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The Worst Company to Work for in America

Rocco Pendola

(Updates from 8:09 a.m. ET to include news of mass firings across Clear Channel radio properties Friday.) NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's incredibly disheartening: The reality of job loss.

Headlines hit daily. Like military deaths or run-of-the-mill murders, we barely think twice about a few hundred jobs lost here, several thousand there.

We're so freaking desensitized to it all.

Citigroup Bloodbath: $1 Billion Charge, 11,000 Jobs Cut and 84 Branches Gone

11,000 jobs. 11,000. That is a bloodbath, brother. It's been going on for years at Citi. It's probably not over.

According to TheStreet's Shanthi Bharatwaj, "The six largest banks in the U.S. have shed 24,000 jobs in the last year." At least one Wall Street analyst thinks Bank of America BAC should do like Citi and blow a bunch of people out.

I'm no rube. I get it. Lean and mean resonates with investors, even if Citi can't pull it off.

But, it's the banking sector. We have come to expect mass firings and incompetence on a road to nowhere.

Unless you have several bonuses in the bank and a considerable salary at one of these big banks, I can't imagine they're the greatest places in the world to work. Lots of the Citi causalities probably weren't making a ton of money. Branch closures makes it obvious that quite a few did not earn much at all.

This sort of thing resonates with me because I used to work in radio.

There's not a crappier industry. The competition for poster child of all things crappy in radio -- and corporate America for that matter -- begins and ends with Clear Channel CCMO .

Clear Channel makes the big banks, airlines and even Wall Street look chill.

Here's a company with a shocking $20 billion in debt, $6 billion in revenue, $1 billion in cash and tens of millions in quarterly losses. Yet Clear Channel manages to find a way to fly its CEO Bob Pittman around in a private jet. (footnoted has a great story on that from last year).

Not a day goes by without, at the very least, rumors of mass firings at one or more Clear Channel stations. They don't care who you are -- a beloved talent with great ratings or an intern in the promotions department -- if they pay you money, you're fair game to get cut loose in the next round of goodbyes.

It has to be this way, however. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. That's what years of mismanagement and ineptitude do to businesses and, in traditional radio's case, an entire industry.

How Pittman and other Clear Channel executives can look their employees, investors and the public in the face touting the company's digital presence, iHeart Radio, and clout with listeners and advertisers is beyond me. Have they looked at the balance sheet? Have they looked at how they singlehandedly killed and continue to kill an entire medium?

I receive an email each day from RadioInfo.com -- it's basically a shill for the dying industry. On Wednesday, the two lead stories:

Clear Channel Debt Issue Sparks Speculation of Sell-Offs, Mergers and More. Basically, Moody's isn't sure Clear Channel will be able to refinance (again) more than $10 billion in debt that comes due in 2016. That means they'll fire more people.

Layoffs Coming to Clear Channel San Diego? It's an event when you do not see a headline like that in an edition of the RadioInfo.com newsletter.

To deal with its debt, Clear Channel will fire people, sell stations and make complicated swap and merger deals that will likely also trigger job losses. That's the status quo at the company.

Also see: Jim Cramer: Lululemon, so Misunderstood >>

And it doesn't have to be -- Mel Karmazin, a former terrestrial radio guy, found a way to competently dig Sirius XM SIRI out of a similar jam.

Clear Channel -- what a hellish place to work. That's not just conjecture on my part. I know people who have worked there, work there now and will likely get chopped sooner or later.

It's business, I realize this. But, at some point, can we humanize this type of thing?

Can we have a serious discussion about how a CEO like Bob Pittman can have a dream contract while sacrificing employees left and right?

Companies such as Clear Channel screw real people each and every day. We're talking about people who do not make much money. Receptionists. Sales assistants. Board operators. Producers. Many of these folks have annual salaries in the teens and twenties and hourly earnings as low as minimum wage.

I'll never forget my second radio job away from home -- 1996-97 in Pittsburgh. The closely held Hearst Corporation called an all-staff meeting at WTAE. They were selling most of their radio properties to a company called SFX (which later went to Clear Channel).

Back then, I had no time to deal with and no idea how to process human emotion, so I silently ridiculed the people around me who started crying upon hearing the news. For me, it was radio. You go into the business expecting to get fired. Shake it off.

Mind you -- nobody got fired that day. We were just told that there would likely be some layoffs once the deal went through.

Also see:


That didn't matter. I got on the phone with a consultant friend and, within six months, I had a new gig.

For whatever reason, that scene of Elaine -- she was the general manager's secretary -- crying and tears welling up in people's eyes who had worked for Hearst for years stuck with me.

Whenever I hear about bank tellers or old radio friends losing their jobs on what amount to execution lines, I think of that day in Pittsburgh. And I wonder how bank executives and radio CEOs can sap their employees' spirits and crush livelihoods as part of their job descriptions and get paid incredibly well for it. It just doesn't seem fair.

I guess I had "good" timing.

While I was anticipating more layoffs at Clear Channel, I did not expect them today. However, they came and they came hard. RadioInfo.com has details of personnel cuts made at scores of Clear Channel radio stations.

Mind you, this is hardly a complete list and, more importantly, it "only" lists the on-air staff, producers and other high-profile employees. This list does not include other talent let go, including programming support staff.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

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