Last night, somebody sent me an article written by Ernest Owens, who you may recall is the guy who complained about the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade being an example of white privilege. He also wrote a story about Villanova’s first parade, complaining about… white privilege, and he also called Malcolm Jenkins a sellout for exploiting Colin Kaepernick.

So you have to take three aspirin before reading Ernest, but this particular story is titled The Inquirer’s Attempt at a Buzzy Anti-Racist Apology Failed. It Didn’t Have To, and it’s pretty good.

For some background here, the Inquirer had a big race reckoning about two years ago, when employees revolted in the wake of the George Floyd murder. The paper then had Temple commission a study, which said it was too white and too male and all of that. A bunch of people resigned, they bought out all of the old white guys in the sports department, and made a concentrated effort to become more diverse and better represent a diverse city. Part of that includes a new series called “A More Perfect Union,” which looks at the “roots of systemic racism through institutions founded in Philadelphia.”

Anyway, as part of all of this, publisher Elizabeth Hughes apologized for the paper’s past shortcomings, and then one day later, per Ernest:

…the NewsGuild of Philadelphia announced that it had filed a grievance against the Inky claiming that a Black journalist currently working there was being paid less than a less-experienced white colleague doing the same job. In a statement sent to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the Inquirer‘s management said it was “handling the Guild’s grievance through the procedure required by its collective bargaining agreement and will not comment on the specifics of that ongoing matter,” but added, “The Inquirer is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and is confident that its compensation system does not discriminate based upon protected characteristics.”

Yet earlier in the week, the publication had admitted to its own racial discrimination and apologized to Black communities and journalists for such harm. So what are we to believe?

The Guild did tweet this out last week, saying in part that they had been working “for months” on getting the situation rectified:

Crossing Broad has learned that this grievance is sourced to the sports department, though naming the individuals involved holds zero news value and would be unethical, so of course we won’t do that. Plus, the person being paid more didn’t do anything wrong, so they shouldn’t get any backlash for a managerial issue.

That being said, based on the recent pursuit of specifically-targeted individuals, some who were lured in with very nice salaries, you could understand the existence of a disparity when it comes to the compensation of new and previously existing employees. And based on the timeline of “months” in rectifying the issue, it’s pretty obvious what happened here, if you do a little bit of reverse engineering.

Historically, pay grievances are not often successful, though a couple of people we spoke to think that this one is going to be different. “Stay tuned,” said the anonymous source, who wanted nothing to do with us. When people are skittish, you know the situation is deep and rather messy.

For some context here, typically a salary scale is written into a collective bargaining agreement, which is how the Inquirer operates. In this case, they work off weekly minimums that look like this, in part:

The quirky thing is that organizations working off a collectively-bargained scale can pay employees more than the base amount. Raises can be handed out on merit, or awarded to keep people in the company (i.e. stop them from leaving for a competitor). If the bosses think somebody is worth more than the scale minimum, they can absolutely bring them in above scale, which obviously happened here. It’s all very complicated, union labor, so we’ll see how it plays out.

Finally, writes Ernest:

Did anyone involved here actually ask who thought this was a good idea? Seriously, who does this project serve, and why? Is this what the community wants right now? Is this the best use of resources? And where are the tangible solutions that accompany such an ambitious endeavor? Right now, the community at large is being asked to subscribe to the Inquirer to read about its racist history without being offered a sense of direction or even a call to participate in practical solutions that could improve the city’s paper of record.

I… I have to agree with Ernest Owens, for the first time ever. The anti-racist series feels like it’s kind of aimless and meandering. Who exactly does it serve? Who is reading that? The Inquirer apologized and made an effort to improve hiring practices and act on the recommendations of the Temple report. Now management seems to be burying itself with extra dirt. In hindsight, maybe it would have just been better to say “we need to do a better job and we’re gonna keep our heads down and get to work doing that.”