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Did Lee Corporation Retaliate Against its Unionizing Newspaper Reporters?

“It’s fair to say they’re going to war with us,” said one newsroom source. via this article

The continuing efforts of journalists to unionize who work for Lee Corporation Newspapers in Casper, Wyoming and Missoula, Montana has taken a disturbing turn as charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board. This comes after a possibly retaliatory firing after the reporters and non-management staff of the Casper Star-Tribune successfully unionized.

According to the Huffington Post:

The labor union representing workers at the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming has accused the paper and parent company Lee Enterprises of retaliating against pro-union employees to chill organizing efforts in Lee’s other newsrooms.

The Communications Workers of America filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. The union says the company engaged in unfair labor practices when it laid off features editor Elise Schmelzer and suspended politics reporter Arno Rosenfeld.

“I think it was a retaliatory tactic ? toward us and toward Elise specifically,” said a source in the Star-Tribune newsroom who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “It’s fair to say they’re going to war with us.”

The charges claim that Schmelzer ? a manager who was not a member of the union ? was let go “due to her support for the recently certified union,” and that “other pro-union, non-bargaining unit employees were also terminated.”

This is a troubling, but expected turn in an effort by journalists to organize and collectively bargain. Lee Corporation Newspapers has a history of laying off employees in the dead of night and buying out senior staff contracts. These moves all come in the name of profits, while the owners of these newspapers rake in profits like the vulture capitalists they are.

More from the Huffington Post article:

Iowa-based Lee Enterprises is a publicly traded company that owns more than 40 daily newspapers around the country. The Star-Tribune became the first newsroom to unionize under Lee’s ownership when nonmanagement employees voted to join a CWA local in February.

A month later, another Lee-owned paper, the Missoula Independent in Montana, followed the Star-Tribune’s lead and filed a petition to try and form a union as well.

This is a very disturbing turn in these efforts by working to come together and collectively bargain for fair wages, benefits and a safe and secure working environment without fear of retribution.

From a statement released by Casper Star-Tribune reporters:

“While Lee Enterprises officials may believe that taking punitive action against non-union members at the Star-Tribune will discourage employees across the company’s many newspapers from organizing, their apparently capricious actions in Casper serve only to highlight the need for staff to stand up for their rights,” the statement said.

Part of the Star-Tribune staff’s stated reason for unionizing was “to strengthen local control over Wyoming’s largest media organization.”

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.
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