Lee Enterprises, Star’s owner, fiercely anti-union. Caveat emptor.

by David Safier

This is a connect-the-dots post based on a number of items I pulled up on the web. If I made any errors, I apologize in advance and hope others will correct me. One of the luxuries I have as a blogger is the freedom to put tentative information out there, then write further posts when/if I receive more information.

The Daily Star is owned by Lee Enterprises. Lee isn't just non union. It is fiercely anti-union. And though some of the corporation's papers are unionized because Lee bought papers whose reporters already belonged to the Newspaper Guild, the Star is not unionized according to Inside Tucson Business.

The LeeUnionFree.net website, is, so far as I can tell, an official website of Lee Enterprises, though not its primary site. Its sole purpose is to discourage reporters and other employees from organizing. Here is the intro to LeeUnionFree.net:

Welcome to LeeUnionFree.net, a resource for sharing information about the workplace philosophy of Lee Enterprises and why we believe that unions are not in the best interest of our employees or our mission of serving our communities.

This site is also intended as a resource for facts about The Newspaper Guild and its organizing attempts.

[snip]

As a result of acquisitions in recent years, Lee has gained many fine employees who are represented by a bargaining agent, and we’re glad to have them in Lee.

Where union representation exists, we intend to honor agreements and negotiate in good faith. Elsewhere across our company, we hope you will join us in continuing to resist the introduction of unions as an unnecessary impediment to maintaining a creative, rewarding and successful workplace.

Though Lee says it honors union agreements and negotiates in good faith, at Lee's largest paper, the St. Louis Dispatch, a unionized paper it bought in 2005, Lee got rid of health care benefits for 80 of the paper's retirees. The union fought the cuts. I don't know if the case has been settled.

The whole LeeUnionFree.net site is devoted to fighting the "Employee Free Choice Act" which would make it easier to join unions. The Protect Your Voice page has one heading that reads, "Beware of signing a card," and another heading, "EFCA myths."

The Facts About Unions page has no facts about unions. It links to the Center for Union Facts. According to SourceWatch,

The Center for Union Facts is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman's family of front groups including the Employment Policies Institute. The domain name www.unionfacts.com was registered to Berman & Co. in May 2005.

Berman is a one man astroturf machine who has created phony groups for the Tobacco industry, the Pro-Alcohol industry ("Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving" is a pro-social drinking group), the anti-ACORN movement, the Food Industry (Center for Consumer Freedom), and on and on.

In Arizona, Lee Enterprises owns the Star and Flagstaff's Daily Sun. In Wisconsin, where the reporting on Gov. Walker's union busting is especially important, Lee owns seven newspapers, including the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

Businesses are in the business of making money, and they make more money when they can pay their workers lower salaries and provide fewer benefits. When businesses that hate unions run newspapers, television stations and radio stations and they are reporting about the union busting going on in Wisconsin and elsewhere, they have a dog — many dogs — in the anti-union hunt. Undoubtedly, that affects their coverage.

How much is the choice of articles the Star runs about union busting in Wisconsin and elsewhere tainted by Lee Enterprises' anti-union stance?

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