Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Newspaper Strike Looms; Does "Gerry" Know What's Going On?

By Ralph Cipriano

As Newspaper Guild members voted overwhelmingly last night to authorize what would be the first newspaper strike in this town in 30 years, people were asking about "Gerry."

"The real question is, is Gerry aware of what's going on," asked Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia. Ross said he was amazed that "such a great philanthropist as Gerry would allow things to get to this point."

"Gerry" is H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, the 85-year-old former billionaire philanthropist who overpaid when he and the late Lewis Katz bought the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and on May 27, 2014 for the inflated price of $88 million. [When Katz died in a plane crash, Lenfest was left holding the bag as sole owner]. After 35 fruitless negotiating sessions over 7 months, Guild members voted 287 to 26 to authorize union leaders to prepare for a strike on June 27th, when the current contract expires.

If there's a newspaper strike, "It's part of his legacy," Howard Gensler, president of the Newspaper Guild said about Lenfest. "If they [the newspapers] fail on his his watch that certainly doesn't jive with all the great things that he's done."

Amy Buckman, the former TV reporter who's the public relations manager for Philadelphia Media Network [PMN], the owner of the two newspapers and, insists that Geriatric Gerry is awake and alert, and up to speed.

"I can assure you that the company negotiators keep the Owner/Publisher updated on the ongoing talks," Buckman said in an email. She also reiterated in a prepared statement that if the Guild goes on strike, Philadelphia Media Network will continue to publish a newspaper and keep the website going, presumably with replacement workers.

Stu Bykofsky, veteran Daily News columnist, is one of the old-timers who remembers the last newspaper strike of 1985 that lasted 46 days.

"We don't want to strike, but if they force us into it we will have no choice, and we'll be ready," Bykofsky said as he cast his vote.

"I've never seen the membership so mobilized," Ross said. That's because they're desperate.

"We've lost half our membership in the past 15 years," a Newspaper Guild statement said. "We've given up sick days, daily overtime and salary. When will the company understand the harsh economic realities facing its employees?"

The Guild and management are fighting over seniority and health benefits. The Guild says the company wants concessions on seniority and also is trying to extract an additional $60 to $150 a week from each worker's paychecks to make up for a $2.8 million shortfall in the company's health care program.

As employees filed in to cast their votes, the talk was if they have to go to the mattresses, it was time to get tough with Gerry.

Union members have taken notice of a recent Facebook post by Lenfest's son Chase. On the occasion of his father's 85th birthday, Chase Lenfest gushed about his father's generosity.

"My father H.F. [Gerry] Lenfest will be 85 years old this Friday and has done more for this city than possibly anyone else in its history," Chase Lenfest wrote. "He grew up with no money and . . . made billions of dollars selling Suburban cable to Comcast in 2000 and is giving every penny he has away before he dies."

"He is or until recently was chairman of the board of the Art Museum, the Curtis School of Music, The American Revolutionary Center to name a few, in addition to giving thousands of scholarships to needy Philadelphia students," Chase Lenfest wrote.

"He grew up working extremely hard on a farm and was captain of a destroyer in the Navy," Chase Lenfest wrote about his father. "He is all about hard work and has never worked less than 60-70 hours a week. He still lives in the 3-bedroom 2,000 square foot home I grew up in. My parents have never had a maid or a landscaper or any help. All he cares about is doing EVERYTHING he can while he has time to help as many people as possible."

"He is a great guy," Gensler conceded. But now, "Gerry needs to do the right thing for his employees," the union president said. They "should not have to go broke paying for health care."

In a swipe at the company's requests for concessions on seniority, the Newspaper Guild published an ad in the May 29th Daily News that said, "Seniority Matters. Happy 85th Birthday to Publisher HF "Gerry" Lenfest. From the Newspaper guild -- CWA Local 38010."

Can a parasite bill a host?
If Philadelphia Media Network needs to cut needless expenses, sources say that former Inky Publisher Brian Tierney is still billing the company between $20,000 and $25,000 a month for his "services" as a consultant. Can a parasite bill a host? Tierney was fired in 2013 after company officials discovered they paid him $25,000 a month for three straight months to boost advertising revenues, and that for three straight months Tierney brought in zip.

Lenfest, however, in one of his first brilliant moves as the new owner, reinstated Tierney as a consultant.

Buckman did not respond to a request for comment regarding Tierney's bills. In her defense, maybe she was busy rounding up scabs.

Guild members remember Tierney not so fondly as the guy who overpaid when he bought the papers in 2006 for $515 million. The guy who in December 2008 awarded himself and another executive, Mark Frisby, -- another guy brought back by Lenfest -- six-figure bonuses. Then, three months later, Tierney filed for bankruptcy.

And while in bankruptcy in 2009,  Tierney defaulted on a $50 million payment owed the Guild pension fund. A fund that Guild officials say as a consequence will run dry in eleven years.

Tierney doesn't just confine his talents to the Inquirer. He's also chairman of the Poynter Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Florida nonprofit institute for journalism. According to the Poynter Foundation's 990 tax filings, Tierney hasn't raised a dime for the foundation the past two years.

At least he's remarkably consistent.

Beginning on Sunday, local Newspaper Guild leaders will be in Detroit, meeting with the leaders of the Communication Workers of America and the International Newspaper Guild, to seek funds for a strike.

In response to the union strike vote, spokesperson Buckman said that while PMN "recognizes and respects the right of the Guild members to authorize" a strike vote, that decision "does not change PMN's commitment to operate both digitally and in print in the event of a strike, so that we can continue to serve our readers, subscribers, advertisers and employees, and so we can best protect the long-term future of our company."

Management has warned the union that in the event of a strike their pay and health benefits would end immediately.

So would Gerry's reputation as a philanthropist.


  1. Screw Gerry get sick days back and everything else you gave up. This jerkoff wants to break the union let this happen and it will start with other unions. If he shuts down fuck.em its a no win situation anyway next they.ll want your first born stick together even if it means its over. Let him eat the 88 million and close the joint.

  2. Glad to see Brian Tierney back in the limelight!


    1. Birds of a feather flock together !!!!

  4. Great piece; keep them coming.

  5. Good, go on strike, break the union. Those going on strike will quickly realize no one cares if they are gone and there are many other outlets for the same information. Good luck using your limited skill set to find another job that will pay you what you already receive.

    1. Whoever you are, you are a complete idiot. Where do you think these "many other outlets" get their information? From paid reporters and editors, dumbbell. What are you---a one per center? If not, your future is just as imperiled as the people at the papers. Wake up, fool. Nobody cares? You will when your employer tells you, oh by the way, that'll be another 10 grand this year for health care.

    2. Oh no...where will we get Far Left Lunatic news from if they go on strike?

      Won't somebody think of the children?

    3. Agreed. Let them go on strike. let the newspaper fold. Its not the people with the big money who are going to suffer. It won't even be the union reps. It will only be the poor struggling fool who is trying to make ends meet. Think it over before deciding to walk a picket line. Would you be more happy with the money you are making now or the money you will be making when your new job consists of you saying "would you like fries with that" ?

    4. Sometimes one door closes another one opens how much more u gonna sacarafice most of you could collect unemployment and make more. Then look for another job while collecting. Don.t give them anything you won.t be happy if you do enough is enough. If they get scabs you know what to do. Stay strong!!!!

    5. There's always the NYT, Washington Post, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NPR etc. But what will Mayor Nutter, Ed Rendell and the rest of our Democratic pols do without the local rags to puff them up?

    6. Why stop there, what will the federal prosecutors use to taint the jury pool and perpetuate lies before a defendant gets to trial. The Inquirer should be charged with subordination of perjury, lying for the prosecutors, this paper should strike and one of their collective barging points should be, that all reporter should print the truth, not the truth as handed to them by prosecutors. If the police trial did not teach the media about waiting before condemning the innocent , the almost weekly parade of exonerations of people that have spent a lifetime in jail for a crime they did not commit should be pause for thought. Get on the ball. Sidney Powell (Licensed to Lie author) did not list the Inquirer as one of the publications of trying to wake us up. ( Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the New York Observer). The Inquirer did not run a blockbuster story The Washington Post broke on April 19,2015 on the FBI hair analysis which stated that 96% of the testimony the FBI gave was false. Thousands sent to prison and 32 sentenced to death, 14 of whom are now dead. It must have inconvenient timing during the police narcotics trial, instead they ran a 5 sentence blurb. The Inquirer is responsible for forming public opinion, holding up lies as irrefutable truths harms the defendants , harms the judicial system and fosters hatred. So strike and don't come back, we can live with the lies, without the hatred, we will get our news from the other publications that care to get it right. Selling your soul to sell newspapers is detestable.

    7. This reader raises a serious issue. The Inky has long functioned as the press office for prosecutors. Time and time again they trumpet allegations as gospel. In doing so, they torch the presumption of innocence and taint a jury pool. And when they're wrong they never look back.

      We saw it with the narco cops case, we saw it with the prosecution of the archdiocese. In the narco cops case a jury totally repudiated a pathetic prosecution case by 47-0. In the archdiocese case, as I've written time and time on this site, the evidence is overwhelming that Billy Doe, the former altar boy who claimed he was repeatedly raped by two priests and a former Catholic school teacher, is a liar. At least one appeals court has concluded that Msgr. Lynn should have never been charged under the law, agreeing with the stated opinion of former DA Lynne Abraham and a previous grand jury. The evidence is also overwhelming that Lynn didn't get a fair trial with a ridiculously pro-prosecution judge who let in as evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to three years before Lynn was born.

      But the Inky never looks back. It's on to the next crusade, and burning new victims at the stake.

    8. We all know you have a dislike for the Inky and they are most likely not on your christmas card list but you were an employee for that paper, Did you feel the same way when employed by them ? What you are saying does not happen over night and if you felt that it was happening how come you did not leave ? You and others blame main stream media for alot of things, I guess your morals have changed since leaving the paper.

  6. Other Unions in this city need to take notice and back these people you could be next. Stop it here so it does.nt snowball.

    1. What will the loss be if the Inky crashes and burns ? Nothing except to those people who want something to line the bottom of their bird cage. It provides no information that I cannot get simply by turning my computer on. Sadly, newspapers are disappearing and will be a thing of the past do to modern technology. I'm pro union but the workers need to pick battles wisely, or they will be part of the past quicker then the Harbison milkman.

    2. So you say your pro-union, right? How many years do you think a union should agree to go without raises? 2? 5? 10? This contract ensures that this union and others within the same company will go more than a decade without so much as a cost of living raise. Multiple concessions in that time including lost sick time, lost vacation time, furloughs, increases in medical, decreases in retirement and a host of others. When is enough enough? How many years could you go at your current salary before you couldn't pay the rent or mortgage? These newspaper unions should stop using the term union and find another name for their organization if they continue to fail to provide decent wages, a level of security and the protections unions are supposed to ensure. 10 years, more for some, without any sort raise and multiple concessions with each contract. It's past time for this union to act like an actual union!

    3. Anonymous 2.59pm agrees with above statement of 4.50. Time for this union to step to the plate.

  7. Just look at the picture of Tierney many words come to mind one would be a Weasel! !!

  8. All of you low information union haters: I pity your pathetic souls. I have never seen such a bunch of morons.


    Economic strikers defined. If the object of a strike is to obtain from the employer some economic concession such as higher wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions, the striking employees are called economic strikers. They retain their status as employees and cannot be discharged, but they can be replaced by their employer. If the employer has hired bona fide permanent replacements who are filling the jobs of the economic strikers when the strikers apply unconditionally to go back to work, the strikers are not entitled to reinstatement at that time. However, if the strikers do not obtain regular and substantially equivalent employment, they are entitled to be recalled to jobs for which they are qualified when openings in such jobs occur if they, or their bargaining representative, have made an unconditional request for their reinstatement.

  10. Journalists should be compensated not hacks and their editors.

    Ryan Howard is a bleeding example of overpaid and underperform.

  11. Since Ralph likes to pick and choose what reporting he will post regarding clergy abuse here are some headlines that came out today he may feel is not news worthy.

    West Chester priest pleads guilty in child porn case.

    In all fairness to Ralph though he is not the only person who will not post news like this. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League and Dave Pierre of The Media Report will also fail to mention this news.

    Something tells me this holy priest will be wearing make up and posing but it won't be for photographs. That is if he too will be protected in prison like some other reader wrote was happening to Lynn

    1. Truth be said this priest will pay for his behavior and right fully so. But when the the Billy Does and Seth don.t tell the truth Williams don.t get all the facts and Billy Doe the junkie was caught changing his story several times hats off to Ralph for getting it out there. Most of you hate the Catholic Church therefore your opinion is of no concern.

      Union Strong!!!


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