Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Layoffs at The Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 3:50 PM

There's more bad news for Commercial Appeal employees. According to an online message from Memphis Newspaper Guild president Daniel Connolly, the CA will once again be making significant cuts in both its editorial staff and in the physical size of the newspaper. At this point, there's no information as to how many jobs will be eliminated when the cuts begin on February 1.

Last spring, not long after the CA's last major staff reduction, the Memphis' daily was being heralded by trade publications like Editor & Publisher for growing its circulation by more than 30 percent, at a time when daily newspapers around the country were losing readership and laying off employees. That was happy talk. Those circulation numbers were bolstered through the CA's Newspapers In Education program. Paid circulation slipped slightly more than 14 percent.

(Apparently not everybody at The Commercial Appeal has been forced to cinch up their belts. Last March, after the newspaper's largest round of layoffs, CA publisher Joe Pepe purchased a second home on Excitement Drive in Celebration, Florida. Documents (available here) show that Pepe made a down payment of $100,000, and took out a $279,500 mortgage through Countrywide Bank. The three bedroom, 2.5 bath home was built in 2005 and originally listed for $424,900. It's Pepe's second Florida property. He purchased an undeveloped parcel of land in Osceola County in 2005 for $305,000.

Here's the full text of Connolly's message:

CA job cuts on Feb. 1

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010


We received a formal notice from the company late Friday (Jan. 15) that there will be job cuts on Feb. 1.

The company gave us a one-paragraph letter that did not include the number of positions to be cut or the names of the employees to be cut. We have already asked for a meeting with the company so that we can get that information quickly and so that the workers cut can find other jobs.

We will pass along as much information as possible as soon as we have it.

Let me repeat the points that I made in the Dec. 28 newsletter about what the Guild can and can’t do in this situation.

We can

-Negotiate about the way workers are laid off and in some cases can limit cuts by finding volunteers who are ready to leave anyway.

-Get early warning about cuts. By contrast, in most workplaces, the first official word of cuts comes on the day they happen.

-Block job cuts related to outsourcing. Remember, the current contract says the company CAN outsource work, but CAN’T cut the people who are impacted and must reassign them to other jobs.

-Guarantee that workers get severance, per our contract. If it wasn’t for The Guild, there would be no guarantee of severance at all.

-Organize self-help groups and networking sessions for workers who have been cut.

We can’t

-Stop job cuts based on the newspaper’s desire to reduce the size of the work force or eliminate a job function. The bottom line: we can’t stop all job cuts, but the process is better because The Guild is here.

What to do now

-Download work samples from your office computer now. Access might be blocked later.

-Prepare your resume and other job application materials.

-Tell your friends, family and professional contacts that you may lose your job. Ask for job leads and suggestions. If you find something good, apply for it now. You can always choose to hold on to the job you have if you aren’t cut.

-Understand how the process works. At the CA, the cuts are based on comparisons between groups of people - for instance, management ranks all metro reporters against one another, all the business reporters against one another, et cetera. Managers decide how many workers they’ll need in each area, and the lowest-ranked workers are cut.

The rankings may be unfair, and it’s my understanding that The Guild has challenged this system in the past. Unfortunately, it’s still the system that exists and the one we have to deal with.

If you lose your job

-Remember that you have the right to have a union representative in the room with you for any meeting that can lead to discipline and termination. If the meeting has already started, you can ask for a time out so you can find one.

-If there is any complaint or question about your termination, bring it to the union immediately.

-Take a brief time to mourn, then start looking for a job fast. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

-Take advantage of Guild-sponsored networking sessions and our post-employment e-mail list.

If you don’t lose your job

-Assist others by passing along job tips to the post-employment e-mail list. (Use the contacts listed below.)

-Support the Guild so we can continue to represent you in the future. If you’re not a member, please join. Numbers will be smaller after the job cuts and your participation will mean more than ever.

Further updates

We will be distributing fliers within the building for further updates and we will also be updating this site. Guild members can obtain faster updates by signing up for our e-mail list. (Use the contacts listed below.)


If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact me ... I'm sorry to share this news, but let's make the best of it.

Daniel Connolly,

President, Memphis Newspaper Guild

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