Billings Gazette news staff votes unanimously to unionize

July 2, 2020 – Newsroom employees at Montana’s largest daily newspaper won union recognition in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

After announcing their plans on May 28, members of The Montana News Guild participated in a mail ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board through its regional office in Denver.

The ballots were counted Thursday, with all 18 ballots cast voting “yes.” Two employees did not return their mail ballots in time to be counted and a third employee was hired after the group filed the petition seeking a vote on union representation.

“It feels good to have this nailed down,” said Gazette public safety reporter Phoebe Tollefson. “Now we’ll get to work on getting a contract proposal the group is happy with, and go from there.”

Now that the bargaining unit has been formalized, the Montana News Guild will begin preparing contract proposals, which it will present to Lee Enterprises when bargaining begins.

No dates have yet been set for contract negotiations between the union and the company, but Denver News Guild representative Tony Mulligan said negotiations could begin within roughly one month.

The Montana News Guild will become a member of the Denver News Guild local, which also represents two publications each in Colorado (The Denver Post and Pueblo Chieftan) and Wyoming (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and fellow Lee paper Casper Star-Tribune), as well as the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, also a Lee paper. The Denver News Guild also represents five non-journalism labor unions and nonprofit staffs in Colorado.

The win in Montana is part of a surge in union organizing by The NewsGuild-CWA, which has added more than 3,000 new members at dozens of news outlets since 2018.

Follow the Montana News Guild on Twitter @mtnewsguild.