Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At the Tribune Company, Inquiring Union Minds Want to Know

Posted By on 08.12.09 at 11:26 AM

The Tribune Company has always managed to keep the Newspaper Guild out of its newsroom, but some other papers in the far-flung Tribune empire haven't been so fortunate. And in Delaware, a federal bankruptcy judge just ruled that the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild must be told some of the details of the company's $70 million executive bonus plan.

The guild represents about 225 newsroom employees of the Baltimore Sun, where 61 journalists were laid off in April.

Earlier this month Tribune COO Randy Michaels wrote the court arguing for the bonuses. "Incentivizing employees is essential to Tribune's future success," he maintained. "We must continue motivating our people to overcome obstacles, achieve our performance goals and take the company to the next level."

The Newspaper Guild promptly wrote the court questioning the bankrupt company's incentivizaton theory. "The proposed bonuses to top executives are excessive and may, in fact, have a detrimental effect on motivating others who contribute to the bottom line," said the Guild. "Indeed, the payment of disproportionate bonuses to a select group of executives may have the opposite effect on the rank-and-file employees."

The arcane art of incentivation is based on the premise that the more money high level executives make, the more extra they need to be paid in order to take their jobs seriously. Rank-and-file workers have traditionally struggled to get their minds around this theory.

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