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Archive: August, 2012

POSTED: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 2:05 PM

Temporary workers tend to earn 18 percent less than people in the same occupation who have fulltime work, says a study from the UC Berkley's Center for Labor Research and Education. The guy mowing the lawn may come to mind, but these days, temps are everyone, from the gardener to the accountant keeping the books.

Lots has been written about the contingent workforce, including one or two of my posts. But one aspect doesn't seem to come up often. That is the inherent instability of temp work and how that instability affects the economy. When people are on short contracts and don't know what the future holds, how likely are they to feel secure enough to invest in the kind of big-ticket items that drive consumer spending?


POSTED: Monday, August 27, 2012, 7:10 AM

How much talking can a company and union do before the employees have voted to approve the union? In a case involving Michigan automotive parts manufacturing workers, the NLRB ruled that as long as it's not specific or binding, it's fine. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals didn't agree or disagree in a decision released Thursday. Instead, it said, that the NLRB acted reasonably, and therefore, the court had no standing to intervene.

It started with two employees at a Dana Company's St. Johns, Michigan facility. They didn't like that Dana and the United Auto Workers, which represents other employees at other Dana plants, had devised a framework for negotiations even before workers agreed to be unionized. Both the company and UAW had promised to remain neutral while the UAW asked workers to sign cards if they wanted to be represented by the union. That happened in 2003 and the framework was fairly neutral, basically saying that they'd try to avoid having an acrimonious relationship.

The two workers complained to the National Labor Relations Board saying the framework effectively limited worker choice. The NLRB disagreed, saying in part, that the union and Dana could have agreed to unionize the St. Johns plant as part of its other collective bargaining agreements. They appealed the NLRB's decision. Ultimately, it landed in the federal appeals court.  

POSTED: Friday, August 24, 2012, 5:00 AM

America's tool and die companies find themselves in an odd place. On the one hand, according to a Congressional report, one-third of all tool, die and mold businesses have gone under since 1998, according to a report done for the U.S. Congress by the Congressional Research Service. On the other hand, there's a shortage of experienced machinists.

All of this appeared on my radar Thursday as a I researched two stories printed in Friday's Inquirer -- one was a story about a tool and die company cited by OSHA and the other was a report on trade imbalances with China and how they affected jobs.

The jobs statistics in the report on the tool and die industry, are shocking, particularly in Pennsylvania. In 2001, according to the April report, 11,811 people were employed in tool, die and mold businesses. By 2010, employment  declined by 30 percent to 6,476.  Nationally, employment fell 45 percent, to 89,661 in 2010 from 162,032 in 1998. Obviously, the time periods don't match, but the trends are telling.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 3:55 AM

More and more employers are enforcing non-compete and confidentiality provisions in court, employment lawyer Sara A. Begley told me as she was heading into court Tuesday on a related case. More important, she said, courts are more willing to enforce these types of contracts.

Why? Because of computers. These days so much company information is on computers, so it's much easier to notice if documents, such as trade secrets or customer lists, have been removed. Begley, a partner at ReedSmith's Philadelphia office, said that in the past, judges were reluctant to curtail the ability of a departing employee to make a living absent very specific proof that company information had been taken.

Now that proof is much easier to get, she said, although it may require a computer forensics expert to find it. The economy is also a factor. The recession allowed companies to prune their staffs, retaining the very best they had. That means that each of those remaining employees is potentially more valuable and more worth spending the legal fees necessary to keep them from using company info if they jump ship. Begley usually represents management.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 2:24 PM

An employment lawyer and a labor lawyer walk into a bar... OK, that was to lure you in, but I spent some time with Michael D. Jones and John A. DiNome from ReedSmith's Philadelphia office. Both are employment/labor lawyers on the management side and they had some interesting comments about the difference between the two related disciplines.

The difference, Jones explained, is that labor lawyers understand that the "the parties have to live together after the lawyers are done," he said. Unlike the legions of lawyers who handle employment cases, the number of lawyers who work with unions, either on the management side, or on the union side, is relatively small. The lawyers on both sides know each other and face off frequently, often working with the same set of arbitrators over the years. It behooves them all to behave.

On the other hand, the general employment bar  is large enough that "it's completely adversarial," he said. "There's a scorched earth policy." Lawyers for both sides are hyper-aggressive, knowing that the chances of them meeting again in the near future are relatively slim. Plus, the cases that need to be settled tend to be once-and-done, and don't require the two sides to communicate much once the case is closed.

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

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer