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Is Publishing Becoming a Minimum Wage Trade?

Salary cuts have publishers walking a narrow line.


Matt Kinsman By Matt Kinsman
04/29/2009 -15:54 PM






The memo received by BNP Media staffers this week alerting them to 25 percent salary cuts for the foreseeable future includes a line that jumps off the page almost as much as that "25 percent" figure: "Minimum wage will be the floor for this reduction."

It's a line that assures employees the company won't be cutting below minimum wage (which of course, would be illegal), and only applies to those support positions that may be hovering around minimum wage after the 25 percent cuts.

But still, are things so bad that we have to be assured now that salaries won't be cut to minimum wage? Salary cuts usually start at the top and the Henderson family (who owns BNP) have taken theirs as well. However, an associate editor making $40,000 who is hit with a 25 percent salary cut is suddenly making $30,000. Forget trying to live on that in publishing capitals like New York City-that's a tough hit anywhere (BNP is based near Detroit).

As publishers continue to make cuts to keep their businesses alive, they need to be mindful of labor rules and regulations in their state, particularly with employees below a certain salary level. As Southern Breeze editor Mark Newman noted in FOLIO:'s March issue, many high level employees (particularly editors) need to "stop being figureheads and do some work." But for those entry and associate level employees, for whom the historic trade-off has always been "low pay but great experience," the returns are getting harder to justify. 

The company leaders who impose these cuts will need to balance their contribution margins against the eventual pushback: The unwillingness of their teams to tolerate major pay cuts even as they're being asked to do significantly more work. It's a dangerously narrow line to walk.

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