Author:Simpkins, Jerry

I'm thankful the holidays are over. Yes, holidays can be fun, but it's not that much fun on the production side of the industry. The mailroom takes it especially hard. It's a two-to three-month period in which we're working 80 hours some weeks and still not catching up with all the preprints flowing in. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the revenue, but not much else. Weekends away from family, holiday shopping in the middle of the night, a stale bag of chips for dinner--bah humbug.

For production workers in our industry, it's a badge of honor to make it out the other end.

But, where would we be without it? I'm betting we all know the answer to that. I'm thankful for each preprint that hits our door. Despite the naysayers, newspapers continue to have a stronghold with advertisers for holiday preprints.

To make it through these challenging times, we need a strong team of players and of course the usual compliment of temporary labor. Trouble is the pool of qualified workers--and even some not so very qualified--continue to challenge mailrooms around the country for multiple reasons. If you have an answer to reversing this trend, you're one up on me.

Just about any big box store you go into has a sign out front for help wanted. The starting hourly pay for many entry level positions is $13/$14 in most areas and even higher in larger cities and states with a healthier minimum wage.

Throughout my career I've functioned in virtually every position from inserter to general manager. I've sat at the "big table" and clearly understand what many of our companies are going through. I've seen the steady decline in print revenue, and I understand that paying 50 percent more than we do now to our mailroom labor force to stay competitive with the big box stores would sink the ship quickly. With some properties hanging on the edge, it's just not a wage we can afford and stay in the black.

So, what's the solution? Is there a solution that works? I'm not sure, but I can tell you that what many newspapers are doing just isn't working, such as can a...

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