The Montana News Guild successfully negotiated its second contract in two years with Lee Enterprises, ratifying the one-year agreement last week.
The contract provides raises for all union members, increases parental leave to four weeks and secures another paid holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It also includes a successor clause in the event Lee sells to another owner. In the middle of talks, Alden Global Capital made an unsolicited bid to buy Lee stock. The hedge fund has cut staff and sold off real estate to boost profits at the expense of the newspapers it owns.
“It’s encouraging to see continued improvements to our newsroom,” said MNG co-chairperson Victor Flores. “We’re far from satisfied, but we never expected to get everything in the first two contracts. We’re excited to get back to the table later this year.”
The MNG went into its second negotiations as the pandemic continued and inflation hit new highs. The Guild’s bargaining committee members argued for a higher pay floor, considering inflation and the increased cost of living in Billings, but Lee repeatedly rejected even the smallest increases.
The MNG represents 15 reporters, photographers and copy editors at The Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest daily newspaper. The Guild began in the spring of 2020, and the first contract was ratified in November of that year.