63 Days Without Severance

Gannett continues to stall payments to former workers

        Sixty-three days have passed since April 11, the last official day for editorial employees terminated from The Commercial Appeal.
         And 43 days have passed since May 1, the last official day for terminated advertising employees.
         After all this time, we're still trying to get Gannett to pay these former employees a severance: 23 people in all, 12 in editorial, 11 in advertising.

         Last week we hung up signs throughout The Commercial Appeal building at 495 Union Avenue. They say "Shame on Gannett - Pay the severance."

         The story of how we got to this point is long and complex.
         Because of some quirks within our union contract, every time the company lays off workers, we have to negotiate for severance. Obviously, this is not ideal for anyone.
         In this case, Gannett broke a lot of rules in the advertising department, essentially firing everyone and forcing them to compete against one another for jobs, in violation of our contract.

         We wanted to settle the editorial severance matter quickly and get those workers paid while we sorted out the problems in advertising.

         Gannett has refused to do this, essentially holding the editorial workers hostage until we agreed to a blanket amnesty deal forgiving the company for their rule-breaking in advertising.

         In response, we filed a union grievance as well as federal complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.
         The federal National Labor Relations Board investigation of The Commercial Appeal's actions is ongoing. Both Guild vice-president Wayne Risher and I have given hours of sworn testimony in the federal case. Another person from our team testified on Thursday.
         Even as the federal cases continue, we've been trying to reach a settlement.
         It's time-consuming. Every settlement offer we make has to be checked and double-checked by our attorneys. We have to discuss details with the people affected. Key people sometimes go out of town. We'll make a settlement offer, then wait. Days go by.

         We communicated with the company attorney as recently as Friday, and we might be very close to making a deal.
         Then again, I could be wrong about that - back in early April, I likewise thought a settlement was right around the corner.

         And here we are.

         Sixty-three days without severance for the former editorial workers.
         Forty-three days without severance for the former advertising workers.
         In a word, the company's behavior is shameful.

         The behavior is also self-destructive.  It harms employee morale, weakens recruiting and drives off good people.
         A fair settlement would help put this issue behind us.
         I truly hope that I'll be able to announce a settlement of this issue sometime soon.

         In the meantime, please share the news about the latest developments with your friends and associates. And thank you for your support.


                                     Daniel Connolly
                                     President, Memphis Newspaper Guild