Tribune furloughs non-union staff making between $40K-$67K, seeks cuts from union

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Photo by Brandon Weigel.

Tribune Publishing, owner of The Baltimore Sun, today announced three-week furloughs for non-union employees who make between $40,000 and $67,000 a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The furloughs will take place between May and July, Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez wrote in an email to employees. Workers can also opt to leave the company and receive severance.

Staffers who are impacted will receive a notification in “the coming days,” Jimenez wrote, and have until May 1 to decide between the furlough and the severance. Anyone who chooses the latter will stop working for Tribune on May 8.

Earlier this month, Tribune announced permanent pay cuts, ranging from 2 to 10 percent, for non-union employees making more than $67,000 a year. The slashes took effect April 19.

Scott Dance, an environment, science and weather reporter at The Sun who serves as unit chair of the newsroom’s union, said today’s furloughs and the earlier salary reductions cover editors at the paper, some ads staff and members of management.

In his letter, Jimenez wrote the company is asking unionized workers to make similar concessions.

The Baltimore Sun Guild, which represents reporters, designers, photographers, building staff and other ads team members, asked Tribune for financial figures to demonstrate the cuts are necessary, Dance said.

“We’re waiting to see the information that we’ve asked for from the company,” he said. “Once we get a look at that, we’ll figure out where to go from there.”

Press operators and drivers for Baltimore Sun Media Group are represented by a separate union, Teamsters Local 355.

Like a lot of media companies, Tribune has seen a decline in ads as businesses get hammered by stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the virus–even as more and more people are turning to the news to stay informed, Jimenez wrote.

Two weeks ago Jimenez said he would forego his salary for two weeks and take a 10 percent cut, totaling a 13.8 percent decrease in his income. All members of the board of directors also took a 13.8 percent pay cut, he said.

In addition to The Sun, Tribune has the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, The Virginian-Pilot and other outlets in its portfolio.

Across the board, the media industry has been ravaged by the ongoing pandemic, as businesses that traditionally buy advertising have themselves seen severe losses or had to close for an extended period to meet local government guidelines.

A running list compiled by the Poynter Institute shows dozens of newspaper, alt-weeklies, online publishers, magazines, radio stations and TV stations have had to cut salaries, furlough workers, layoff staff or shut down altogether.

Brandon Weigel

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