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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: June, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 7:13 PM
The tent for members of the hunger strike sits on Broad Street in Philadelphia, on June 26, 2013. The hunger strike is being put on by Philadelphia School System employees after the passing of the Doomsday budget. ( Andrew Renneisen / Staff Photographer )

Union members are fasting in protest of the layoffs of 1,202 noontime aides from the Philadelphia School District. It makes an interesting story, and that may be the point, said a Drexel University political science  professor who teaches about propaganda and politics. 

"The goal is to have the issues come out," said William Rosenberg, the Drexel professor. The strike "gets picked up in the media.

"Just the fact that they are having [the hunger strike] is inconsequential," he said. "The fact that this is going to attract attention" is what matters.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 4:40 AM

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act turns 75 today! It may be old, but it's not obsolete. This is the law that requires people to be paid minimum wage. It sets the rules for overtime. It is the most basic employment law -- the one that makes sure that people are paid for their work.

The U.S. Labor Department is using the occasion to push for the passage of the minimum wage, as President Obama suggested in February, proposing that it be increased from $7.25 an hour to $9, with an inflation index thereafter. The department says that 340,000 New Jersey workers and 558,000 Pennsylvania workers would get a raise.

Among them would be Shedeya Ivy, 22, of Philadelphia. She earns $7.25 an hour at McDonald's. When acting secretary Seth Harris visited Philadelphia several months ago, Ivy met him and told him that an increase in the minimum wage would mean an increase in food in her home, which she shares with her grandmother and aunt. She will be traveling today to Washington to attend a minimum wage roundtable that will also be attended by Harris and vice president Joseph Biden. 

POSTED: Monday, June 24, 2013, 3:15 AM

This is an obituary for some data passing into the Great Beyond. On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department released its last report on mass layoffs -- a real mess considering the fragile state of the job market.

Here's what the department wrote to explain the data's demise:

"On March 1, 2013, President Obama ordered into effect the across-the-board spending cuts (commonly referred to as sequestration) required by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, as amended. Under the order, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) must cut its current budget by more than $30 million, 5 percent of the current 2013 appropriation, by September 30, 2013. In order to help achieve these savings and protect core programs, the BLS will eliminate two programs, including Mass Layoff Statistics, and all "measuring green jobs" products. This news release is the final publication of monthly mass layoff survey data."

Jane M. Von Bergen @ 3:15 AM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, June 21, 2013, 4:05 AM

Sometimes, you put two employment reports up against each other and you just want to cry. That happened to me on Thursday when I looked at the jobs report from New Jersey and ran the results against a new survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the Chicago company that helps unemployed people find jobs.

So, in one report, the monthly jobs report from New Jersey's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Jersey's May numbers are looking better and better, considering the state had lagged behind the nation in job recovery. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest in four years. The private sector added 15,400 jobs, bringing total private sector employment up to 3,337,100. That's 145,000 private sector jobs added since lowest point in the economic downturn for private sector hiring -- February 2010, when there were 3,192,000 jobs.

So, we'll give New Jersey chief economist Charles Steindel a moment to brag, before we mix these results with the other report and some other statistics. "New Jersey's labor market is clearly getting healthier, with continuing gains in employment and jobs, and the unemployment rate on a downtrend," he said in a press release.

POSTED: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 11:09 AM
(iStockphoto)

What would mean to you, as an employee, if your company gave you a car -- the same car you used all day to perform your duties -- and allowed you to take it home and drive it to and from work? The company covered the gas and the cost of repairs. You could only use it for work or to commute to work. Good deal? Really? It's an issue in a wage and hour lawsuit that was filed this week in federal court in Camden.

Naturally, I neglected to mention a little wrinkle. The cars in question are a police cruisers and the employees are police officers who live and work in Franklin Township, N.J.

Three current and former officers filed suit against the Gloucester County township, claiming they were required to work at least 10 minutes before and after their shifts, but were not compensated for their time. They had other complaints about their wages -- and part of the complaints were that they did not receive overtime when they should have. You can click here to read my story in Thursday's Inquirer. 

POSTED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:59 AM

Checked in this morning with John Dodds, head of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, about the state of the Pennsylvania unemployment compensation phone system. Actual good news!

"The phones have been cleaned up," Dodds wrote back. "We are no longer getting complaints and our contacts at the state are reporting that the problem is now in the past.  We are not sure how they did it, but are glad that they did." There had been complaints about being on hold for hours, days and being unable to get questions answered. People resorted to going to their legislators' office and getting help through constituent services. Not efficient, but perhaps effective in getting the problem resolved.

What prompted my call to Dodds was a press release from the state's Department of Labor and Industry last week. On June 13, Labor Secretary Julia Hearthway received the 2013 Unemployment Integrity Award from the National Federation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers Compensation at its convention in Arlington, Va.

POSTED: Monday, June 17, 2013, 3:20 AM

Some quick catch-up from the past week:

First of all, in New Jersey, the Senate's Labor Committee heard testimony about the state's proposed "ban the box" legislation, limiting when employers can inquire about an applicant's criminal history. The legislation essentially requires employers to eliminate questions about the person's record until a conditional offer is made. Advocates say that existing practices lump people with minor offenses into the same category as serious criminals, denying them all a chance to find work. Opponents say the legislation poses safety risks, even during the interview process, and wastes time, particularly if the crime relates to the job. Click here to read the Senate version of the bill.

“A bad left turn in anyone’s life doesn’t necessarily mean that a human being doesn’t have the skills and abilities to be a productive member of society,” Al Koeppe, of Newark Alliance, testified, according to a report by the Associated Press. As the former president of PSEG, or Public Service Enterprise Group, Koeppe said, he hired many people who had a criminal past, and many of them worked harder than those that did not because they knew how hard getting a job was.

POSTED: Friday, June 14, 2013, 3:45 AM
(iStockphoto)

What can employees do when their boss is a jerk, when he/she makes them work extra hours or not enough hours, when there are unreasonable demands, or the pay is bad or the conditions unsafe? Answer: They can help themselves.

Does that sound like a union? Maybe, but for young people in particular, the u-word might be unfamiliar, or even off-putting. That's what is so interesting about a new web site launched this week by an AFL-CIO affiliated organization, Working America. 

FixMyJob.com talks about workers can help themselves without even one mention of the word union and even incorporates a wild You-Tube video where the workers and the boss dance themselves into adversarial frenzy. At one point, as workers are dancing in what looks an empty office, the words, "When workers stick together & protect each other on the job: we are more likely to have a set schedule of regular hours, we are 30 percent more likely to get paid sick leave" and the list goes on.

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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