We are worried

Members of the Montana News Guild stand outside The Billings Gazette newsroom on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (Photo by Brooke Moore)

The 20 unionized members of the Billings Gazette newsroom are your neighbors, customers, friends and relatives, and we are concerned. We recently learned of at least four layoffs at newspapers around the state and more than 40 around the country owned by our corporation, Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa. These layoffs come in the wake of companywide two-week furloughs mandated for all Lee employees early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our staff has not yet been cut because we have formed a union and are involved in contract negotiations, so the company is precluded from layoffs until bargaining is completed.

We understand these are difficult times for businesses, but Lee has been making cuts like these for years even before the pandemic began, continually reducing staff while its top executives earn anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million a year, as well as hundreds of thousands in bonuses. This skewed corporate culture needs to change.

Newspapers and other legitimate press outlets are unlike any other businesses in the United States, enshrined in our Constitution under the First Amendment. This protection is even more important in these uncertain times as we write about the COVID-19 outbreak, how it is affecting families and communities, as well as our increasingly divided political system.

We need your help to protect this important institution in Montana and across the United States. Please write, text or tweet your government representatives and Lee executives (listed below) demanding that the press not be continually downsized in the name of corporate executives’ profits. There needs to be a change in corporate culture. Please help us affect that change.

Mary Junck, Lee’s chairman, can be reached at mary.junck@lee.net.

Kevin Mowbray, Lee’s president and CEO, can be reached at kevin.mowbray@lee.net

Astrid Garcia, Lee’s vice president of human resources, can be reached at astrid.garcia@lee.net

Lee Enterprises’ general phone line is 563-383-2100, and its Twitter account is @LeeEntNews.

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