Mean Genes: Cumulus Stops Its Fired From Taking Radio Jobs

What's happening to radio employees at the hands of the three biggest consolidators is bad enough, but now we get evidence that at least one of them is getting mean.

And one former Cumulus employee is going on record about it.

Darren Tandy was fired by Cumulus in Indianapolis -- or should we say "laid off" because they were cutting the budget.

But when he landed on his feet and got another job in the market, the mean gene reappeared in the Dickey Dynasty.

Let me let Darren tell it:

"After a sixteen-year run at WFMS/Indianapolis, I was laid-off permanently "without cause" by Cumulus in March.

I had signed a "contract" that was to run until January 2010 back in late '07. They told me there was language in the contract that allowed them to dismiss me without cause (turns out they were right).

BUT the Market Manager was going to release me from the non-compete after my "four weeks" of severance was up (I believe Clear Channel was MUCH more fair to their riffed employees).

Emmis hired me to work in Indianapolis. I was set to go in and start traing (sic)....when Cumulus sends a threat of a "cease and desist" and Emmis had to withdraw the offer because Cumulus changed their minds over the non-compete.. This was after the release of the Winter Book which showed my evening show had its best ratings in years I'm more upset/hurt over that than I am the actual termination.

I was so embarrassed for myself and Emmis. Cumulus is truly the worst".

I do not have all the facts in this case, just this heartfelt representation by Darren who seems like a pretty sincere radio guy. Nonetheless, he remained out of radio even when Cumulus didn't need him and couldn't afford him.

Even when he was hired when radio jobs are hard to come by -- in his home market.

The Cumulus "mean gene" at work again?

I'd like to think that this was an isolated case, but unfortunately that's not so.

A Cumulus employee from the South got his pink slip this year after reportedly improving the ratings by what he calls "almost doubled". Of course, Cumulus was said to be down to one live morning personality in the market as they don't seem to care about live and local that much anymore.

Here's this victim's sorry tale -- preferring to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation:

"After I went on the air with another radio station two months after I was fired, I got a call from the GM saying she was going to enforce my six-month non-compete.

I told her that my attorney had advised me to work because no court would uphold it since the company laid me off, and I also said if you want to tell (the market) that you want to actively try to keep a guy from supporting his family during a recession to be my guest.

She told me that Cumulus' non-compete had been upheld by the... state supreme court and that Cumulus Legal would be sending me a...say the magic words with me...cease and desist.

I very nicely said she could send me whatever she wanted. My "non-compete" expires in seven days, and I will let you guess how many cease-and-desists I have seen so far from the brave Miss Piggy (the nickname for their General Manager-ED)".

Again, this is one person's description of the events but keep in mind people are stepping forward to tell their stories in spite of a Cumulus crackdown on free speech and threats of termination if they do -- a level of hardball that makes Clear Channel's John Slogan Hogan look like Mister Rogers.

If Lew Dickey would like to deny it and answer the allegations, I'd be happy to pass his denial along to you.

Say it ain't so, Lew?

What is mind boggling to me is that the radio industry has been reduced to civil war because of a handful of consolidators -- the big boys whose companies start with the letter "C". (For the latest real time Inside Music Media poll results on which groups are considered to be the worst, click here).

Management is turning on its employees somehow seeing them as the enemy.

Take Cumulus.

They hitchhiked on Clear Channel's mass extermination of employees to save money, but unlike Clear Channel, started hiring new people.

In others word, they wanted it both ways.

Layoffs for economic reasons and hiring to improve the work force, I guess.

I'm sure if you've read this space over the past few weeks, you've heard of all the Cintas employees that Cumulus is recruiting. Apparently working for a uniform company gives you better credentials than a proven record in the radio industry from the very people Cumulus is pink slipping.

I'm wondering what Cumulus recruiting prospects would think if they knew the rest of the story.

When you fire a worker -- especially a competent, successful and well liked person -- you are sending the wrong message to the rest of your employees -- if you care.

It seems from anecdotal evidence that Cumulus is hell bent to replace people rather than rehire them.

That the mass firing was only partially for economic reasons.

The other was apparently personnel cleansing.

Many of the Cumulus brain trust (if I may bend the meaning of that imagery for a moment) are in over their heads. They have a proven record of driving their company's shareholders into the area of penny stocks (Cumulus closed at $1.38 a share Friday and even lower in after hours trading).

Debt that can't be managed even by a Harvard genius.

And the warped view that radio works the way Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Arizona Tent City jail works.

Arpaio is a local hero or villain, depending on your point of view.

He makes the incarcerated prisoners wear pink underwear, live outside even in the 115 degree Phoenix summer, serves them baloney sandwiches (some say they are moldy) and basically gives new meaning to the term "doing hard time".

It's sad when some radio companies conjure up the image of one of the toughest prisons in the country.

But even when you finally get out of Tent City's jail, no one stops you from getting a job.

The same apparently cannot be said about some ex-Cumulus employees that are trying to stay in the radio business.

Imagine if Lew Tricky Dickey, Other Brother John, Jon Pinch and a few of their minions were laid off (don't get excited now). And say they wanted to work for the Cintas uniform company but their board of directors didn't want them to work there because Cintas is Cumulus' underground pipeline to cheap workers, where would they work? What would they do? What could they do?

See guys -- play nice.

Well, thank God there are still a lot of great people in radio -- and I remind myself of this all the time.

Occasionally we must have the courage to stand up in solidarity with good people who have apparently been mistreated and say not just "let my people go" but "let my people work".

The jock blocking must stop.

Mean genes are bad for business.

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