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The parent company of the Austin American-Statesman is reportedly asking some employees to accept voluntary buyouts.
Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the country with 250 publications, sent letters to employees starting Monday with terms for voluntary buyouts, according to Poynter, a journalism industry news source. The buyouts are not offered to every employee, although the impact is felt across company departments—not just in editorial.
Anyone who received a voluntary buyout offer has until next Tuesday to decide, according to a company HR email obtained by Jack Craver, editor of The Austin Politics Newsletter and freelance writer for Austin City Hall news.
But the decision may already be made for anyone who received a buyout offer, according to one editor who spoke anonymously with Poynter.
"Letters will be going to people picked out for it, and … basically if you get the letter, you are toast," they told Poynter.
The typical buyout offers one week of severance per year of service and a small bonus, Poynter reported. The process mirrors similar voluntary buyouts from Gatehouse Media, the former owner of the Statesman before it merged with Gannett last year.
CEO Mike Reed, who also led Gatehouse before the merger, announced the buyouts to staff last week in a virtual town hall. While doing so, he insisted that Gannett still aspires to grow newsroom staff in the second half of 2020, as promised in his last public quarterly earnings call.
However, past trends have convinced Statesman employees that more cuts are on the way. In April, the Statesman staff, among other Gannett staffers, experienced furloughs. And in the same month, the local newspaper saw seven of its journalists get laid off.
"My guess is layoffs will follow if not enough people take buyouts," one Statesman staffer anonymously told Craver.
Reed recently told Poynter he would be "happy" if few newsroom employees accept buyouts. However, not all those who accept buyouts may ultimately leave. Instead, Tuesday's deadline will help Gannett narrow the list of voluntary buyouts to potentially approve.
"[Gannett] will determine who is approved for participation based on a variety of business factors," human resources chief Samantha Howland wrote in a memo obtained by Poynter.
The ultimate outcomes for voluntary buyouts will be announced Nov. 6, according to Poynter, and be effective by Dec. 1. The company has not announced how many staff it is targeting for voluntary buyouts.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand a wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."