

4. Inclusiveness of city services.

5. Law enforcement.

6. Municipal leadership on matters of equality.

Gay rights group cheers corporate America for pro-LGBT policies

The nation’s largest gay civil rights group, in a new report, is calling corporate America “a true leader in the fight for basic fairness and dignity.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released its Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations for policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. The index shows that 304 major businesses earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

Chad Griffin, president of HRC, said in a news release, “This will go down in history as the year that corporate support for equality left the boardroom and reached each and every corner of this country. Not only do fair-minded companies guarantee fair treatment to millions of LGBT employees in all 50 states, but now those same companies are fighting for full legal equality in state legislatures, in the halls of Congress and before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

HRC noted that hundreds of major businesses signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The briefs also urged the justices to strike down California’s Proposition 8.

Also, more than 120 businesses joined the coalition calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Senate passed the bill this fall but House Speaker John Boehner said he has no plans to allow a vote on the measure.

Additionally, according to HRC, its index “reveals record numbers of major businesses updating their non-discrimination policies and benefits packages well ahead of federal mandates to support LGBT employees and their families.”

More Fortune 500 companies implemented inclusive workplace non-discrimination policies than ever before — 91 percent provide explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 61 percent on the basis of gender identity.  Sixty-seven percent offer same-sex partner benefits, another record.

In the first CEI 12 years ago, 13 businesses earned a 100 percent. After two revisions to the scorecard in the following decade, major businesses kept apace and competed with one another, leading to the 304 top performers. The top rated businesses span across industries, geographies and size.

“Corporate America has long recognized the imperative of LGBT inclusion by implementing their own LGBT-friendly policies ahead of lawmakers,” said HRC’s workplace equality program director Deena Fidas. “We are at the front of a new era in which major businesses are not only meeting ever-higher new bars for workplace fairness, they are exceeding them by becoming social and public policy change agents in the process. They recognize equality is not just the right thing to do, it is sound business practice.”

Still, according to HRC, too many of America’s top companies, particularly from the oil and gas, mining and manufacturing industries, are absent from the equality movement.

The report at a glance:

• In two years, the number of top-rated businesses has leapt from 189 to 304.

• A record 300 major businesses and law firms publicly supported pro-equality legislation at the state and federal levels, including those that took an active role in the marriage equality campaigns.

• The number Fortune 500 companies with non-discrimination policies that cover gender identity is at an all-time high.

• Transgender-inclusive health care coverage continues to rise and is becoming a bellwether for full inclusion. Now in its third year as a mandatory criterion for a company to earn 100 percent, 340 — 46 percent — participating companies offer comprehensive health care coverage to their transgender employees, up from 287 last year.

Ratings for businesses in the index listed as based in Wisconsin:

• Foley & Lardner LLP, 100.

• Rockwell Automation Inc., 100.

• Quarles & Brady LLP, 90.

• S.C. Johnson & Johnson Inc., 90.

• Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, 90.

• Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, 90.

• ManpowerGroup, 90.

• Alliant Energy Corp., 85.

• Johnson Controls Inc., 50.

• Wisconsin Energy Corp., 45.

• Oshkosh Corp., 15.

• Kohl’s Corp., 15.

• Harley-Davidson Inc., 15.

• American Family Insurance Group, 55.

• CUNA Mutual Insurance Group, 30.

Cities scored on LGBT policies; 11 get perfect marks

A new Municipal Equality Index scores cities – 137 of them – on their LGBT policies. The inaugural index, released by the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Federation Institute and Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute, shows 11 cities with perfect scores – “these cities came from both coasts and in between, were of varying sizes, and not all are in states with favorable laws for LGBT people,” a news release stated.

The 11 cities are:

• Long Beach, Calif.

• Los Angeles.

• San Diego.

• San Francisco.

• Boston.

• Cambridge, Mass.

• St. Louis.

• New York City.

• Portland, Ore.

• Philadelphia.

• Seattle.

The groups used 47 criteria under six categories – non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, the municipality’s employment practices, and the inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership – to rate the cities.

The researchers looked at municipalities in every state, all 50 state capitals, the 50 most populous cities in the country, and 25 large, 25 mid-size, and 25 small municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples.

The index included scores for two Wisconsin cities – Madison, which received a 95, and Milwaukee, which received an 85.

On the Web…


HRC documents advances in workplace equality

A new report on corporate workplace policies from the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group shows remarkable advances in the last decade.

In the first year of the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, 13 businesses achieved a top score.

In the 2012 index released Dec. 8, 190 corporations received a 100 percent score on significantly more stringent criteria, according to HRC.

The new report shows:

• While the inclusion of sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies has become a standard since 2002, the addition of gender identity is now part of the policies of 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies for the first time, a growth rate of 1567 percent since 2002.

• The number of Fortune 500 companies offering domestic partnership benefits has increased by 76 percent since 2002.

• The greatest strides have come in area of transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. Companies offering comprehensive healthcare coverage to their transgender workers has increased to 207 from 85 last year and 49 in 2009.

The CEI rates companies on 40 specific policies and practices. To achieve a perfect score and a “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” distinction, companies must have fully-inclusive equal employment opportunity policies, provide equal employment benefits, demonstrate organizational LGBT competency, evidence their commitment to equality publicly and exercise responsible citizenship.

“Corporate America is leading the charge for equality in the workplace,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese. “We commend the businesses that participated in the CEI. They understand that LGBT-inclusive workplace policies are the right thing to do and good business practices.” 

M & I’s parent company scores 100 on equality

Harris, the financial service organization whose parent company recently announced the purchase of Wisconsin’s M & I bank, has been recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.” The company scored a perfect 100-percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index, which is the primary method for businesses to assess and evaluate their policies, practices and diversity efforts involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

Harris is among 337 businesses awarded for their outstanding diversity efforts in the workplace after being evaluated on non-discrimination policies, benefits, diversity training, internal resources provided to LGBT workers, and outside support of the LGBT community. Harris offers several employee affinity groups, including Lion’s Pride, which provides a supportive forum for LGBT employees while offering cultural and educational opportunities and events.

M &I has a diversity program and has reached out to LGBT consumers through advertising in the Wisconsin Gazette.

“Promoting fairness and equality in the workplace not only helps foster an environment where our employees can flourish, but also helps us better understand and serve our diverse customer base – and ultimately helps us achieve our vision to be the bank that defines great customer experience,” said Deirdre Drake, senior vice president of human resources.

Harris’ parent company, Canadian Bank BMO Financial Group, is purchasing Marshall & Ilsley (M & I) Bank for $4.1 billion in stock in an effort to expand its North American business. There’s no word yet on whether BMO will change the name of the M & I branches.