WaPo Writers Blast Billionaire Owner For Trying To Cut Pensions
Members of the union that represents writers at The Washington Post are calling the company’s plan to slash pensions and cut healthcare benefits for part-time employees completely unnecessary.
“We sense that it’s a pure power play, and that management’s fundamental belief is that it should be able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, without resistance from the people who work here,” the group said in a statement Monday on its website.
The writers have been engaged in a battle with the newspaper’s owner, Jeff Bezos, who purchased the newspaper in 2013 for $250 million, and its publisher, Fred Ryan, since last month when nearly 500 of them delivered a petition to Ryan expressing their displeasure.
Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994, and just last month was named the 10th richest man in the world after the company’s first quarter sales saw a 15 percent increase, bumping his fortune to around $40 million.
They asked just one question of their new owner: “why?”
“Why on earth are you insisting on cutting retirement benefits when you’re sitting on a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of cash?” the writers asked. “Why have you shot down every compromise offered by the union if there is zero risk that the company will ever have to use operating earnings to contribute to it?”
Among other things, the writers want management not to freeze pensions, pay fair wage increases and healthcare coverage for part-time employees, which WaPo wants to cut. The health care coverage would cost the company just $35,000 a year. (Related: WaPo Union Calls Publisher ‘Cold’ And ‘Thoughtless’)
According to The Washington Post Newspaper Guild, the pension fund currently has about $371 million in assets and just $169 million in liabilities, what the group is calling an “astounding surplus.”
“There is no conceivable reason to cut benefits from a fund so hugely overfunded,” they write.
The writers say the company hasn’t offered them a reason as to why they feel the need to cut pensions, and the three compromises they have proposed to meet management’s funding concerns have all been turned down.
The most recent compromise offered by the writers guild would have accepted the Post’s plan to freeze pensions in favor of a cash balance pension plan for all future employees, but again the company said no.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the company has the right, under U.S. labor law, to impose its last best offer, which the writers do not want to happen.
Request for comment from a spokesman at The Washington Post was not returned before publishing time.
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