March 20, 2018 – The employees of the Missoula Independent filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on March 19 to begin the process of forming a union, the Missoula News Guild Organizing Committee has 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,” the Organizing Committee said in a statement announcing the move.
“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 said. There are 10 non-management employees at the paper.
Workers are asking Lee Enterprises, which bought the paper last spring, to voluntarily recognize The NewsGuild-CWA as their representative for the purposes of collective bargaining. The company also owns the Missoulian, the Ravalli Republic, the Montana Standard (Butte), the Helena Independent Record, the Billings Gazette, and the Casper Star-Tribune, which voted to join the Guild last month.
“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.”
“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 wrote.