Talking Organizing with the Montana News Guild

As corporate media conglomerates continue to gut local papers newsrooms across the country are fighting back by forming unions. Recently, 19 staff members of Montana’s largest paper, the Billings Gazette, took an important step in protecting their jobs and local coverage in Big Sky Country by organizing their workplace. The People’s Voice reached out to the Montana News Guild Organizing Committee to learn more about their efforts to organize and what the next steps in the process are. 

1) What made you decide to organize? 
Momentum had been building for a while, I think. The tipping point was probably when our parent company, Lee Enterprises, eliminated the opinion page editor and newsroom editor positions earlier this year and then announced blanket furloughs across the company last month. 

2) Have any of you had experience organizing your workplace before? 
This was the first time, I believe, for all of us. Luckily we had the 1992 Disney musical Newsies to help as a guide. 

3) How open were Billings Gazette employees to forming a union? Was it a long process to form a union?
For many of us it was a pretty easy decision, although there was certainly trepidation and maybe even a little fear around the idea of organizing for most of us.  But all of us have lived through at least one round of Lee-mandated layoffs or buyouts and the growing sense of uncertainty about our future and corporate leadership at Lee was motivating. 
But when we decided to act the process moved along pretty fast. 

4) Have you heard back from Lee Newspapers yet? Do you get a sense they will voluntarily recognize the union? 
We haven’t heard back from Lee yet. We’re hopeful they’ll voluntarily recognize us. But if they choose not to, we’ll be ready to conduct a formal vote to unionize through the National Labor Relations Board. 

5) Do you have any advice for workers who would like to organize?
While it can feel intimidating, it’s the one sure way to guarantee yourself and your coworkers a voice. So my advice is to do it sooner rather than later. Start small and don’t be afraid to take your time. 

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