For Immediate Release
Contact: Guild Spokesman Stu Bykofsky, 267-REDACTED
A MATTER OF SURVIVAL
November 18, 2006
The new owners of the Inquirer, Daily News are having an acute case of buyer’s remorse.
Philadelphia Media Holdings — a group of local investors with no prior media ownership experience — now realize it paid too much for the papers and Philly.com, outbidding its rivals.
Sadly, the new owners now are targeting their own union employees — and particularly the workers — previously negotiated pensions, job security and sick pay, as the solution to their mistake.
There is absolutely no justification for the company’s behavior as it negotiates for the first time with The Newspaper Guild, the union that represents 900 workers including writers, editors, photographers, artists, clerks, auditors and ad salespeople. While we are dedicated to a fair, professional and frank collective bargaining process, and welcome the intervention of a Federal mediator, we also recognize a responsibility to our readers and the community to explain the key issues at the heart of this dispute.
As should be obvious to the new owners, we are totally dedicated to keeping our region one of the leading newspaper and online journalism markets in America. This is why we quickly welcomed the new owners who professed a love for the highest standards of local, independent, hard-hitting journalism, and vowed to be a responsible employer-of-choice. In stirring speeches on the newsroom floor and interviews with out-of-town media, they said they were different from other owners: they would never put profits before people; they would work hard to sustain profitability through new means of revenue generation and clever reader incentives like front-page, peel-off coupons.
Sounded good, maybe too good to be true.
Still, we vowed to continue to do our share, meeting them more than halfway for the good of the papers, the community and all of our fellow workers.
So what went wrong? In just a few short months, we now see spin trumping substance, efforts to demonize the workers as the turnaround master plan turns increasingly ugly, apparently aimed at gutting the Guild.
While we hope it’s all a well-orchestrated bargaining ploy, consider these recent developments:
Despite on-the-record comments to the contrary, the new owners now say they need to stop contributing to Guild member pensions. Freezing retirement contributions would be tantamount to slashing paychecks for all the workers.
Despite proclaiming respect for organized labor — and including the area’s largest trade union as part of the ownership group — the new owners now say they want to eliminate seniority as the basis for determining staff reductions. This would allow management to fire anyone at will regardless of performance or value.
Suggesting a miscalculation in new revenue generation, the new owners now say as many as 40 percent (150) of the Inquirer’s already depleted editorial staff could be axed. This flies in the face of claims to preserve and protect the value of the newspaper.
In a new twist on self-directed healthcare, the new owners now claim sick days are an unnecessary expense and that workers can get sick on their own time.
The Daily News is a shadow of its former self and the new owners sound less and less committed to its continued publication.
What about health insurance and prescription drug benefit co-pays, the usual labor contract hot buttons? We are already shoulder that expense and manage our own health and welfare fund. You see, like so many other workers here and across the country, we’ve made concessions in the past and know what it’s like to be on the short end of givebacks and cutbacks. In this round of talks, we’ve made numerous work-rule concessions, and the company knows it, even though its spokespeople continue to claim otherwise.
We’re sharing this background because we know you care about the possible dilution, if not demise, of these newspapers.
We are heartened that you believe, as do we, that the newspapers are an important part of our vibrant and diverse community. We were moved when a cross section of the region rallied for our survival when we were put up for sale.
We cannot have a robust economy, evolve into a world-class community with a diverse array of jobs without world-class newspapers to keep us and the rest of the world informed about the region.
Competitors — including those in broadcast and cable TV news, and even some of our critics from the ranks of government and business — will candidly acknowledge that our newspapers are crucial to the flow of objective, in-depth news and information in our region. There is a reason that local electronic journalism begins its day with producers reading our newspapers for the whole story to determine what is really the big story of the day, from healthcare to education, business and sports. We are not only first with the news, we’re factual, and that is a tribute to the editorial staffs and a system of checks and balances you won’t find in many other newsrooms, let alone living-room blogs. The result is news that you can trust to be accurate, whether it’s the real story behind why your taxes are going up, your school children test scores are going down, or your favorite sports team is on the verge of a title or collapse.
We do our homework, present all sides of a story, and keep opinions on the opinion pages so you can make your own decisions. Isn?t this what a democracy is all about?
Our owners have made a mistake and now want us == and you — to pay for their blunder. Tell us them what you think by emailing email@example.com.