This past spring, Michael Ferro resigned as chairman of publicly traded media-looting hell-company Tronc, Inc., just ahead of the publication of sexual harassment allegations against him. As a parting gift, Tronc paid him $15 million, voluntarily bundling up the total value of a three-year consulting contract into one lump payment expensed against the company’s earnings and putting itself $14.8 million in the red for the first quarter. Today, Tronc gutted the New York Daily News, laying off at least half of its editorial staff to cut costs. In a society not crippled and driven completely insane by capitalism, motherfuckers would go to prison for this.
When people talk pejoratively about “class warfare,” they almost never are referring to things like the above sequence of events. But what happened to the Daily News at the hands of Tronc is class fucking warfare, a massive redistribution of wealth from the paper’s working people to a disgusting handsy shitbag multimillionaire, in a decision made far above those working people’s heads by a small handful of executive- and investor-class vampires. The journalists who lost their livelihoods today in effect had their salaries and benefits re-routed to Michael Ferro’s bank accounts. Against their wills, they were made to pay him for being a fucking pig.
Versions of this are happening all across the media industry: Ownership parasites writing checks to themselves and each other that must be cashed out of the livelihoods of real people with no say in the matter. Deadspin’s parent company, Univision, recently bought out dozens of people across our network of sister sites—originally they’d intended layoffs, before negotiating with our union—not because we’re doing unprofitable work, but simply as a means of passing along the outrageous debt the company’s owners took on when they purchased Gizmodo Media Group in the first place. Next they’ll sell us off—altogether or piecemeal, as best suits their wallets and nothing else. It is, pretty much exactly, the Fuck you, pay me! sequence from Goodfellas, playing out in real time.
It’s legal to do this. It’s legal, if you’re rich enough, or carefully enough obscured behind the legal fiction of a hedge fund or corporation, to borrow vast sums of money, purchase a company with it, and then simply pass that debt along to the people who do the company’s work and make its products, by stripping their jobs so you can redirect their salaries toward debt payment. It’s legal to decide, freely, that you will pay a disgraced former executive tens of millions of dollars all at once rather than over a period of years—or rather than going to court to argue you shouldn’t have to pay a guy $15 million for not being able to keep his fucking hands to himself!—and then recover some or all of the cost by just straight-up taking people’s livelihoods away from them. It’s legal for the parasites who buy an ownership stake in your company to decide they will appropriate your livelihood for themselves; it’s legal for them to say that your wages and health care must pay their debts for them. It’s legal for them to trade your employment for their enrichment; it’s legal to purchase a company for the sole purpose of liquidating it, laying off all its workers, and keeping the money for yourself.
In absolutely any moral sense these things are pure theft, but they’re all legal, because in America, despite all this society’s supposed hatred of “class warfare,” it’s legal for the rich to prey upon the rest of us. In America, a common person might go to jail for writing a bad check, but a billionaire vampire can destroy people’s careers and strip their healthcare from them and just straight-up hand that money over to one of his rich pals and nobody can even so much as write either of them a fucking ticket for it.
Anyway, I just wanted to point out that it doesn’t have to be like this, while I still can, before this company’s eventual buyer eliminates my job and deletes this post from the internet.