Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Printing a pink slip, randomly

Thank you, Inquirer readers, for your many interesting comments (via phone, email and online) about my Sunday story on the closing of the Reynold's packaging plant in Downingtown, putting as many as 150 people out of work. What really impressed me about this story was the tragic confluence of circumstances.

Printing a pink slip, randomly

Thank you, Inquirer readers, for your many interesting comments (via phone, email and online) about my Sunday story on the closing of the Reynold's packaging plant in Downingtown, putting as many as 150 people out of work. What really impressed me about this story was the tragic confluence of circumstances. At some point between April 2007, when Reynolds put its packaging division up for sale and January 2009, when workers received notice that the factory would close, the Rank Group had to have looked over the numbers and made a decision about the factory. It didn't help that oil prices were up -- meaning that it would cost more to make the plastic labeling the company used. It didn't help that some manufacturing processes were botched and that an important press that could have made a difference was left in storage. You are looking at the intersection of a decision-making time with existing facts. If the decision window had been different, perhaps the decision would have been different and the lives of the workers could have continued peacefully as they were. 

But some of it is so randomly coincidental. I'm thinking about this in my own life. Our family had to choose between two colleges for my son, and the choice had to be made between March 31 and May 1 -- 30 days. In the end, he chose a school where he would be able to co-op more easily, study abroad and where he could have smaller classes as a freshman. The other school, which we loved just as much, if not more, for many reasons, also had co-op and study abroad options, but they weren't as well organized. And the possibility of smaller classes would come in later years, not immediately. The other school also will have new leadership in the department, probably by the end of the year. That new leader might well improve the co-op options. But he isn't going to college in a year; he's going now, so we had to make the decision based on the current situation. What ramifications will the decision have? Of course, he's a lucky boy to even have the opportunity to go to college. 

To our family, my son's college education is of paramount importance and my husband and I put tremendous time and effort into helping to prepare him for this important part of his future. Indeed, we count educating our two children as one of our primary jobs as parents, just below food, shelter and love.

But this plant didn't ever occupy similar front-and-center attention of any of  its corporate parents. Again, maybe if it would have been more of a beloved child, the decision would have been different. 

About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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