JCI: Former employee-owned media company increasingly milks its employees | WisCommunity

JCI: Former employee-owned media company increasingly milks its employees

What's wrong with Wisconsin, and America, in a nutshell:

Steven J.Smith, CEO of Journal Communications Inc. (JCI), Wisconsin's largest media conglomerate, saw his pay go up NINE PERCENT last year. Meanwhile, the firm he runs saw its stock price DECLINE nine percent. What a country, huh?!

But it gets better. Smith, a former radio ad salesman who worked his way to the top of the outfit that includes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, took home $2.2 million in compensation, including base salary, bonuses, changes in pension value, various other perks and the value of stock options.

Meanwhile, the firm he oversees earned $22.2 million for the year. Yup, that's right: Smith's pay was equal to ten percent of the company's entire net earnings in 2011. Nevertheless, the firm's publicly traded stock lately has swooned to single-digit lows -- quite a change from decades during which the company was privately held, and employees owned all the stock, sharing in the firm's fortunes instead of themselves being regarded as a a pesky cost center holding down profits.

Even as Smith was being rewarded for overseeing a decline in JCI shareholder value and further cuts to the Journal Sentinel's editorial operations (just as he has been rewarded when, as is now uncommonly the case, the firm does well), rank and file employees struggled as they have for years with picyune pay, frozen pensions and work overloads.

Yet, the Journal Sentinel and JCI's electronic outlets, which include right-wing Milwaukee radio station WTMJ-AM, go on spending uncommon amounts of time questioning if not outright attacking voters and activists who have been busy protesting the upwardly massive redistribution of wealth in this increasingly gilded -- but not guilded -- nation.

Indeed, JCI has treated its own employee labor unions almost as badly as Scott Walker has treated public employee unions, stiff-arming them and putting every hindrance, legal or otherwise, in the way of collective bargaining. You see, government is the problem and workers are the problem. CEOs and rich people and politicians who serve them? Pay no attention. They're busy creating jobs. Somewhere.

But what's really disgusting about this tale is that Smith's good fortune is BELOW average among Wisconsin CEOs. The Journal Sentinel itself reported today that average CEO pay for public-stock firms in Wisconsin was $4.2 million last year -- an increase of 8.35 percent over 2010. Indeed, the CEO of the state's biggest enterprise, Johnson Controls, knocked down about $22 million, more than enough to run many a company in this state for a year.

Given those statistics, every non-executive, salaried worker in this state should be asking of their legislators and opinion leaders this one question: When, if ever, will MY salary ever increase by eight or nine percent, especially in a year when my firm is losing value and making lower profits? Why is all my hard work magically attributed to the supposedly keen leadership of my bosses? Bosses whose main attribute is the ability to run sweatshops that are too stingy to pay enough to keep up with rising costs -- except, and then some, for themselves?

And those salaried rank and file workers should be asking this: Why, exactly, do Republicans like Sen. Robin Vos and Gov. Walker like the idea of "right to work" laws that would essentially let businesses hold even more sway over fair working conditions and just compensation?

Of course, many of us already know the answer. But given how they operate, can the Journal Sentinel and other mainstream media even speak its name? For, in truth, the only thing liberal about the Journal Sentinel these days is how much its parent firm pays its CEO.


May 13, 2012 - 9:25am