Mr. Mean Genes Fights Furlough Unemployment Claims

By Jerry Del Colliano

I didn't want to believe it, but apparently Cumulus has taken their brand of mean management to another level.

You may remember those furloughs that Cumulus forced upon all but their sales people earlier in the year?

Well, turns out these folks were really not forced furloughs at all.

At least that's what we are being told is the argument Cumulus is using to defend against numerous unemployment claims made by employees for the one week they were told not to come to work.

Apparently they are forced furloughs when Cumulus issues the order and "voluntary" when Cumulus tries to get the one-week unemployment compensation denied.

In other words, if Cumulus prevails -- and so far I have no indication of a single case where they have prevailed -- the "furloughed" employee would have to return their unemployment compensation already received (usually in the $180-220 per week range).

Apparently the geniuses at Cumulus Mean Management Central never thought their employees would miss the week's pay -- maybe that's because Lew Tricky Dickey, Other Brother John, Captain Jon Pinch and "Gallows" Gary Pizzati haven't seen an unemployment line lately.

They should.

But apparently they have been insulated against the things mortal humans must endure like being out of work at the hands of Mr. Mean Genes -- the Dickey media dynasty.

The furlough idea -- which in all fairness has been picked up by other "stoopid" radio groups to save a nickel -- could actually cost Cumulus money in increased taxes going forward.

No wonder Cumulus Mean Management Central is busy running employment ads for positions so many of its currently employed employees hold -- they just won't play nice.

Seems like this is at least a moral victory for the indentured servants of radio's worst radio group in America.

A rumor spread like wildfire after the one-week mandatory furlough was meted out. Some employees including brave market managers filed for unemployment compensation in various markets. At least one state has sided with the employees, I am told.

As Chubby Checker once sang, "how low can you go".

Mr. Mean Genes has apparently missed the boat. They act as if this is all about punishing employees who will not subject themselves to any further dehumanization but meanwhile no one is seemingly watching the bigger picture.

Cumulus is being gutted.

I'm told by some Cumulus people that precious meeting time is devoted to what I have been writing in this space in recent months about Cumulus' misguided management tactics. I thought they blocked Inside Music Media from their employees email so how could they be reading any of this?

Since Cumulus is apparently discussing my stuff anyway, why don't you discuss this on this week's Skype Gripes:

Let me give you a cheat sheet:

1. Why are you fighting unemployment claims as "involuntary" when you forced your employees to take a week off? (I'll be on a plane to LA in the morning but I'd be happy to ask you these questions directly if you like. I'm looking forward to seeing Lew at the NAB, as well -- after all -- bullshit doesn't fly in Philly).

2. Tell us the truth about recent employee deaths due to high pressure management tactics. Just heard that Gene Michaels, Cumulus employee in Lake Charles, LA died about three months ago. He was PD of KKGB. Was it natural causes because now I know of three Cumulus deaths recently -- an unusually high number. Coincidence? Are there more? Even the other groups aren't losing people like this. What will you do to improve working conditions from now on in the interest of employee health? Seriously, don't blame this on me too. I wouldn't be running Cumulus as a national company but rather, as local stations competing to meet their goals. So come on -- answer.

3. Explain how Cumulus beat even Clear Channel as the worst radio group among over 1,000 voters on our Worst Radio Group poll. Come up with a better reason than the vote was on my site. Did I fix it somehow? Or is it real? Address the real issue -- mean management.

4. Why are you publicly advertising for management replacements where employees are already in place? Are they not good enough or do you disrespect them so much as to torture them with the prospect of losing their jobs while you recruit? Look at it another way. What if investment banks to whom you are close to defaulting on your loans, recruited for your replacement right in front of you? Think it would worry you, Lew? Maybe, make you nervous? Maybe put in a call to dad?

5. While we're on the topic, what's your big obsession with hiring non-radio people when you are firing so many damn good ones? Think these new ones will actually obey you better? Radio experience is something prized except at your company. Explain, please.

6. Why are you forcing some of the employees that you have to sign one-year non-competes in return for, well, virtually nothing -- two to four weeks of severance? Not legal in California and shouldn't be elsewhere. Why shouldn't your employees be calling their Congressman on this?

Oh, well ... I've lost my Skype connection.

Answer these questions or ignore them but I'm simply telling you what your employees are complaining about.

Just in case these issues do not come up in the Cumulus conference call Kumbaya, then I'll take it it up with him in person when we get to Philly. You know, the place where they boo Santa Claus (don't worry you are safe -- you're no Santa Claus).

There's too much happy talk out there and not truth about how these companies hurt their people, their listeners and their industry.

Keep blaming the messenger if you must, but I'm going to say -- it is time to stand in solidarity with the fine and talented people who work at Cumulus, Clear Channel, Citadel and other bottom feeding groups that are prematurely driving a good business into the ground.

Speak up.

When what has been described in this piece today is representative of one of radio's biggest consolidators, what more will it take?

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