Amazon Flexes Muscles, Eliminates Occupational Tax in Seattle in One Month....

Here's what power looks like in an employer, my friends...

Less than a month after unanimously passing a contentious tax on big business, Seattle’s city council has voted to repeal the so-called “head tax.” Against the fervent protestations of residents and local coalitions—which were extended to a full hour of testimony—council members voted 7-2 to pulled the plug on what would have been a vital source of support for city’s growing homeless population. 

Let me break that down for you: The city council unanimously passed the tax, then one month later repealed it.  What happened?  The city's biggest employer, Amazon, said "what up", flexed it's muscles and reversed the whole thing in a month. Drevil

Before breaking down what Amazon did and being awestruck by the raw power, let's learn more about the "head tax" that was proposed from Gizmodo:

In the form it was passed last month, the “head tax” would shave off $275 per full-time employee at companies generating over $20 million in revenue, totaling an estimated $47 million per year for five years. Those funds would then be earmarked for homeless services and affordable housing. Seattle declared its homelessness a state of emergency in 2015, with soaring costs of living and congestion of public services considered the foremost catalysts for the rising homeless rate.

The repeal comes a day after the No Tax on Jobs campaign—a coalition which large businesses which would be affected by the “head tax,” like Amazon and Starbucks, pledged significant financial support to—announced it had gotten over 45,000 signatures, more than enough to generate a referendum to overturn the tax in November. Speakers on behalf of No Tax on Jobs at the City Council chambers repeatedly described the coalition as “grassroots,” however the Public Disclosure Commission of Washington reveals it gave over $246,000 to a firm called Morning in America for “signature gathering and verification” and an additional $20,000 to Cre8tive Empowerment for “campaign/volunteer/social media management.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan described the quick legislative retreat as a means to avoid “a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis.” Critics saw the repeal as a backroom deal to appease Amazon.
 
Put another way, the city council of Seattle forgot who is really in charge in Seattle.  Cliff notes - it's Amazon!

Among other things, Amazon reacted to the head tax by halting construction of office towers in downtown Seattle (click link to read more), which caused some freak outs about Amazon potentially leaving Seattle, a prospect that is surely strengthened by the fact that the giant online retailer has 20 cities on a list of finalists for a second headquarters.

"Hell, we'll just pick two places instead of one" is the clear message.

My city, the ATL, is in the running for the second HQ, and the Seattle head tax teaches us one thing pretty clearly - Be careful what you ask for when Amazon comes to town.


THE WORLD'S SALARY CAP: Labor's Share of GDP Across the Globe...

Here's some deep thoughts for today.

If you're a professional sports fan, you know all about the concept of a salary cap, which is defined by Wikipedia as follows in sports:

In professional sports, a salary cap (or wage cap) is an agreement or rule that places a limit on the amount of money that a team can spend on players' salaries. It exists as a per-player limit or a total limit for the team's roster, or both. Several sports leagues have implemented salary caps, using it to keep overall costs down, and also to maintain a competitive balance by restricting richer clubs from entrenching dominance by signing many more top players than their rivals. Salary caps can be a major issue in negotiations between league management and players' unions, and have been the focal point of several strikes by players and lockouts by owners and administrators.

So what? The concept of a salary cap can be transferred to the business world in a couple of different ways:

1--Your company has a salary cap.  It's called the headcount budget, and the cap is all the budgeted money in that headcount budget.

2--Countries across the world don't have a salary cap, but they have something close - it's called Labor's Share of GDP.

What is Labor's Share of GDP?  It's defined as the following:

The wage share can be defined in various ways, but empirically it is usually defined as total labor compensation or labor costs over nominal GDP or gross value added.

The wage share is countercyclical; that is, it tends to fall when output increases and rise when output decreases. Despite fluctuating over the business cycle, the wage share was once thought to be stable, which Keynes described as "one of the most surprising, yet best-established facts in the whole range of economic statistics." However, the wage share has declined in most developed countries since the 1980s.

So add up all the compensation to labor, compare it to Gross Domestic Product (a measure of a country's economy), and you've got Wage Share/Labor's Share of GDP.  Which also serves as a floating salary cap of sorts for your country.

It's interesting to note that Wage Share/Labor's Share of GDP goes up and down and has been falling since the 80's in developed countries.  Take a look at these graphs from France, the UK and the USA from a paper on Labor Share in the G20:

Labor share

If you look at those graphs, you'll see the history of Labor share in those 3 countries, which also gives you some history to which national economies have endured the most change, which economies have a bigger safety net for labor in the midst of global change, etc.  France started at an 80% labor share of GDP and after a brief dip, is right back there.  The UK and the USA started a similar places, but safety nets in the UK have held the line lately at a 70%+ labor share, while the USA is in a bit of a free fall towards a 60% labor share.

Is that healthy for the USA?  Gordon Gekko would say yes, but rational, normal people would have to say no.  Thinking about all the changes that have occurred in our economy - global outsourcing, offshoring, tech deployment in place of human capital - and it's clear that we've been one of the most aggressive developed countries in those areas, and that's left our labor force with a much smaller share of our GDP, and likely has widened the gap between the "haves" and "have nots".

Note - I'm a moderate republican.  I'm not hating on the fact that America has less regulation than other countries - but - this type of change related to Labor Share of GDP has consequences for any economy/society over time.  You can't ignore that and it's worth being educated about the differences.

So America has a salary cap of sorts - call Labor's Share of GDP.  It's not a hard cap, it's been falling for a time and when you think about it from a sports perspective, it basically means this - in America, a higher percentage of the money in the economy goes to owners of capital rather than employees.

By the way, if you're wondering what labor's share of revenue (salary cap) is for American professional sports, a quick scan shows 47% in the NFL and 53% in the NBA.  Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap.

Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys - or unskilled labor.


Age Bias and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Case...

Hey companies filling your employment coffers with low priced talent!  You might want to take a look at the numbers...

In case you missed it, PricewaterhouseCoopers took an Age Discrimination case in 2016.  Some legal details from the site that's inviting others to join the class action: Old school

On April 27, 2016, Steve Rabin, an older CPA who was denied employment at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), filed an age discrimination class and collective action on behalf of himself and all other unsuccessful PwC accountant applicants aged 40 and over from 2013 to the present.  The lawsuit is titled Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Case No. 3:16-cv-02276, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The class and collective action complaint alleges that PwC has engaged in systemic discrimination against older applicants for accounting positions.  For instance, PwC primarily hires entry-level accountants through campus recruiting, does not post entry-level accountant positions on its website, and provides no ready mechanism for individuals no longer affiliated with a college to apply for these positions.  Moreover, PwC prides itself on maintaining a young workforce, focusing on attracting and maintaining “Millennials,” and requiring partners to retire by age 60.  The ageism that pervades PwC’s recruitment system and corporate culture has resulted in older accountant applicants being almost completely shut out of accounting positions at PwC. 

In February 2017, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs can pursue disparate impact claims against PwC under the ADEA.  PwC had argued that job applicants are not allowed to pursue such claims under federal law.  You can find more information about this recent ruling here.

In December 2017, the Plaintiffs asked the Court to allow all applicants covered by this case to proceed together on a collective basis rather than individually, in what is called a motion for conditional certification. A decision by the Court is likely this spring. Please check back in April of 2018 for updates.

The Goal of the Lawsuit
The class action seeks seeks to require PwC to hire accountants based on merit alone, without regard to their age, and to compensate accountants who might have been hired but for PwC’s discriminatory practices.

Yowza.  The Wall Street Journal reported some interesting numbers on Tuesday as a District Court Judge heard arguments from both sides on whether to allow 14,000 other older candidates who didn't get a job with PwC to join a class action on the same claim.  I can't share the exact text from the WSJ since it's behind a paywall, but here's a couple of tidbits:

--PwC hires less than 5% of the 300,000 applicants who apply annually in US.

--PwC hired 18% of the applicants who were under 40 to it's tax and assurance business, while only hiring 3% of the candidates over 40.

--Older workers claim that older workers are steered to part-time and seasonal roles are aren't considers for the entry level roles the company lists as full time opportunities.

For now, the judge is simply ruling on whether to allow the 14,000 older candidates who have raised their hand to join a class action suit.  An actual ruling on the matter could be years away.

Interesting legal battle.  Without question, companies like PwC prefer to hire young talent that's cheaper right out of college.  Is that bias? If so, will they be held accountable for it?

Going to be interesting to track this one.

 


The Bain "Expert Generalist" Model and the Increasing Value of a Liberal Arts Degree...

With all the talk of automation and AI changing the nature of jobs in the future, one question we should all be asking (especially those of us with kids) is "what degrees, education and skills are going to have the most impact in the future?"

Mark Cuban has an opinion - he thinks some of the degrees we're most focused on now are going to fade in importance and liberal arts - yes, liberal arts - is going to make a comeback.  Here's an excerpt of what he said in a Liberal artsrecent interview via Business Insider:

I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.

Cuban's forecast of the skills needed to succeed in the future echoes that of computer science and higher education experts who believe people with "soft skills," like adaptability and communication, will have the advantage in an automated workforce.

Cuban highlighted English, philosophy, and foreign language majors as just some of the majors that will do well in the future job market.

"The nature of jobs is changing," Cuban said.

If you've followed the breaking news out of Cuban's Dallas Mavericks organization, you can insert witty joke on the most important training for future professional workers <here>.  Regardless of Cuban's recent troubles, his thoughts on the future of the workplace is interesting.

Cuban's thoughts made me think more about the Bain "Expert Generalist" model.  Here's a taste of that model:

Orit Gadiesh, the Bain & Co. chairman who coined the term, describes expert-generalism as “the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines.”

Research shows EG’s have:

Hmm, sounds like the world could use a few more EG’s.

More from LongNow.org:

From his perspective as a psychology researcher, Philip Tetlock watched political advisors on the left and the right make bizarre rationalizations about their wrong predictions at the time of the rise of Gorbachev in the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. (Liberals were sure that Reagan was a dangerous idiot; conservatives were sure that the USSR was permanent.) The whole exercise struck Tetlock as what used to be called an “outcome-irrelevant learning structure.” No feedback, no correction.

Tetlock’s summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.” He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups in history.”

So Tetlock took advantage of getting tenure to start a long-term research project now 18 years old to examine in detail the outcomes of expert political forecasts about international affairs. He studied the aggregate accuracy of 284 experts making 28,000 forecasts, looking for pattern in their comparative success rates. Most of the findings were negative— conservatives did no better or worse than liberals; optimists did no better or worse than pessimists. Only one pattern emerged consistently.

“How you think matters more than what you think.”

It’s a matter of judgement style, first expressed by the ancient Greek warrior poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock’s interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.

I've always been a fan of the HR Generalist - the HR professional (manager, director and VP level) that is responsible for all of the areas of HR.  A lot of the research today is telling us that the need for deep specialization is going to fade in a world of automation and that the generalist - regardless of profession - is going to be on the rise.

The real question is - are you willing to bet your kid's future and have him/her get a liberal arts degree?

Wow.  I don't know about that.  I just don't know.


Your City or County Probably Doesn't Break Even On Amazon Distribution Center Jobs...

With all the talk about Amazons's 2nd Headquarters campaign and where that project will land, it seems appropriate to examine the economic impact of the less lofty Amazon distribution center.  These smaller projects from Amazon are often highly contested, with counties and cities fighting to offer the best incentive package to land the included jobs as part of an economic development initiative.

A new study of publicly available data by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has found that when Amazon opens a new warehouse, the county where it is located does not see an increase in employment during the Amazonfollowing two-year period. Warehouse jobs do increase by about 30%, but the county's overall employment stays steady.  More detail below:

Amazon has opened fulfillment centers in 25 states, often courting state or local tax incentives to build them. The study suggests that these localities are not getting a return on that investment, one of the study's authors, Ben Zipperer

In fact, the study found that if anything, employment actually decreases two years after Amazon opens a fulfillment center in a county, though not to a statistically significant degree.

EPI used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that included warehousing employment figures in 1,161 counties around the US. That includes 54 Amazon warehouses in 34 counties, accounting for about 75% of all Amazon fulfillment centers.

The study also found that average warehouse wages, based on total wages, do not increase when Amazon opens a warehouse in a county. That could be because Amazon hires a mix of part-time or hourly and salaried employees, keeping overall wages down. A separate study released in January found that 700 Amazon employees in Ohio — about 10% of Amazon's workforce in the state — drew benefits from foot stamps.

As you would expect, Amazon disputed the findings of the EPI study in a statement:

In addition to the 200,000 Amazon employees in the US, we know from 2016 data, which is more current than the EPI data, Amazon's investments led to the creation of 200,000 additional non-Amazon jobs, ranging from construction jobs to healthcare industry positions. In fact, over the last five years, counties that have received Amazon investment have seen the unemployment rate drop by 4.8 percentage points on average, and in some areas, the rate has been lower than the state average.

The study, Amazon said, focused on a "misleading" section of time (2001 to 2015) that included both the recession and a time when Amazon was not building warehouses at the clip it is now.

Is anyone really surprised that counties and cities may overpay for an Amazon Distribution Center project?  You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.  Fail to secure the project and be positioned as the county commissioner who never brought a name project to your county.  Overpay, and wait for it - no one with the exception of the academics - really evaluates whether the project paid off or not.

Amazon continues to win.  Government officials in charge of economic development and job growth, take heed...

 


HR CAPITALIST DEFINITIONS: "Edge City" (with notes on Amazon Moving to ATL)...

With all the competition for Amazon's second headquarters (dubbed HQ2) and with Atlanta (home of Kinetix, the company I own part of) being in the mix, I thought I'd share one of my favorite books of all time and give you a Capitalist definition while we are at it.

Edge City is the term.  I picked up the book by the same name over 20 years ago at a bookstore when heading to the beach for a vacation.  The book became one of my all time ATLfavorites, and the definition changed how I viewed the business world forever.  Here's a description of the term, as well as details about the concept.  Take a look and we'll talk about Atlanta/Amazon after the jump.

"Edge city" is an American term for a concentration of business, shopping, and entertainment outside a traditional downtown (or central business district) in what had previously been a residential or rural area. The term was popularized by the 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier by Joel Garreau, who established its current meaning while working as a reporter for the Washington Post. Garreau argues that the edge city has become the standard form of urban growth worldwide, representing a 20th-century urban form unlike that of the 19th-century central downtown. Other terms for these areas include suburban activity centers, megacenters, and suburban business districts.

In 1991, Garreau established five rules for a place to be considered an edge city:

  • Has five million or more square feet (465,000 m²) of leasable office space.
  • Has 600,000 square feet (56,000 m²) or more of leasable retail space.
  • Has more jobs than bedrooms.
  • Is perceived by the population as one place.
  • Was nothing like a "city" as recently as 30 years ago. Then it was just bedrooms, if not cow pastures."

Most edge cities develop at or near existing or planned freeway intersections, and are especially likely to develop near major airports. They rarely include heavy industry. They often are not separate legal entities but are governed as part of surrounding counties (this is more often the case in the East than in the Midwest, South, or West). They are numerous—almost 200 in the United States, compared to 45 downtowns of comparable size—and are large geographically because they are built at automobile scale.

The book is organized by chapters that dig into various Edge Cities in America, including Tyson's Corner, Houston's Galleria area and more.  Because the book came out in 1991 - you can preview the whole book on Amazon (irony) without buying.

What's the big deal about Edge Cities for HR?  The biggest impact they have is what I call "recruiting center of gravity" - my term, not in the book.

Commute preferences change in metro areas as Edge Cities come online and continue to grow.  In Atlanta - home of Kinetix - Edge Cities like Buckhead, Perimeter and Galleria have pushed the employment center of gravity north, to the point where a study I did in 2009 showed that the location preferred by the greatest number of candidates across Atlanta was the Perimeter, located at 12 o'clock on I-285, the perimeter loop that surrounds downtown Atlanta.

But back to Amazon.  You might expect that given the northbound trend of Edge Cities in Atlanta, Amazon would be looking for a location in the north suburbs.  You'd be wrong, primarily because the airport is south of downtown.  As a result, the patch of land proposed for Amazon is connected to downtown near the old Georgia Dome location in an area called The Gulch.

Edge Cities apply to everyone but Amazon - because 50,000 jobs has its own gravity that transcends the Edge City formula.

Quick math - if the average office space formula calls for 170 feet of office space per employee/worker, the HQ2 project would stand at 8.5 million feet of leasable/owned real estate to support 50,000 employees.

You know - the equivalent of 14 Edge Cities described by Garreau.

As they said in Jaws - we're going to need a bigger boat.


Bitcoin 401K Rollovers - What the #### Could Go Wrong?

This appeared in my gmail as a paid ad today (Email subscribers, click through to see the poison below):

Bitcoin_11

I'm not a financial advisor.  There's probably money to be made in Bitcoin, although the SEC has issued investor warnings.

The vast, vast majority of your employees aren't qualified to evaluate Bitcoin as an investment option.  When ads like this pop up, I'm assuming they aren't offering Bitcoin as a speculative 5% of someone's portfolio - I'm assuming they want to cram all 100% of that rollover in Bitcoin for various reasons that have to do with money.

Many of your employees have 401ks parked with a previous employer.  25% know about Bitcoin and are interested in the hype.  1/5 of those would consider this ad.

It's worth you getting in front of this with a HR comms piece -  to let people know that ads are rolling encouraging 401k rollovers straight into Bitcoin and there's some danger via the SEC.  

Respect the game.

 


All Economic Development Related to Jobs Is Not Created Equal...

Let's talk economic development today.  We're trained to believe that in America, any economic development opportunity that brings thousands of jobs to a local community - especially in the rust belt or the rural midwest - would be welcomed by all in that community.

That's wrong.  Whether you understand that or not probably depends on whether you have smelled a big, corporate chicken/hog farm before.

Here's some background - On Sept. 5, executives from Tyson Foods Inc., the nation’s largest meat processor, traveled to the east Kansas town of Tonganoxie with what they figured would be welcome news for the locals. Joined by Governor Sam Brownback and other political leaders, Doug Ramsey, Tyson’s group president for poultry, unveiled plans to build a huge chicken complex outside of town. The $320 million project, Tyson’s first new plant in 20 years, would be home to a hatchery, feed mill, and processing plant—employing about 1,600 workers to package 1.25 million birds a week.

Great news, right?

Wrong.  The citizens didn't want anything to do with the plant.  All you have to do is look at the numbers to understand why, provided here by BusinessWeek:

Tyson’s foray serves as a blueprint for how not to build a new chicken plant. First, the company may have overestimated how badly the jobs were needed. Members of the opposition say most residents are employed in nearby Topeka, Kansas City, and Lawrence, leaving few locals who’d want meatpacking jobs. Median annual household income in Leavenworth County is $63,726, $11,521 more than for the state of Kansas and $9,837 greater than the national median. The median wage of workers who cut or trim poultry, meat, or fish is $11.77 an hour for an annual income of about $24,490, according to May 2016 government data.

A quick look at the map below tells you all you need to know.  That standard of living comes from the aforementioned proximity to Lawerence (rock chalk), Kansas City and Topeka.  Here's your map:

Kansas

To be sure, immigration and the prospect of a sudden influx of workers into a community -  to take the jobs others don't want - plays a part too.  

If you go read the story, it's a good case study of a company like Tyson AND the local government assuming the community would be in support of the economic development provided, only to be surprised.

From a workforce planning perspective, it's a good reminder for companies to find the sweet spot of a community that will embrace the flavor of jobs you're providing when launching a new plant.  That sweet spot can be defined as enough labor at the right price point to sustain the model.  Always harder than it looks, especially when the product is chicken processing plants.

While I'm talking about small town America, check out this BW article about small towns relying on Dollar General as their economic hub.  The town featured - Decatur, Arkansas - would LOVE to have that chicken plant. But alas, they're two small.   

The right place for economic development involving chicken processing plants?  Somewhere between Decatur and Tonganoxie, as it turns out.

 


Tesla: Now the Most Interesting Workplace Culture in The World...

Forget Google, Apple and if you're into pain, Uber.

Tesla is now the most interesting workplace culture in the world.  Here's 4 reasons why, my friends:

1--For starters, they've got a founder who is brilliant and unreasonable all at the same time. 

You've heard of Elon Musk, so he really doesn't need an introduction.  From a unauthorized biography I just read on him....

"When Musk came into the meeting room where I'd been waiting, I noted how impressive it was for so many people to be at work on a Saturday.  Must saw the sitaution in a different light, complaining that fewer and fewer people had been working weekends of late, 'We've grown f***ing soft", Musk replied, 
'I was just going to send out an email - we're f***ing soft'"

Founders.  Always a fun time.  There's 100 examples of this stuff in the book.

2--Tesla's under immense pressure to get production of it's newest car model, the Model 3, up to scale. And they are behind.  More from Bloomberg:

"Tesla said it built just 260 Model 3 sedans during the third quarter, less than a fifth of its 1,500-unit forecast. The company has offered scant detail about the problems it’s having producing the car. The vehicle’s entry price starts at $35,000, roughly half the cost of Tesla’s least-expensive Model S sedan.

A delayed ramp-up risks the ire of some of the almost half million reservation holders who started paying $1,000 deposits early last year." 

3--Tesla's at the intersection of manufacturing and automation with the ramp up of the Model 3 - here's an Instagram post shared by Musk late last week to respond to people reporting that there was limited automation at this point on the Model 3 line (email subscribers click through if you don't see the post below.  It's good):

4--Embedded in the founder driven culture is... wait for it.... people being fired after lackluster performance reviews!  And the company is saying that's the reason!  More from Bloomberg:

Tesla Inc. has fired an undetermined number of employees following a series of performance evaluations after the company significantly boosted its workforce with the purchase of solar panel maker SolarCity Corp.

 The departures are part of an annual review, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in an email, without providing a number of people affected. The maker of the Model S this week dismissed between 400 and 700 employees, including engineers, managers and factory workers, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Oct. 13, citing unidentified current and former workers.
 
“As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” the company said in the statement. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”
 
An interesting founder still running things.  Big innovation.  Production delays.  Saying you're trimming the bottom performers aka Jack Welch and stacked ranking.
 
Tesla is the most interesting workplace culture in America right now.  It's not even close.

BOOM: Amazon Announces Intent to Build Second HQ in a City Outside of Seattle...

 

Damn!

Amazon announced on Thursday that it is planning to open another headquarters called Amazon HQ2 in US city TBD.

Amazon HQ2 will cost $5 billion and eventually house up to 50,000 Amazon staff, Amazon said in a press release.

Amazon said it wants HQ2 to be in a metropolitan area with a "stable and business friendly environment" and more than 1 million people. The company also wants HQ2 to be within 45 minutes of an international airport and in a location where there is potential to attract strong technical talent.

Amazon is inviting city representatives and those working for regional economic development organizations to submit a proposal if they want to host Amazon's second headquarters.

To me, the obvious choice is the ATL.  But I'm biased because that's my second home.  

I'll leave you with this - if you have any doubt of the economic impact of the Amazon HQ2, take a look at the numbers in the chart below related to their presence in Seattle.  This is a much/much/much bigger deal from an economic standpoint that a city landing a sports team.  It's probably the biggest economic development event that will happen in America in the next century.  (email subscribers click through if you don't see the chart below)

Let's go ATL.  Click on the chart below to blow it up and be amazed...

 

Amazon impact