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Co-workers' hands in your pocket

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    If I read this correctly, the current management at the Minneapolis newspaper clawed back a significant amount of merit pay (raises) that had been given to newsroom staffers through the years. Then it redistributed a chunk of that, only differently and even to different people.


    In April, the Strib forced its 275 newsroom workers to take a collective $2 million pay cut. Of that, $533,000 was in "overscale" pay — merit pay — which about three-quarters of the newsroom received. Paradoxically, management fought for the right to restore $360,000 of that — for a smaller number of employees it wanted to keep or reward.

    Wednesday morning, the newsroom's union — almost certainly to management's consternation, and some of the rank-and-file's — published the names of the favored few. As Newspaper Guild leader David Chanen explained in the memo (reprinted below), "Knowing who got the money restored or redistributed is essential if members are to understand what characteristics the newsroom values in its employees."

    So who does management stretch for? The list is long on sports guys, investigators, editors (in italics), metro columnists and designers. Unless I missed something, I couldn't find a single copy editor, only one metro reporter and one member of the Capitol bureau.

    Really? The bottom line, if I understand this, is that Reporter A earns $X in raises through the years, but has that taken away now and sees the money diverted instead as a raise to Reporter B. It's all out in the open, too, because the newsroom union released the names of the have's (indirectly identifying the have-not's).

    Could they do anything worse to kill morale? Regardless of your performance over years or decades, you suddenly get evaluated and paid -- your household income falling suddenly and dramatically -- according to today's bosses assessment, while the person at the next desk gets a boost because today's bosses like him better now.

    At least when we've seen crazy stuff like bumping rights, the bumpee eventually is gone. Here, them that got more money and them that lost money continue to work side by side, and no one can doubt where the transfer of funds came from.

    Maybe I'm interpreting this wrong, but here is what I read: Boss takes the raises I earned, probably under previous editors, and shifts it to his own hires or people that he or she values more than me. No one ever doubted that future raises tend to go to the current bosses' favorites, but stripping away old earnings? It seems like someone barging into a Monopoly game and just moving all the money, deeds, houses and hotels around as they see fit.
  2. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Looks like the classic divide and conquer technique, Joe. Also looks like the suits absolutely rubbing the union rank-and-file's face in it. Nickel-and-dime stuff compared to furloughs, job cuts, and such -- but still annoying and, as you say, a humiliating kick in the crotch to newsroom morale.

    This part struck home with me:

    There are certainly many excellent staffers not listed, such as reporters who pound daily beats. It's hard to believe the increasingly beleaguered copy desk lacks a single reward-worthy worker, especially when so many lost night pay. [Correction: there is one person from the sports copy desk.] All in all, it seems like a lot of discord to save $173,000.

    See, our shop just did the same thing with night pay -- kind of. Our company decided that anyone working AFTER 5 p.m., instead of just after midnight, is entitled to the princely sum of $5 extra per night that all of us deskers/night reporters/sportswriters get.

    On the same day that took effect (July 1), our insurance premiums were jacked up ... for those of us with family coverage, we now must pay about $170/month more. Not because we changed insurance companies, like often happens at the beginning of the calendar year. Just because the company decided it needs more money as of July 1. And those who don't get insurance through work lose the $500 or $1,000 voucher they received for not taking the company's insurance. It's basically a pay cut, pure and simple.

    Bottom line: Our shop is not union, so management can screw around with our benefits/pay/employment at any time.

    But to see shenanigans like those described at a union shop like the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is depressing.
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