Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Inky Staffers Declare No Confidence In Publisher

By Ralph Cipriano

The union that represents nearly 400 employees at The Philadelphia Inquirer, including editors, reporters, photographers and sales reps, says it has no confidence in the leadership of Publisher Terry Egger.

In a letter sent today by email and certified mail, the executive board of the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia accused Egger of "insincere dealing and flat-out lying," as well as "continued indifference to the economic pain of our membership."

"Egger has, quite simply, lost the confidence of our members," the executive board wrote the publisher and board members of Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and "We are hurting, and we are angry."

Egger, who last November, was named Editor & Publisher's Publisher of the year, did not respond to a request for comment. At the Inquirer, where newsroom employees have gone without a raise for more than a decade, they're also smarting over the company's decision four years ago to stop making contributions to the NewsGuild's pension fund.

Note to Egger: expect some job actions and nasty billboards to follow.

"Our members are not just just the 'content providers' of this organization," the NewsGuild wrote. " We are its heart and we are its future. We are hurting, and we are angry."

Last November, the union met with Egger. With their previous contract, the union had negotiated a wage re-opener, and so they were looking for a raise. Egger, however, asked the NewsGuild for a delay until December. "Again we met in good faith," the Guild wrote. "Our proposal was a 5 percent increase. Most of our members have not received a contract raise in 11 years."

"In that time, the cost of living has gone up year by year -- 2.6 percent since 2016," the NewsGuild wrote. "With no raises to offset those rising costs our members are struggling to pay bills, including such essentials as childcare. Some are working multiple jobs in an effort to make ends meet."

The NewsGuild waited through December. And then, early this month, they met again with the publisher.

"Despite what seemed like a sincere assurance by Egger," the NewsGuild wrote, "that he would look to secure money for a modest raise, saying he needed time to find money for ALL employees, he sat across from us at our Jan. 4 meeting and said he was offering nothing."

Meanwhile, while Egger was stringing along the NewsGuild, he gave another PMN union a much better deal.

Last December, "Egger panicked employees by sending out a pre-Christmas memo to the entire staff about a possible strike by the Teamsters and the damage that would cause," the NewsGuild wrote.

The company subsequently settled with the Teamsters, who deliver the papers, giving them a new contract with signing bonuses of $1,000 each. PMN also donated money to the Teamsters pension plan, and $700,000 for a "vague expense fund" to also benefit the Teamsters, the NewsGuild wrote.

At that point, the Inky's newsroom and advertising staffers figured out they'd been screwed.

The NewsGuild has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the company lied when it told the Guild back in 2015 that it was getting out of the pension business. When the company went bankrupt, it defaulted on a final $50 million payment due the Guild pension fund. Then the union found out this year that the company had been secretly funding the Teamsters' pension for the past several years to the tune of a couple million dollars.

The NewsGuild was also miffed to discover that Brian Tierney, the former Inquirer publisher who bankrupted the newspapers, and also defaulted on the $50 million payment to the Guild pension fund, had been quietly brought back as a member of the board of directors for PMN, without anybody ever telling the NewsGuild.

Another continuing problem for the NewsGuild: while its members have been required all along to make contributions toward their health benefits, Teamsters haven't had to pay for their health benefits.

NewsGuild leaders say Egger has been covering up his double standard for years in his dealings with both unions. But now the newsroom and advertising staffers are angry enough to do something about it.

"Egger's dishonesty about wanting more time to find money for all employees, combined with the company's secret pension since 2015 for the Teamsters, was the NewsGuild's reward for working with this company over the past several years, enduring pay cuts and furloughs, and even helping Egger sell the new advertising and newsroom restructurings to our members," the NewsGuild wrote. "In light of this pattern of insincere dealing and flat-out lying to the NewsGuild, and his [Egger's] continued indifference to the economic pain our of our membership, Egger has, quite simply, lost the confidence of our members."

"We have fallen way behind," the Guild wrote. "We've lost good talent in recent months and know other employees are considering leaving because they don't want to or simply can't afford to work for a company that doesn't adequately reward its employees."

Among recent departures was former Inquirer staff writer Holly Otterbein, who left for Politico.

In the newsroom Otterbein left behind, there is smoldering resentment for Terry Egger.

"Our members are outraged, insulted and determined to fight for our basic rights to a decent wage," the NewsGuild wrote. "We have seen our pension fund gutted and the company lie about being out of the pension business when, as the Teamster deal proves, it is not. We are demanding a simple across-the-board pay increase for our members, who have seen nothing but givebacks and furloughs for more than a decade."


  1. Nothing in about the Teamsters holding up the management of the Inky to pad their pension fund. The NewsGuild should realize that without a strong union leader there is no way forward for working families, no benefits, no raises, no cost of living increases, no one to fight for the membership. If only the Guild had a John Dougherty fighting for them.

    $700,000 used for a "vague expense fund", sounds like there should be more investigative reporting going on at the Inky that makes its way to the front pages, instead of reading about the baby wipes headlines.

    Where is the indictment for the Inky management or its union, misappropriation of pension funds? Sounds like an indictable offense. What hypocrites, clean your own house. Mayor Kenny should call for an investigation into the Teamsters involvement and comment on this as well. I'd like to hear what the mayor has to say.

    1. I'm not associated with any party here. But the preceding comment has zero credibility because of this asinine suggestion: "If only the Guild had a John Dougherty fighting for them." Yeah, brilliant. A federally indicted union boss with documented theft of workers' hard-earned money for his own personal use would be a fantastic leader.

      Journalists deserve fair payment for their work, and that includes, at the very least, annual increases to match inflation. Anything less will spell the death of this once grand institution.

    2. If the Feds were sincere in getting a conviction, in the IBEW Corruption Case, Kenney would have to have been interviewed and he should then be tried for lying to the Grand Jury or the FBI when he was questioned.

      Kenney is too much of a control freak not to have been part of the conspiracy.

  2. I agree they need fair payment for their work, so does every other worker in America. Once grand instution, really, when? Speaking the truth has eluded the Inky for some time now.

    Had John Doughtery fought for them they would have never had to wait 11 years for a raise. I can tell you read the Inky, as you also assume that everyone is guilty who has been indicted. The prosecutor who has been after John Doughtery has been at it since 2005, trying every angle possible.

    I read bigtrial to get the truth, lets wait for the outcome of this trial. Obviously indicted to you means guilty, it means accused not guilty. People who know better know the feds lie and have no accountability, whatsoever. No Inky reporter has ever held a prosecutor accounable.

    Lets wait before we condemn and proclaim zero credibilty on a comment.

  3. Why does my subscription cost more and more and more? Exactly whom am I supporting if not the people whose work I want to read? Given that the paper has more and more content from the Washington Post and the Associated Press, can we deduce that the Inquirer is on its way to be Denver Posted--have the legs cut out from under them--by this seemingly arrogant management?

  4. I subscribe for the same reason my friend from Poland speaks Russian, you have to know what the devil is saying.


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