Nearly 50 Posties gathered outside Washington Post headquarters this afternoon to tell their boss, Jeff Bezos, who was likely in Seattle at the time, that he’s treating them no differently than Walmart treats its employees.
“Race to the top, not the bottom, is this the Washington Post or Walmart?” one of the chants said.
In late September, the Post announced steep cuts to employees’ retirement benefits, eliminating retirement medical benefits and freezing “defined-benefit pensions” for employees not part of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. The paper also said it wants to apply these same cuts to union employees—-reporters, classified sales reps, circulation workers. These employees’ contracts expire Oct. 31, and negotiations of their new contracts are currently underway.
As the Post reported at the time:
The changes will hit hardest at employees hired before 2009 who could plan on receiving pension payments based on their income and years of service. Each of those employees could see scores — or hundreds — of thousands of dollars less over the course of a retirement. More recent hires do not have traditional pension plans.
The paper also wants to cut severance pay in half. Currently, workers get two weeks worth of severance for each year they have worked at the company.
Post writer and co-chair of the guild Fred Kunkle said the paper was once was a destination spot for journalists—a place where they could spend their careers and be able to provide for their families and themselves in retirement.
“What this says is this is not a destination, it’s a way station,” he says.
Philip Kennicott, the paper’s Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic, decided to attend the rally after he saw reporter Lenny Bernstein‘s dispatch on Ebola from Liberia on the front page of the paper today, saying he was so “moved by that story and his dedication.”
“I thought it was important to come out so the new owners know how much devotion and sacrifice people are willing to give,” Kennicott says. “They’ll have my undying love, respect, and loyalty as long as they respect my work.”
The cuts, Kennicott says, tell employees that they “don’t matter.”
The Post declined to comment for this story.
Photo by Perry Stein