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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: April, 2013

POSTED: Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:42 PM

On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will release its monthly report on employment. No matter what top numbers are, the number of long-term unemployed continues at unacceptably high levels, slow to decline in a skittish job market.

That's what makes groups like Joseph's People, a church-based network for the unemployed, so important. The organization, started at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, in Downingtown, during two recessions ago, now has 11 chapters, mostly in the Philadelphia suburbs. It combines prayer, job hunting workshops and emotional support, and offers all services for free.

"We have opened our first chapter out of the Philadelphia area, in Pittsburgh," wrote Cheryl Spaulding, one of Joseph's People's co-founders. "On the one hand I am happy to see our model used elsewhere, on the other hand I wish it were not necessary."

POSTED: Friday, April 26, 2013, 7:26 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press, File)

Just a quick update: The National Labor Relations Board has officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Noel Canning v NLRB case, a move applauded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The case ruled that President Obama's recent appointments to the NLRB were invalid.  In the case, the NLRB backed the workers over the company, Noel Canning, but the appellate court said the NLRB did not have the necessary quorum to decide the case because two of the three members were improperly seated.

The Chamber agrees.

POSTED: Thursday, April 25, 2013, 4:40 AM
Hal Salzman, a senior fellow at Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development in New Brunswick. (Photo from policy.rutgers.edu/)

So what do you think -- will the expansion of guest-worker visas for highly-skilled professionals depress the job market in the U.S?

That's what Hal Salzman, a Rutgers University professor and a fellow at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, thinks. He's the co-author of a study released Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute. In covering the story in Thursday's Inquirer, I did quite a bit of reading. Obviously, given space restraints, I wasn't able to completely express the entirety of everyone's views.

So, I'm going to provide some links to the stuff I read. Obviously, this represents an extremely small slice of the mammoth legislative proposal known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This particular story focuses on highly-skilled workers.  

POSTED: Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 3:15 AM
The Congressional calendar shows that Congress was in session on Jan. 3, but not on Jan. 4 and 5. Congress returned to work on Jan. 6.

Got an interesting email today from a reader who pointed out that the appellate court specifically ruled in the NLRB appointments case, Noel v. Canning, that Congress was not in recess when President Barack Obama appointed new members to the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 4, 2012.

The Congressional calendar shows that Congress was in session on Jan. 3, but not on Jan. 4 and 5. Congress returned to work on Jan. 6.

The reason the timing needs to be  so precise is that the case, Noel Canning versus the NLRB, has caused a ruckus in employment law. The decision essentially throws out an National Labor Relations Board ruling in the case on the grounds that the board did not have the proper quorum to decide the case, because of the timing of Obama's appointments. 

POSTED: Monday, April 22, 2013, 6:37 AM
National Labor Relations Board

For his entire career, Dennis Walsh, the new Philadelphia-area regional head of the National Labor Relations Board, has worked with unions and managers, adjudicating their disputes. It has given him a certain perspective on labor-management issues. What he sees is way too much fear.

"The other thing, I would say, and this is just very general, and I don't know purport to know the inner-workings of unions or management, is that they have to stop being afraid of the other side," he said. "I think that managers need to stop being afraid of unions. That seems to be the source of so much of the illegal activity that we see -- the fear of having a union in the workplace. It's not the end of the world.

Walsh's comments come from an interview I did with him the day before he was sworn in as the new head of Region 4 of the the National Labor Relations Board, which includes southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. You can read my story about him in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

POSTED: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 3:40 AM

If there is one thing that employees say they want, time and time again, it's flexibility to handle life's every day challenges. That's why human resource executive Juanita Phillips, speaking on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management, testified in favor of the Working Families Flexibility Act 2013 (H.R. 1406).

On Wednesday, the bill went through mark-up in the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee. A House vote on the bill may come next week. I'll keep you updated. My Wednesday blog post laid out the position of the bill's opponents, expressed by the National Partnership for Women and Families. You can click here to read testimony from the organization's senior advisor, Judith Lichtman, opposing the bill.

The line up in favor of the bill is impressive. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and many other large employer groups back this bill, introduced by Martha Roby, a Republican representative from Alabama. The bill allows employers to offer and employees to choose comp time instead of overtime pay, both at the rate of one and a half hours of pay or time for every hour over 40 worked. Employees can bank up to 160 hours a year, but if they change their minds, they can ask for cash and receive it within 30 days. Employers too can change their minds, paying cash instead of time after 80 hours banked.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:15 PM

Update: The U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce approved the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 today. This bill would allow employers and employees to choose compensatory time in place of overtime pay.

You can click here to read the committee's materials on the bill and here to read my blog post on a group that opposes it. Thursday's blog post will discuss the arguments in favor.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 3:45 AM
U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce which begins hearings today on the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. (Photo Kline.house.gov)

It's mark-up time in Washington this Wednesday morning when the the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce gets to work on the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. (H.R. 1406). Great name. So why are organizations like the National Partnership for Women and Families opposed to it?

First, an explanation of the bill:

Under the terms of this bill, as introduced by Rep. Martha Roby, a Republican from Alabama, workers who are entitled to get overtime pay could choose instead to receive compensatory time, and could also choose to bank it -- up to 160 hours a year. With these hours in the "bank," there would be time to care for a family member, or attend school functions, proponents say. Just like overtime compensation, which is paid at a rate of one and a half hours of pay for every hour worked, one and a half hours of time could be set aside for each over time hour worked. And, if the workers later decide they'd rather have the money, all they have to do is ask, and the company must pay it within 30 days. After 80 hours in the bank, the company can decide to pay OT in cash, not time.

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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