by Chris Davis
Gannett deliberately stalls severance payments to former Commercial Appeal employees
***Please share this with your friends. This is important.***
I'm the head of the Memphis Newspaper Guild labor union, which represents some workers at The Commercial Appeal.
***I'm sorry to inform you that the newspaper's new parent company, Gannett, is deliberately stalling severance payments to 12 former newsroom employees.***
These former employees have not received a dime of severance since they lost jobs effective April 11.
Because Gannett is currently finishing up a brutal "fight-for-your job" contest in the advertising department. The company broke a ton of rules in the process. They're afraid of the legal consequences for their rule-breaking in advertising.
So they're stalling the payments to the former newsroom employees in the hopes of forcing the union to sign an amnesty that forgives the company for its rule-breaking.
I've seen plenty of bad corporate behavior in my life. ***Gannett's calculated decision to inflict harm on people who have lost jobs is among the worst corporate behavior I have ever seen.***
In advertising, Gannett fired everyone and made them reapply for new jobs. We call this process The Hunger Games.
Desperate to hold on to her job, advertising employee Marianne Sheridan competed in The Hunger Games and walked into a job interview with three Gannett employees she'd never met before. She was nervous at first. And then she felt worse.
*** "Frankly, at one point my head felt like it was going to explode," she told me. ***
She left the interview, sweat pouring off her body. Someone called an ambulance and she was taken to a hospital. She's out now, but still undergoing medical tests. It's not clear what happened to her.
"I think it was a huge anxiety attack," she said. "Since the beginning of April, we've been under this stress of having to reapply for our jobs."
She found out Thursday that she doesn't have a job anymore.
Six advertising employees applied in The Hunger Games and didn't get jobs. Around six others refused to participate in The Hunger Games and will also lose jobs. The last day for these 12 or so employees is May 1.
The Hunger Games isn't just stressful.
Our union contract lays out a detailed process for job cuts. The Hunger Games process - firing everyone and making them apply for jobs - is not allowed under our union contract. The company knows this and did it anyway.
Some of the people who "won" The Hunger Games competition will be paid thousands of dollars less than they were paid before. That's also not allowed under our union contract.
We're already hearing disturbing reports of sales staffers not being paid for commissions they rightfully earned.
And somehow, magically, the six people who participated in The Hunger Games and lost their jobs are all women. Several are African-American.
We're concerned about that, too.
**** Due to Gannett's willful, blatant violations of the rules, we filed a federal complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on April 21. ***
The federal agency will now investigate the complaint and take appropriate action. We also have another complaint pending through what's known as the grievance / arbitration process.
On Thursday, the company lawyer once again demanded we sign an amnesty deal that withdraws all our complaints.
Otherwise, he says the 12 former employees in the newsroom plus The Hunger Games victims in advertising will have to wait months or years for severance until an arbitrator decides.
If you ask the company lawyer, he'll say the delay is the union's fault. That because we won't sign the amnesty, we're the ones who are stopping these workers from getting their severance.
But think about that for a minute.
*** Gannett breaks multiple rules in firing people.
We complain about it to the feds.
And then Gannett says it will refuse to pay severance until we drop our complaints about its rule-breaking.***
I know I'm coming across as angry.
That's because I _am_ angry.
*** I'm watching good people suffer. I'm furious to see how Gannett fires people, then works very hard to hurt them some more. ***
We, the labor union, are going to pursue legal challenges hard. In the meantime, you can make a difference!
*** Call our interim publisher and tell him to pay a fair severance to the former workers. ***
His name is Mike Jung, he's based in Florida and temporarily working here.
His phone number is 239-335-0277 and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've met him, and he seems like a good guy. But he needs to hear from you.
*** And you can reach out to help our former workers. Our former employees are great people who had the misfortune of losing jobs to cost-cutting. Why not hire them? Send job leads to Guild office manager Amy Olmstead: Olmsteada@yahoo.com or 901-726-6857. ***