Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Wish Them Luck, September 16, 2006


YESTERDAY WE LEARNED THAT THE Ford Motor Company is moving forward with it's restructing plans via 10,000 job cuts and two plant closures. Everyone in a posistion to know agrees, the Ford Family cash faucet is about to run dry if it hasn't already. In this case, it's obvious that this move was the only option if there is to be any hope of saving the company from extinction. Simply put, the Ford Family realizes that it can no longer operate it's business in the same manner that has brought it much success for the better part of a century. If it is to survive and again become one of the worlds premiere car makers, it has to change the way it handles it's employees and produces its product. A sad but unfortunate reality.

However, there are other companies out there who care about nothing other than the bottom line and how fat they can grow their pockets. Cutting for the sake of making shareholders rich is the primary reason for America's dislike for and mistrust of corporate America. Over the past year, we've heard a lot of stories about companies cutting for the sake of cutting because some pocket protector wearing bean-counting nerd thinks the shareholders aren't getting enough of a return on their investment.

Home Depot recently cut 300 jobs at it's Atlanta Headquarters. Office Depot dumped over 1400 employees at a number of locations world wide. And less than a month ago, we learned of Radio Shack using email to fire over 400 employees. In the case of Radio Shack, I think that's a pretty cowardly way of handling an undoubtedly unpleasant situation. You have to admit that's a pretty crappy way to treat employees, some of whom have been loyal workers for the company for a long time.

Then there's the Tribune Co. and subsidiary Tribune Publishing based out of Chicago. Tribune is primarily a media company, that like most of its competition, has seen a decline in revenue over the last few years. Despite that decline, Tribune and most all of its subsidiaries are still posting a healthy profit margin.

Enter the Los Angeles Times, one of Tribune's premeire newspaper properties. Over the last three years, the Times has cut over 200 staffers from it's newsroom alone. That's not counting cuts in advertising, sales, production, and distribution.

This week, Tribune decision makers again instructed local Times management to prepare to cut a yet to be announced number of additional jobs from the newsroom in Los Angeles. In response to the corporate request, Times Editor Dean Baquet and Publisher Jeffery Johnson made the rare move of defying corporate bosses and denying the "request." Johnson was quoted as saying "newspapers can't cut their way into the future." Baquet also added, " I'm not adverse to making cuts when warranted, but that you can go too far. I have no plans to do that." Also on the paper's side are a number of local civic and political leaders who wrote a two page letter to senior officials at Tribune, urging them to reconsider the cuts.

This Times/Tribune showdown in the City of Angels is the latest headache for the Tribune Company which is under almost constant pressure from it's richest, most influential shareholders to fatten up the bottom line by making unreasonable numbers of job cuts and selling off assets.

At this point, I'll say that I am in no way of a fan of the L.A. Times. It is one of the most liberal papers in the nation that usually ends up on the wrong side of almost every important issue facing America today. However, I do have an immense respect for men like Baquet and Johnson who have the courage to make a stand against corporate leadership when it comes to protecting the workers and the product from the kind of greed that is becoming more and more common in today's corporate world. I'm not quite sure how this whole thing is going to work out for the folks at the L.A. Times. They're not getting much help from the unions that supposedly represent workers at the paper. It's no big surprise that union officials have been deafenly quite on this one. However it ends for those at the Times, it nice to see that there are a few people in leadership positions that still have the courage to be leaders. For that, I give them a tip of the hat and wish them all the luck in the world....for they will most likely need it and then some.

Originally posted 9/16/06 on Yahoo 360
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