I was on staff for barely a year so my package wasn't so much a parachute as a Kleenex. Still, the sudden freeze of those last few checks makes life perilous. For colleagues who are owed much, much more, and who thought they had a bit of breathing room to find new work in an industry evaporating beneath their feet, the news is devastating.
If you're in search of information, let me save you some time. Awakened by anxiety at 4 a.m., I fret and pace and freak out the pets until the Trib's Chicago offices are open. First call: Tribune Benefits Service Center at 800-872-2222. A nice man tells me that yes, my checks have now stopped. Will this week's check, at least, still arrive? He doesn't know. How about the payment for my unused vacation time? He doesn't know. Call Payroll at 800-435-7186, he says.
A nice man at Payroll reads from the same script as the Benefits guy, then tells me to call the bankruptcy hotline, which is 888-287-7568. There, a nice woman named Brenda asks for my name, phone number and address, which I can hear her typing into a data base. I'm asking my questions and she's typing them into that data base and in the end she doesn't have any answers and suggests I call the Benefits Center. Which is where this rondelay began. I tell her as much and it's clear there's nothing left to do but wait.
"I'm so sorry for what's happening," she says just as we hang up. But what, exactly, is happening? That's what we need to know.
Photo: Arne Nævra