Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Union-Tribune’s Christmas Massacre of December 2007

Stories City Lights
By Don Bauder Published Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Union-Tribune’s Christmas Massacre of December 2007 is still producing bloodshed. The Copley Press, aided by a high-powered consulting firm, is contesting unemployment claims filed by a small group of ex-employees who took a buyout after concluding they would be fired.

There is mayhem throughout the newspaper industry, but there seem to be few precedents for what the U-T is doing. “I have not been made aware of other employers fighting unemployment claims,” says Linda Foley, president of the Newspaper Guild in Washington, D.C. What Copley is doing is “unusual, and it’s unusually cruel. This is not a worker-friendly industry, especially at the moment. This is a new level of cruelty. It’s just mean.”

Bernard Lunzer, secretary-treasurer of the national guild, says, “This is the first I have heard of this issue. I am not aware of companies hiring outside firms to resist unemployment [claims], but it could be happening. It is certainly wrong.”

Copley’s motivation is most likely economic. Employers pay into unemployment pools, but a company tapping the system more frequently has to pay more, rather like the way a person responsible for an auto accident has to pay higher insurance premiums. However, the ex-employees are puzzled, because there are probably fewer than 20 who are still trying to get unemployment compensation that they feel is owed them. Possibly the company is planning more buyouts and layoffs. That would hardly be surprising. It may be another indication that ownership is trying to slash costs to sell the company. Also, since the Copley Press has been known for its hostile employee relations, some think spite may be a motivation. READ MORE>>>



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