Friday, January 8, 2010

More on Western Michigan layoffs

It's been a very bad day for Boothies on the west side of Michigan. I know those of us who have already been through the end of our careers feel for those who are now facing the abyss.

As always, the rumors started flying on Wednesday (I received several tips beginning Wednesday afternoon) that something bad was in the offing for Friday. The rumors, in this case, were right.

Kalamazoo got the bad news today and layoffs were announced in P&D, editorial and advertising. There was a morning meeting and an afternoon meeting to deliver the bad news, according to sources there.

Individual meetings are planned to deliver the really bad news.

According to one source, severance packages will be offered to those laid off, and new part-time positions (possibly the ones published yesterday ahead of today's announcement - nice, eh?) are being created.

For reporters on the layoff list, a 48-hour notification window with severance packages are expected to arrive at people's mailboxes Monday.

There appears to be an chance for the laid off full-time reporters to apply for the downsized part-time positions. And some management folks will suffer salary decreases.

Presses at the Gazette will be "moth balled" with printing of the Gazette moving to Grand Rapids.

Friday's meetings were a poorly kept secret and I began getting notifications of it on Wednesday.
The news at Grand Rapids is equally bad.

A total of 65 layoffs at the Grand Rapids Press, 15 from the newsroom. Will have to wait and see how that all shakes out.

Ad production is reportedly heading to Erie, Pennsylvania, so a pretty long commute for the Booth faithful on the west side of the State. That fact, along with many others were left out of the cushy, lame news release put out by the company. For a news gathering organization they certainly aren't ashamed enough to cover their own bad news with the same sensational language they would use for some other company.

Or perhaps, the editor didn't risk letting a real business reporter cover the story as it should have been. Shameless.

I'm told the Muskegon Chronicle is down to six reporters, but could use some help if that's a decrease from today, or if it has been that low for awhile.

Once again we'll wait and see how much pain the suits and brains that have brought Booth/Advance to this point suffer. Guessing probably not as much as those they led.

All this became possible when the "Lifetime" job pledge was withdrawn in August. I have a question. How do you withdraw a lifetime pledge, before a lifetime is over? If you can withdraw a lifetime pledge, then it never was one. That would make it a lie.

At least one layoff today at the Flint Journal. (Aren't they hiring?) Inside Out has that story.

Hang in there folks, our hearts are with you.


Anonymous said...

All this became possible when the "Lifetime" job pledge was withdrawn in August. I have a question. How do you withdraw a lifetime pledge, before a lifetime is over? If you can withdraw a lifetime pledge, then it never was one. That would make it a lie.

Jim of L-Town said...

At the very least, the company should have ended the lifetime pledge for new employees. Anyone hired after a certain date would not longer be covered by the pledge.

Those with the lifetime pledge would keep it until they left the company.

Many of us suspected it was a joke and a feel-good proposition all along that would never stand up in court, but ethically you would think a promise, is a promise.

A lifetime is just that. And a promise should be a promise.

That lifetime thing seems to still be working for the empty suits, however.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I wish someone in the media, (other than print media since Booth has a monopoly in the Michigan cities the publish in) would do an in depth story about how they defaulted on their "lifetime" pledge to employees. Is this legal? Verbal contracts are legal, and this was written down and restated virtually every year to employees when they got their 1-2 percent increases. If someone has contacts with any t.v. outlets, magazines, etc. it would be great to at least let the readers of these newspapers know they lied to their employees.

Jim of L-Town said...

At least Booth has answered the age old question of how long is a lifetime.

It's as long as Booth says it is.

Non-believer said...

Even an Advance publisher, lured by the pledge, found the pledge useless.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard if any of the newly laid off "lifetime" pledge employees are going to sue Booth? Class action lawsuit perhaps? Of course most won't want to lose their meager severance and will sign away their rights to challenge Booth's breaking of the pledge IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that the K'zoo print plant will be mothballed, since Booth built it only a couple of years ago. I wonder what's happening at Ann Arbor's (relatively) new print plant?
And what happened to the Thinkers who made these multimillion-dollar decisions that didn't work out? Nope, must be the fault of the worker bees.

The Daily Derelict said...

Here's a full breakdown on the double standard the Kalamazoo Gazette, Grand Rapids Press and Muskegon Chronicle have for reporting layoffs at private businesses and governmental institutions:

inky said...

Well, do you expect a company that lies to its employees will be truthful to its customers when reporting layoffs?

As for the "lifetime" job pledge, it was instituted to keep the unions at bay when Booth was making truckloads of money. Combined with the good insurance it keep people happy enough not to organize.

Anonymous said...

Two comments here:

1) Inky is dead on -- this was to keep the unions out. And it worked. Months before we all got fired, I asked around about interest in a union. People were too afraid of retribution to show interest.

2) I was told by an attorney that a lawsuit based on the job pledge was "un-winnable" because it wasn't truly a contract. (which is also how they were able to change it at will to include printing 'every day').

I was hired in 2006 and was taken through the employee manual very carefully, including the job pledge. I grilled Mr. Brewer on this item in particular, because it was just crazy, unlike anything I'd encountered at any other job. I knew it sounded fishy. I was reassured again and again that it was real. (Always trust your instincts... ha!)

There were so many lies, though. My friend here was urged not to take the buyout because they really needed him. They also said that the last round of buyouts would "right the ship" for 7 years at least. What about people who were encouraged to move to Grand Rapids because there was job security over there. And most of all, the difference between employees who were in a position to take the buyout and those who were not at the time. Two people who worked for the company for 30 years at $50K. Buyout guy? $125K. Severance guy? Around $27K.

If people had been honestly warned of the risks, they would have gone. It's just shameful...

Anonymous said...

The audacity is truly remarkable.

At least those new interns will have their pick of which workstation to use, given the 15 people in the G.R. Press newsroom that have to clear out soon.