Cumulus Invents a New Way To Fire

The three major consolidators – the ones who have made the biggest mess of things in the radio industry – don’t have to come up with ways to avoid firing people.

That’s what they do.

Citadel, Clear Channel and Cumulus have been ridding themselves of talented and loyal employees for years now. But in the past two years the firings – or “layoffs” as they like to call them have been extraordinarily massive.

And more cutbacks are happening now.

A major group in Tucson has only one operations manager for seven stations. Other properties are being gutted of able employees for the fewest number possible and nationally produced “local” content.

Now we hear that the mad scientists at the Cumulus Reinventing the Wheel Project in Atlanta have found a way to fire people without really firing them.

They get them to quit.

That’s right.

They make them miserable (of course) and have added a new element – make it impossible for them to earn their commissions so they eventually have to quit.

Why, you ask, would Cumulus do such a thing?

One reason is that when employees quit on their own volition, Cumulus is not responsible for paying the increased unemployment taxes that are charged to them and with so many Cumulus employees biting the dust, the company is paying a lot in increased unemployment taxes.

You might say, what kind of cheap bastard would be that heartless to rob good people of a career and then try to cheat them out of their unemployment lifeline – especially in tough economic times?

How about a company that reportedly contested even one week of unemployment benefits filed by their own employees who were forced to take mandatory time off without pay. I guess the Cumulus brain trust decided employees would take a bullet for Lew. But some marched to their unemployment offices or went online and filed claims for benefits for the week they were forced to miss work without pay.

Here is how the current screws are being applied to Cumulus salespeople.

Salespeople are reportedly getting accounts taken away from them to the point where they can’t make a living – some are quitting and Cumulus is hiring replacements without radio experience.

Here’s what one of my readers says:

“ALL of their experienced reps are being pushed out the door and all the agency accounts are going to the "K.A.M." (key account manager)position. The KAM gets a low salary and 1.5% override on the net dollars”.

KAMS are supposed to handle only agency accounts in an effort to get the rest of the remaining sales force to focus on direct business.

An insider tells how the amazing scam apparently works:

“…the KAM in our office was allowed to keep all of their largest direct accounts, meanwhile being literally handed hundreds of thousands of dollars of agency billing from the rest of the sales team. This person will make money on months and months of work done by other's simply outrageous”.

In other words this Dickey brainchild is pushing the envelope of unfair practices in the work environment.

The KAM basically has free reign and does not have to attend spy-in-the-sky meetings (an obvious benefit right there).

KAMs do not have to dial for dollars under the watchful eye of big brother. I actually heard salespeople were forced to call on cobblers – that’s right, shoe repair businesses. Hey, that’s not what Lew Dickey told me in Philadelphia. You know, when he said they needed new people to go after health care business and accounts that AEs resist.


He’s kidding right?

The KAM is also immune from doing his or her own paperwork as some have assistants to do all of that and help with traffic. KAMs get to call on direct as well as agency business.

Meanwhile, the remaining minions get to call on cobblers and other accounts that have never used radio.

As one Cumulus worker said:

“I realize the commission percentage is lower for agency accounts for these salespeople, but what does it matter when their billing increased exponentially overnight, and they are no longer subject to ridiculous CSOS schedules put in place by the increasingly moronic Dickeys”.

To make matters worse the KAM position was apparently not advertised in some local offices meaning existing employees never got to interview for it. The job was handed over to the account exec the manager chose.

In one market, a Cumulus source said:

“Several people in the office I work in had as much, or more agency experience as this person, and were never even considered for the position. Again, it begs the question of fairness and ethics in the workplace”.

How serious is the latest Cumulus move to inflict pain on its people in the name of economy?

Some salespeople relieved of their best accounts are making up to 75% less than previously with no way to make up the difference because of low rates, mundane programming that lacks personality and the continuing recession.

Look, the Dickeys own the company and they can do with it what they want – nobody denies that.

Their record is pretty poor even though they spend a lot of time massaging the press into seeing Einstein when they print Dickey.

What is wrong – dead wrong and this needs to be said – is the hurtful, malicious and premeditated way the Dickey family is playing hardball with its employees.

Hurting them – their careers, their families – all because it’s their company and people are apparently not important to them.

CSOS (their sales system) is.

Local programming that emanates from Atlanta is.

Reinventing the wheel is.

I’ve got some news for Lew "Tricky" Dickey and "Other" Brother John – it isn’t working, won’t work and will ultimately fail.

Fortunately for the Dickeys, failures don't go broke when they are playing with other people’s money.

(Special note: We lost Dene Hallam over the weekend. He was a good solid radio programmer and talent who I have known for years. In recent months Dene would write to me about ice hockey and the state of radio today. When I wrote about the radio industry inviting listeners to go elsewhere with some of the shenanigans consolidators are pulling, Dene would shoot me a note that said "You are so right, professor". I am proud to have known Dene and to work in an industry with so many people who still care. Dene will be missed -- Jerry)

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