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Truthout: A Morally Untenable Corporate System

April 20, 2011- It's good to know that some corporate chieftains do feel the pain of their underlings -- those hard-hit workers who keep being forced to do more for less reward. Take the example of Gannett, the media giant that owns 23 television stations and 82 newspapers, including USA Today.

Early this year, Gannett employees were notified that, for the third year in a row, they would get no raises and would have to take a week off without pay. Harsh financial realities necessitate these sacrifices, they were informed.

The bad news was delivered as gently as possible, including a thank you for their "continued commitment and great work." To soothe the pain a bit, the note added that Gannett's two top executives would take a commensurate cut in their salaries.

OK, team spirit!

But don't grab the pom-poms and break out in cheers. Only two months later, bonuses totaling $3 million were very quietly bestowed on the top two. And to add a bright cherry to this sweet delight, the duo of honchos also were awarded stock options and deferred compensation totaling as much as $17 million.

So, some 32,000 workers were forced into furloughs to save about $17 million for Gannett, but the corporation's No. 1 and No. 2 were then allowed to slurp up all of that savings and then some. Who says there's no "I" in team?

It's not like the executives are doing a terrific job. With them at the helm, Gannett's newspaper readership, revenues and stock price have fallen substantially, and the corporate chieftains are widely viewed as lacking imagination. But they are credited with "aggressive cost management" -- a cynical euphemism for throwing employees in the ditch.

Once again, working people are sacrificed because of management's failure, middle-class opportunities are shrunk, and top executives collect multimillion-dollar bonuses. Where's the morality in that?

Morality? This will seem like a fairy tale now, but not so long ago, it was actually possible for a CEO pay to constitute "an embarrassment of riches."

How quaint. Today, the riches are unimaginably massive, but the embarrassment gene seems to have been completely bred out of corporate chieftains. They have no qualms, much less shame, at producing negative results for the company, offing thousands of underlings, then wheeling in a front-end loader to haul their own pay to the bank.



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