Casinos in Detroit are filled with excitement. You have the gambling. You have the incredible food options, and the gambling, entertainment, and the gambling, exotic drinks, and the gambling, possible celebrity sightings, and of course, the gambling. My oh my the excitement. Did you ever stop and think about the hard working employees that work at the casinos that are there to serve and help customers satisfy their intense need to risk their entire paycheck and savings to see if the the fruit will line up in a slot machine or if the cards will magically add up to twenty one?
In particular, the bartenders and servers deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the thankless work they do at the Detroit casinos. Some not familiar with the environment at the Detroit casinos may envision the bartenders and servers waiting on Mr. Joe Out-of-town in his favorite Hawaiian shirt, ordering food and drinks all hours of the day, and tipping as though he is spending Monopoly money. Sorry this is not Las Vegas, or Reno, heck it's not even Atlantic City. This is quite the contrary. The typical customer at the casinos in Detroit is there to spend all their cash on gambling. They will spend money on dining because of necessity and they will consume alcohol to drown their sorrows from losing. Most of the time there will not be much left over to tip the bartenders and servers. Which leads me to............
Several years back, the Internal Revenue Service, implemented a program(with all good intentions), called GITCA. GITCA is the Gaming Industry Tip Compliance Agreement. The program is promoted as a partnership between gaming industry employers and its employees and the IRS and is currently used by the major casinos in Detroit. The purpose is to promote tip compliance by establishing an average tip rate for tipped employees in specified occupational categories, while easing administrative burdens. Participants in this voluntary program (remember that word voluntary) also are ensured to not be subject to IRS tip examinations. Sounds like a pretty good idea right? Sign me up! Well, I am not so sure about that. The problem is that the GITCA rates run the risk of being calculated incorrectly without consideration of many variables and with very little input from employees. For example, it might not be taken into consideration how much time the servers and bartenders spend doing activities with no potential for tips, such as setting up, guest relations or working a shift that has very low tip potential. It seems the data is based on collusion between management and the IRS, with little or no input from the people doing the actual work. The GITCA tip rates established seemed to be based on the best case scenarios for tips and do not include all those variables which would have lowered them tremendously. The problem is, these hard working employees would pay tax on income that they did not actually receive. Now I think all these fine people agree that they owe their fair share in taxes. However, I don't think anyone wants to pay tax on income that did not actually receive. Not even the President would do that.
It should be noted again that the GITCA tip program is voluntary and that during implementation and enrollment employees are advised continuously that if they enroll in the program they will not be subject to IRS examination and if they do not, they run the risk of being, ahem, randomly audited. Randomly of course means without method or conscious decision and indiscriminately. Statistical data provided by the IRS shows that the percentage of taxpayers that are randomly examined by the IRS in around the same income bracket as the servers and bartenders at the casinos at around .5%, or about 1 in every 200. I wonder what the examination rate is for employees that opt out of the voluntary GITCA program is. Now I am in no way a gambling man, but I am willing to bet a small farm in Texas it is significantly higher than .5%. By the way, I get a chill down my spine every time I type the word voluntary.
I would sincerely hope that just because these employees did not participate in a voluntary program that they had no input in determining the rates would not have a high risk of being randomly examined by the IRS. I sincerely hope these fine people who live paycheck to paycheck to support their families will not get notices from the IRS charging them what equates to several months of pay in taxes and penalties and no detailed explanation as why they owe it. I would sincerely hope that they would not be forced to make a decision on whether to join a program that forces them to pay income tax on money they do not receive or take the chance of having that big white examination envelope from the IRS in the mail once a year. I would sincerely hope their employer and the IRS would show enough respect and consideration for these folks to consider all pertinent data when making decisions that could turn these employees lives upside down. I do sincerely hope so.......
Focus: HOPE, a Detroit nonprofit, was founded after the 1967 riots with the hope of building a metropolitan community where all individuals, no matter their differences, could live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Today, the nonprofit organization offers all they intended and more, especially with their education and training programs.
All residents from southeast Michigan who are looking to begin careers in healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, the production industry/light assembly apprenticeships or truck driving/logistics are offered Focus: HOPE’s Career programs. These programs are scholarship based and free to those who qualify.
“Focus: HOPE works with area employers to understand industry trends and identify employment opportunities,” said Michelle Boehm, communications manager. “We align training curriculum with employer input to create programs that provide in demand skills for high growth industries in our region.”
In addition to the already mentioned programs, Focus: HOPE offers an all-female IT/manufacturing program for Detroit residents in collaboration with General Motors.
Available training programs:
Healthcare programs include training for patient sitter and patient care associate positions with Detroit Medical Center, St. John’s Providence and Henry Ford Health System.
The IT program includes courses in Microsoft Cloud & business applications, technical support and network technology. Focus: HOPE’s programs align with industry standards and are accredited. There’s also an authorized test center on-site where graduates are able to take industry certifications.
The Truck Driving and Logistics program begins with training at Focus: HOPE and continues with a transition to U.S. Truck Driver Training School.
The Production Industry and Light Assembly program is a two week training program that includes classroom instruction on work readiness and simulated hands-on manufacturing training. This prepares students for production worker and operator positions.
The Integrated Advanced Manufacturing program holds potential for many jobs as there are 7,000, and growing, job openings in Michigan. Twenty week and 10 week courses are offered where graduates can receive certification in safety, CNC programming and more.
Apprenticeship options coordinated by Focus: HOPE, with a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, include Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology. These apprenticeships can open doors to career options like CNC Machinist, Network Technicians and Controls Technicians.
The organization aims to prepare students for careers and to do so, they offer three different programs-
Ready Set Go - two week work readiness course for entry level employment
Ready Set Go Plus - nine week course to increase math and reading levels for students looking to go into technical industry training
Earn & Learn - five week course (eligible for those without a high school diploma or GED) that is followed by transition support into an industry training program (production workers, healthcare, truck driving, manufacturing, IT, community college educational pursuits).
By offering these programs, Focus: HOPE provides a way for individuals who are underserved, underrepresented and underprepared to engage in sustainable employment opportunities.
The current interest in these education options and training programs is strong, Boehm said, and they still encourage those interested to apply. Focus: HOPE is now registering for fall courses and programs.
“Focus: HOPE’s founders stated that only when people have jobs can they provide for their families, and access to such jobs requires education,” Boehm said.
In addition to the educational opportunities at the organization, they provide low income seniors with monthly food packages. They also offer seniors access to different health screenings, utility assistance, income support and more.
Focus: HOPE also provides opportunities for youth, mothers, those looking to start a business and other members of the community.
Those interested in donating to Focus: HOPE and their initiatives can visit www.focushope.edu.
Every $25 donated provides one academic enrichment book for one student or grants two children access to a field trip. Every $50 donated helps keep Detroit neighborhoods safe by helping with the purchase of paint and board up materials. Larger donations help with the purchasing of tools for cleaning vacant lots, technical training material for students, health screenings and more.
It’s finally summer and the weather has soared to 90 degrees! The beaches are crowded with bikini-clad sun worshippers (bikini? more like extra large band-aids), dogs of all descriptions and kids wearing colorful animal shaped inner-tubes. If you are too busy to go to the beach there is always Campus Martius with its beach-like area, plenty of sand and beautiful fountains. Not bad on a sunny hot day, you can even go there on your lunch break. “Kids” enjoy it too. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
June 26, 2017, the “D” had its yearly brilliant display of colorful pyrotechnics to commemorate the 4th. There was the usual traffic snarl afterwards – I watched everything from my window on the 20th floor. Statewide on July 4th people from downtown to the “burbs” are gearing up for their annual family barbecue and fireworks get together. Red, White and Blue will be seen everywhere. Along with the hot-dogs be sure to bring the frisbees. Speaking of which, have you ever wondered who invented them? Here in part, is the story. It goes back to 1957 when the Wham-O Toy Company roll out the first batch of their aerodynamic discs – now known to millions of fans as frisbees. The story of the frisbee began in Bridgeport Connecticut where Wm. Frisbee opened the Frisbe Pie Company in 1871. Students from nearby universities would throw the empty pie tins to each other yelling, “Frisbe” as they let go. In 1948 Wm. F. Morrison and his partner W. Franscini invented a plastic version of the disc called the “Flying Saucer” that could fly further and more accurately than the pie tin. After splitting with Franscini, Morrison made an improved model in 1955 and sold it to the new toy company Wham-O as the Pluto Platter – an attempt to cash in on public craze over space and Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). For more on this story check your internet.
Social Scene for July.
“Detroit Paradise Valley” 7/14 – 7/16. A 3 day concert in Hart Plaza featuring 75 artists.
Detroit Zoo 7/21 at 6PM. “Wild Beasts, Wild Wine”. A wine tasting event from 40 wineries. Check for ticket prices.
Fox Theater 7/28 8PM. “Dancing With the Stars”. Check for ticket information.
There is a ton of things to do on this holiday. Check on Google.
Enjoy the fun, food and fireworks. Be sure to keep an eye on the little “sparklers” (kids)! `
~ Michelle Fallena
Despite the increasing popularity of email, social media, and other online networking tools, many business owners still depend on the telephone for a good portion of their communications. But technology has also brought dramatic changes to phone service, and the options for purchasing a new voice communications system are more numerous and confusing than ever before.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a telephone system that digitizes calls into data and sends them over data lines or the Internet instead of telephone lines strung between poles that have been delivering phone service for decades.
Your business can save money — and perhaps even gain additional benefits by switching to a VoIP phone system solution. Some of the benefits afforded by utilizing VoIP include:
2. VoIP Scales Up or Down EasilyIt's not always easy to predict how many phones you'll need over the next year, and if you have a traditional phone system, you have to estimate carefully to avoid spending money on phone lines you won't use. With VoIP, you can add a line as soon as you add a new employee, and when an employee leaves, you can easily reassign or remove the line. You will always have the right number of phone lines to meet your needs.
3. VoIP Integrates With Other Business SystemsBecause VoIP calls are internet-based, VoIP systems are easier to integrate with the business applications you use every day. You can do things like place outbound calls through Outlook or other email clients, or bring up a customer record with that customer's inbound calls.
Voice mail accounts are always accessible through email for workers who travel, and you can even get voice mail transcription with some hosted VoIP phone systems. This feature transcribes voicemail messages into text and routes them to your email account, so you don't have to worry about taking notes while conversing.
4. A Range of Call Features Are SupportedAll of the traditional call system features you expect are available in VoIP systems, including call hold, call transfer, call hunt, conference calling, find me / follow me, and auto-attendant phone menus. You won't give up any of your favorite features by choosing hosted VoIP.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is now entering the mainstream, blurring the line between data infrastructure and phone infrastructure. With VoIP, some part of your phone calls are carried over the same devices and cables as your email and Internet.
While VoIP lines require an Internet connection and power to make and receive calls, analog voice lines receive power from your local phone company, and will continue to work even if the power in your office goes out. Even still, VoIP has many advantages. Data networks are more flexible than the old-fashioned analog voice networks, and VoIP offers better resiliency. Data networks are also very good at getting data to the right place with tremendous flexibility, and therefore VoIP technologies can make you reachable just about anywhere. Most importantly, the ability for vendors to offer voice services over the Internet without a physical connection to your office has broken century-old monopolies and resulted in real competition. The result is dramatically lower prices and improved features.
~Willie E. Brake is a Computer Expert and Industry Analyst at All About Technology, a Certified Minority Business Enterprise and Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, based in Detroit, Michigan.