Workers Down, Bosses Up: A Morality Play


It’s good to know that some corporate chieftains feel the pain of their underlings, who keep being forced to do more for less. Take the example of Gannett, the media giant that owns 23 television stations and 82 newspapers, including USA Today.

Early this year, Gannett notified employees that, for the third year in a row, they would get no raises and would have to take a week off without pay. The note was written with a gentle hand, acknowledging the hardship such sacrifices cause for workers and thanking them for their “great work.” To soothe the pain a bit, the note added that Gannett’s two top executives would take a commensurate cut in their salaries.

OK, team spirit!

But don’t grab the pom-poms and break out in cheers. Only two months later, bonuses totaling $3 million were quietly bestowed on the top two. To add a cherry to this sweet delight, the duo also were awarded stock options and deferred pay totaling as much as $17 million.

So some 32,000 workers were forced into furloughs to save about $17 million for Gannett, but the corporation’s No. 1 and No. 2 were allowed to slurp up all of that savings and then some. Who says there’s no “I” in team?

It’s not like the executives are doing a terrific job. Gannett’s newspaper readership, revenues and stock price have fallen substantially, and the corporate chieftains are widely viewed as lacking imagination. But they are credited with “aggressive cost management.” What’s that? It’s a cynical corporate euphemism for throwing employees in the ditch.

Working people are being sacrificed because of management’s failure, middle-class opportunities are shrinking, and top executives collect multimillion-dollar bonuses. Where’s the morality in that?

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