The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia


Dear Guild Family:
To say “Happy New Year” would ignore a reality for nearly three dozen of our members who face the loss of their jobs in about a month.
The Inquirer has extended buyout offers to all employees in customer service with the intent of laying off just about anyone who does not take the buyout.
This is the result, among other things, of the continuing decline in print subscribers in an industry prioritizing digital growth. It is also a move the company, and its many iterations of ownership, has threatened for more than a decade. And while we had hoped that our ownership by a local nonprofit, which eliminates the pressure so many other news companies have of shareholder and other investor demands, would mean avoiding this path, the reality is The Inquirer is still a business that needs to run as profitably as possible. Doing so requires largely outsourcing this work, company leadership has determined.
I want all of you to appreciate what an impossibly difficult job our customer service members have. Day in and day out, they wake up and know that the phone calls they answer largely will be from customers angry over not getting a paper, getting a wet paper, challenging a bill or taking issue with a story. They are all things these incredibly patient people have no power over. They aren’t the people who decided to make print deadlines so early that the papers don’t include late-night sports scores. Yet they have to endure the calls from readers frustrated about that. Nor are they responsible for decisions to eliminate a comic strip or any other beloved feature, yet they withstand the subscriber complaints with class and patience.
These people have been subjected to racial slurs and expletives as part of their work. The public can be so very unkind. So it is no exaggeration to say our customer service representatives have the hardest job in the company. By far. That is why Bill Ross and I have pushed the company to offer as generous a buyout package as possible, for these people have earned that. This is a department that has never, ever been offered any of the past buyouts. So we are grateful one is being extended now.
As of now, no other departments are eligible for this buyout and no others are being discussed.
We also don’t know all the details of how customer service needs will be handled in the future. I only hope The Inquirer and its Lenfest Foundation ownership recognize that the company’s reputation lies in part in how it serves its customers.
To every customer service employee I extend gratitude for all you have done every day under less than ideal circumstances. I wish you a next chapter that involves less stress and more thank yous.
In solidarity and appreciation,