Missoula, Mont. — The employees of the Missoula Independent filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board today to begin forming a union, the Missoula News Guild Organizing Committee 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 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.
Lee Enterprises, an Iowa-based corporation that owns the Missoulian, the Ravalli Republic, the Montana Standard (Butte), the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette, bought the Indy from publisher Matt Gibson last spring. In January, Indy staff were told the paper would be moving into the Missoulian building on Higgins Avenue in April, following a round of buyouts, layoffs, and print frequency reductions that cut into other Lee-owned publications around the state. At that time, staff raised concerns about maintaining Indy’s independence in the eyes of its readership and advertisers.
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 encourage Lee Enterprises to respect their wishes and recognize The NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America as their representative for collective bargaining.
“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.”
Organizing committee members are proud to join the tradition of labor organizing efforts in Montana and the successful union formation last month at a Lee-owned paper in Wyoming, the Casper Star-Tribune. The Independent staff 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 Missoula News Guild’s organizing committee represents the 10 non-management employees at the Missoula Independent who work in the publication’s newsroom, sales, and production departments. Follow us at Facebook.com/missoulanewsguild