Friday, April 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Archive: August, 2013

POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 12:13 PM

The unemployment rate fell in Camden, Gloucester and Burlington counties, although it continued to creep up in Philadelphia, surrounding Pennsylvania counties and the Wilmington area. However, July's rate was less than it was a year ago, the U.S. Labor Department reported Wednesday morning.

In Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs, the unemployment rate rose slightly, from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent, although it is down from 9.0 percent a year ago. The Wilmington area, which includes parts of Maryland and Salem County in New Jersey, also increased, again slightly, from 7.9 percent to 8.0 percent, but down from 8.3 percent in July 2012. The only gainers were the three South Jersey counties, who needed some improvement. Their statistics show an unemployment rate of 9 percent, down from 9.4 percent in June and 10.8 percent in July 2012.

The entire region had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, stable from June and down from 9.3 percent a year ago.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 27, 2013, 11:47 AM

Came into work Monday morning to receive two missives -- both relating to the Post Brothers and their long dispute with the city's building trades.

On my desk was a crumpled leaflet from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 illustrated with a photo of a rat. Real nice. In my email in-box was a note from the communications director with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce who asked me, given my past coverage of this story, whether I'd like to speak to someone at the Chamber about proposed Pennsylvania legislation that would curb the ability of unions to protest as the building trades did at the Post Brothers construction site on 12th and Wood Streets near Chinatown. The subject line said "union stalking." Charming.

One missive was written rather crudely, with typos, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, although the message was perfectly clear. The other was much more urbane, its intent somewhat cloaked in professional language. Still, very understandable. Sigh. All the rhetoric was way too exhausting for a Monday morning. I stood up and got myself a nice cup of herbal tea; I went for one described as "delicate and soothing," the opposite of these two letters.

POSTED: Monday, August 26, 2013, 11:14 AM

Fatalities in construction rose in 2012 -- up five percent, even though the amount of hours in private construction rose only one percent, a clear disparity, the U.S. Labor Department reported last week. Interesting disparity, considering that fatal occupational injuries in construction had declined for the previous five years, down 37 percent since 2006. Guess that must have been the silver lining to the recession cloud. In 2012, 775 died in construction, up from 738 the year before.

In 2012, 177 people died in the private mining sector, with 138 of them dying in oil and gas extraction. The deaths in oil and gas extraction grew by 23 percent from 2011, and a new high for the series, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Another headline -- fatal injuries to young workers nearly doubled, from 10 to 19. Fourteen of the young workers, aged under 16, worked in agriculture.

The good news in the report is that the over all fatality rate has declined, from 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers to 3.2 fatalities.

POSTED: Thursday, August 22, 2013, 4:45 AM

As someone who questions people for a living, I love questions and I love to ask human resource people, recruiters and others who interview job applicants for their favorite interview questions.

On Tuesday, I posed that question to two Karens, Karen Rafferty, director of nurse education at Temple University Hospital, and Karen Scheier, a clinical nurse specialist. Both interview candidates for Temple's "new to practice" nursing program that helps newbie nurses adjust to the rigors of acute care nursing at a major hospital. I had interviewed them for a story that appeared in Wednesday's Inquirer. (You can click here to read my related blog post about Temple's comprehensive orientation process for new nurses.)

Here's Karen Rafferty's favorite question: "Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to meet someone's needs."

POSTED: Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 11:34 AM
Nurse Marianne Pecora checks patient charts at Temple University Hospital. (Photo by Jane M. Von Bergen)

Less than 10 years ago, when employers were predicting dire shortages of nurses, no one would have imagined that graduates fresh out of nursing school with an associate's degree would be unable to find jobs. But the recession changed the equation, with nurses staying put instead of retiring. Most acute care hospitals, including Temple University Hospital, could afford to hire more experienced nurses and those with four-year degrees.

Temple, however, has chosen to hire fresh-out-of-school nurses on the theory, according to Karen Rafferty, director of nursing education, that these nurses will stick around longer. Temple, she said, is still bracing for a shortage when baby boomers feel more comfortable with the economy and retire. So, Temple has put considerable effort into its year-long orientation process, which it calls its "new-to-practice" program.

New nurses come on slowly. In fact, said Rafferty, many feel frustrated that they can't jump right in and handle a full case load immediately. "They come in with the biggest expectations of hitting the ground running," she said. Instead, "we slowly increase their work load."

POSTED: Thursday, August 8, 2013, 4:10 AM

We've had a tragic lesson this summer on how perilous construction can be -- how mistakes, or cost-cutting, or carelessness lead to loss of life and injury. Let's review:

Six people died and 14 were injured when a Center City building collapsed on the Salvation Army Thrift Store at 22d and Market Streets on June 5.

A construction worker wound up at Temple Hospital  on July 11 when a steel beam fell at the the $137 million Science Education and Research Center now under construction at Temple's campus.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 4:45 AM
Union workers in front of a dock at 11th Street, near Race, in Center City Philadelphia this morning. (Emily Babay / Staff)

Wednesday marks the start of the American Association of Diabetes Educators convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. A week ago, it looked like the Educators were going to be schooled in what happens when managers and workers can't reach agreements on important issues.

Last Thursday, on Aug. 1, four of the six unions who work at the convention center went on strike, with a fifth not crossing the picket line in solidarity. By the end of the day, a truce was reached. And, as it turned out, the American Association of Diabetes Educators is enjoying a giant exhale, with some of the hot air moving out of the debate over the issue of exhibitor's rights.

The giant exhale equals an increase in wages and a year to study the existing customer service agreement, particularly the stumbling block of exhibitor's rights. It sounds very patriotic -- one of these overblown monikers -- but what it concerns is how much work individual exhibitors and their employees can do on their booths. That's what crashed Wednesday's negotiations at very end of three days of fruitful bargaining on many other issues.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 3:05 AM

No denying the excitement, the pure adrenaline rush that a firefighter feels enroute to a call. What a weird mix of feelings -- fear, excitement, maybe guilt for wanting the excitement instead of a ho-hum call that turns out to be a lot-of-get-up-and-go for something boringly minor. Until one night, it's not.

By telling me one story, Bill Anderson, a retired fire chief from Essington, provided a perfect illustration. Anderson is the president of the Cradle of Liberty chapter of Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America, (SPAAMFAA). I met him Saturday when I covered SPAAMFAA's national convention and muster at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken.

Anderson said that when he was a firefighter his company would get constant calls from the same house in Folsom, Delaware County. They'd go, put out a minor fire and leave. "We used to go there so many times that we knew the layout of the house," he said. Usually, it was because someone had smoked a cigarette and wasn't careful about putting it out.

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