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We All Must Stand in Solidarity with Unionizing Missoula Independent Employees

In some fast developing news the employees of the Missoula Independent newspaper have filed to form a union in the wake of being gobbled up by Lee Newspapers. The moves seems smart and based in self-preservation as the vulture capitalist tactics of the Lee Enterprises in Montana is known to offload staff very quickly and very quietly to make room for more money in the bank vault of the Lee executives.

I will be watching this process closely for any shenanigans as who can be trusted to report to the state of Montana about the unionization process? You can’t trust Lee papers to report fairly on the process as they own every large print newspaper from Missoula to Billings, minus the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. They dominate press coverage in the state of Montana and are known to buy out senior employees rather than continue paying them what they are due.

Here at The Montana Post we are pro-labor and stand in solidarity with the Missoula Independent employees. Personal differences aside, this is bigger than any one person, this is about the future of a free and robust press in Montana and America.

We all must stand in solidarity.

This is about the future of our country, how can a voter make an informed decision with actual facts without a free, robust and independent press?

Continue following this story at The Montana Free Press and the Missoula Current.

We will continue to cover this developing story as well.

The Montana Free Press is reporting:

The 10 non-management employees of the Missoula Independent today filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to begin the process of forming a union, the Missoula News Guild Organizing Committee announced via a press release issued late Monday afternoon.

Independent staff reporter and union organizing committee member Derek Brouwer said in an interview Monday that he started considering the possibility of forming a newsroom union last year, not long after the Indy was sold to the parent company of its biggest competitor, the Missoulian. 

The Missoula Current is reporting:

The employees of the Missoula Independent have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to begin the process of forming a union, according to a press release sent Monday afternoon by the Missoula News Guild Organizing Committee.

Support for the filing was unanimous across the staff’s editorial, production and sales departments, the release stated.

The Independent has published since 1991 and was purchased by Lee Enterprises last year. The Iowa-based corporation owns the Missoulian, where the Independent is now based.

Here is the press release from the Missoula Independent employees:

Missoula Independent Staff Files for Union

Missoula, Mont. — The employees of the Missoula Independent filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board today to begin the process of forming a union, the Missoula News Guild Organizing Committee announced. Support for the filing was unanimous across the staff’s editorial, production and sales departments.

The Independent has published since 1991 and is the only alternative weekly newspaper in Montana. The publication serves a vibrant, engaged audience with coverage of local news, arts and culture. The staff takes pride in the Indy’s vital role in the western Montana media landscape, particularly its strong print product during a difficult time for weeklies in much larger markets.

Lee Enterprises, an Iowa-based corporation which owns the Missoulian, the Ravalli Republic, the Montana Standard (Butte), the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette, bought the Indy from publisher Matt Gibson last spring. In January, Indy staff were told the paper would be moving into the Missoulian building on Higgins Avenue in April, following a round of buyouts, layoffs and print frequency reductions that cut into other Lee-owned publications around the state. At that time, staff raised concerns about maintaining the Indy’s independence in the eyes of its readership and advertisers.

The organizing effort is motivated by the staff’s shared desire to maintain the trust and relationships they have built with readers and advertisers over the last 27 years. They encourage Lee Enterprises to respect their wishes and recognize The NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America as their representative for the purposes of collective bargaining.

“Lee Enterprises managers have made a point of telling us they consider the Indy a distinct product, and we’ve been assured that cuts aren’t imminent,” said staff reporter and organizing committee member Derek Brouwer. “But when it comes time to reconcile the bottom line, our new parent company’s primary responsibility is to its shareholders on Wall Street. Forming a union will enable us to have a voice in decisions about the Independent’s future and advocate for this community institution.”

Organizing committee members are proud to join the tradition of labor organizing efforts in Montana and the successful union formation last month at a Lee-owned paper in Wyoming, the Casper Star-Tribune. The staff of the Independent encourages their fellow newspaper workers around the state to join them in taking this step, which has given Independent staffers renewed optimism about their ability to continue doing the work they love.

— The organizing committee of the Missoula News Guild, which represents the 10 non-management employees at the Missoula Independent who work in the publication’s newsroom, sales and production departments. Follow us at Facebook.com/missoulanewsguild and @missoulanewsguild on Twitter.

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Nathan Kosted

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