The Media

3rd Lee Corporation Newspaper Votes to Unionize, Illinois Paper Joins Missoula Indy and Casper, Wyoming Paper

Today is May Day and I received an email from Elizabeth Warren today that stated:

May Day is more than just a celebration of spring. It’s also International Workers’ Day – a chance to think about how we can make sure that hard work turns into fair pay and a fair opportunity for a decent life.

The economy has been humming along nicely for people who are already at the top. But for more than a generation now, things haven’t gone so great for most workers. Wages are flat. Pensions are gone. Unions have been gutted. Health care and child care costs have exploded. – Elizabeth Warren

This is far too relevant for many Montanans that can’t even afford to live in the towns they work in. I spent all of my childhood in Bozeman and graduated from Bozeman high and went to college and worked in Missoula for a decade. These towns have changed so rapidly and so dangerously for the working person that they don’t even resemble the towns I knew of my youth. Bozeman has an affordable housing crisis and Missoula is next up.

This report details some of these challenges.

In that vein a 3rd newspaper that is owned by the mega-corporation Lee Enterprises has voted to unionize. The Southern Illinoisan joins the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming and the Missoula Independent here in Montana.

From a press release by the unionizing workers:

Newsroom staff members at the award-winning Southern Illinoisan today formally announced their intention to form a union dedicated to preserving quality journalism amid cutbacks and mounting financial pressures in the newspaper industry.

The employees filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board stating their desire to be represented by theUnited Media Guild, which is affiliated with The NewsGuild-CWA. The filing will trigger an NLRB-run election sometime in the next several weeks.

“The Southern Illinoisan has provided a voice for the region for over 100 years, but I’m deeply concerned with the direction of the newspaper…”

The Southern Illinoisan is a Lee Corporation run newspaper

The press release continues:

The staff of The Southern would join workers at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune and The Missoula (Montana)Independent — two other Lee papers where successful newsroom organizing campaigns have taken place in recent months. This organizing drive continues a wave of union organizing in newsrooms across the United States, including the Los Angeles Times and the recently announced drive at the Chicago Tribune.

A mission statement drafted by supporters of the unionizing effort says Southern Illinoisan employees “need a more formal voice in the workplace” to counteract a corporate mentality that leads to “decisions based solely on the bottom line.”

“Negotiating a good contract will help us continue to be a watchdog for the region and produce the quality journalism Southern Illinois demands from us,” Hefferman said.

The organizing effort began after an unannounced mass layoff further destabilized the newsroom in late January.

“We believe those losses went beyond the obvious human impact,” said Greg Keller, a copy editor with The Southern since 2014. “We believe cuts to local journalism run counter to our mission statement of being a force for positive change in the communities we serve.”

The fault doesn’t fall on local management, organizers of the unionizing effort said. These decisions have been imposed on the newspaper by distant decision-makers with little direct connection to Southern Illinois, organizers said.

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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Nathan Kosted

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