In a complete turnabout, the Times Union is losing staffers to its smaller rival in Schenectady, the Daily Gazette.
Advertising salesman Rick Barber on Monday became the latest to make the move. His departure follows a few weeks after another salesperson, Larry Flynn, made a similar leap.
Managers Michelle Wright of Circulation and Randy Lewis of Advertising also left for the smaller competitor in recent months. Lewis is now director of advertising for the Gazette.
In addition, the Gazette ad sales staff is stocked with a half dozen other employees who left the TU in recent years.
“In 26 years at the Times Union, I have never seen this happen before,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “People have gone from the Gazette to the larger paper but never in reverse. We are training these people, helping them build a list of clients and then losing them to a rival.”
The union cited two reasons for the migration: Times Union employees have not had raises in seven years, even though the Hearst family was recently declared by Forbes to be the sixth richest clan in the country with a net worth of $35 billion.
Even more critical has been a devastating change in the work atmosphere in the Times Union advertising department. Employees petitioned Publisher George Hearst to address what they described as a hostile work environment. The company sent one of its lawyers to “investigate” but no action was ever taken except that the Company fired the union leader who brought the matters to light.
“Employees no longer feel valued and respected especially in advertising, and more and more of them tell me they want to leave,” O’Brien said. “Rick is the latest person to leap to the Gazette but unless the Times Union makes major changes, he may not be the last.”