Contact: Dean Olsen, (217) 836-1068
Newsroom Staff at Lee Enterprises’ Southern Illinoisan
Votes Unanimously to Unionize, Join NewsGuild-CWA
CARBONDALE, Illinois — Newsroom employees of The Southern Illinoisan voted unanimously Thursday to form a union.
The 12-0 vote means the staff of 12 eligible employees will be represented by the United Media Guild, an affiliate of the NewsGuild-CWA, as the staff bargains for its first labor contract with the newspaper’s owner, Lee Enterprises.
“I’m excited to take the next step in our newsroom, earning a bigger voice at The Southern Illinoisan,” said Todd Hefferman, a sports reporter at the newspaper covering Southern Illinois University athletics. “Today is a big win for local journalism.”
The Southern Illinoisan joins the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune and Missoula (Montana) Independent as the only Lee-owned newspapers with unionized newsrooms.
Thursday’s election was administered by the National Labor Relations Board and required a simple majority of those casting ballots for a union to be approved. Contract negotiations between the Guild and Lee Enterprises are expected to begin in coming weeks.
“I’d like to thank our hard-working and dedicated newsroom staff along with Jeff Gordon, Dean Olsen, David Carson and Shannon Duffy from the United Media Guild,” said Shawn Anglin, a copy editor who has been employed at The Southern Illinoisan since 2012. “Their expertise, guidance and support are what helped make this process go smoothly, and for that we are grateful.”
The organizing effort began in earnest after Jan. 31, when a corporate directive resulted in an unannounced mass layoff at The Southern Illinoisan. The layoffs totaled 18 percent of the newspaper’s overall workforce, three of whom were newsroom employees.
A mission statement drafted by The Southern Illinoisan’s newsroom organizers notes that the effort is not simply about benefits for the new union’s members, but about preserving the newspaper’s ability to serve as a watchdog for the region as a whole. The publication’s coverage area includes as many as 16 counties, and the cumulative effect of cutbacks over the past several years has challenged the staff’s ability to serve the region.
United Media Guild president Jeff Gordon, a sportswriter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said: “We are thrilled the newsroom at The Southern voted to join the Guild and our fight to preserve quality journalism. We are eager to negotiate a first contract and build a constructive relationship with Lee Enterprises, just as we have here at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.”
The Southern Illinoisan’s organizing committee would like to recognize members from AFSCME Council 31, Laborers’ Local 773, Southern Illinois Central Labor Council, and newsroom organizing members from Casper, Missoula, Chicago and Los Angeles for their help and support throughout this process.
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About The NewsGuild-CWA
The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 20,000 journalists and other communications professionals in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico at publications and digital sites that include The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post and Consumer Reports. Formerly known as The Newspaper Guild, the union was founded by journalists in 1933. The Guild merged with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America in 1995.
Media interviews with Southern Illinoisan staff members can be arranged by contacting NewsGuild organizing consultant Dean Olsen at (217) 836-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our mission is to help safeguard the future of The Southern Illinoisan by having a voice in preserving jobs and quality journalism.
The Southern Illinoisan is an essential provider of news, sports and advertising throughout the region. We take pride in our newspaper and its nearly 125-year history, striving every day to serve our communities and our readers.
However, the newspaper industry is changing. More and more owners — such as Lee Enterprises, which owns The Southern Illinoisan — are making decisions based solely on the bottom line. They are siphoning away profits instead of investing in local news, sending those profits to corporate offices to reward top executives for stripping down the newspapers that mean so much to their communities.
We, the employees, need a more formal voice in the workplace to counteract that corporate mentality and to help ensure that The Southern Illinoisan remains strong going forward. We want to form a union and affiliate with the United Media Guild. This organization represents our fellow journalists at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the State Journal-Register in Springfield, the Journal Star in Peoria, and more.
Years of health-insurance premium increases without pay raises have resulted in the loss of talented staff members, depriving readers of their institutional knowledge and expertise about the region. For those who remain, repeated layoffs have further destabilized the newsroom, making it difficult for The Southern Illinoisan to fulfill its watchdog function and provide in-depth coverage. Staff reductions have had a direct effect on the amount of quality journalism we are able to produce, the extent of our coverage area, and even the distribution of our print edition.
Joining the Guild is a crucial step toward being better advocates for ourselves, and, in turn, our readers. With a union and a good labor contract, we can institute more fairness and democracy in our workplace to help ensure stability.
Our goal is the long-term success of The Southern Illinoisan. We look forward to working with our local management in achieving that goal. We are asking Lee Enterprises to recognize the United Media Guild as our representative.