When Barbara Faticone started working at PCH headquarters in 1980, she knew many of the faces of her co-workers because they were friends and neighbors in Port Washington. Now, she and 212 other employees will not be working alongside each other any longer: Publishers Clearing House has terminated the employment of 213 employees, as part of a "company downsizing," according to a written company statement.
"Because of the prolonged attacks on direct mail sweepstakes, we are experiencing lower sales, and, although ... we expect to reach a settlement in the near future that will resolve the current multi-state investigation into our sweepstakes marketing practices, the anticipated cost of these settlements will be large. It is, therefore, necessary for us to reduce our overhead while we rebuild the business in order to maintain our balance sheet strength and excellent credit rating," explained Chairwoman and C.E.O. Robin Smith in a written statement dated Nov. 18th. "Our heritage as a benevolent family business has made this move - which was put off as long as possible - particularly painful. We are doing our best to be fair and generous with our people who are, of course, our greatest asset," Smith noted.
The CEO's reference to Publishers' history as a warm family business is true indeed. Publishers Clearing House was founded in 1953 by Harold and LuEsther Mertz and their daughter Joyce Mertz Gilmore, near their own Port Washington home. The company employed generations of Port families, provided summer jobs for local students, and was an innovator employer. "Mr. Mertz was so good to everyone," said Barbara Faticone. "He started having home workers to allow parents to be at home for their children. He also allowed us to work part-time, finishing at 1 p.m., again so working parents could be home in time to meet their children when they came home from school. He built this company for the people of Port Washington," she said. The company grew to do $100 million in sales annually.
The downsizing affects 27percent of the Publishers Clearing House workforce. According to a company statement, "two-thirds of the personnel involved are based in PCH's PW headquarters ... Remaining cuts occurred at the company's customer service and document processing center in Syosset." PCH Media Relations Director David Sayer commented that there are no plans to eliminate sweepstakes completely despite the current difficulties. This spokesman also said there was no word yet regarding future hiring or rehiring.
But for employees like Barbara Faticone, the company's recent words about downsizing imparted a message of sadness. "It was a wonderful place to work," Barbara Faticone said, who worked at home for twelve years before working at the PW offices. "My son, when he was six months old, was very sick, and we had lots of doctor bills, so this kind of at-home employment really helped us out. I worked with wonderful people, and I loved it there. This company did so much for Port Washington. It is so sad to see it come to this." Barbara Nogle, a former PCH director of Problem Prevention, agreed. Ms. Nogle, who was laid off after nearly 27 years of employment, added, "I remember all the people very fondly, and we became friends ... at Halloween, people would dress up, or bring in the grandchildren in costumes. For many years, it was a wonderful place to work."