Southern Illinoisan staff plans to unionize - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Southern Illinoisan staff plans to unionize

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CARBONDALE -- Journalists at The Southern Illinoisan want more say in how their paper is managed, so they plan to join a union.

A dozen reporters, photographers and editors will vote later this month to unionize, hoping to gain power in numbers.

Todd Hefferman, a sports reporter for the Southern, said layoffs in January sparked discussion about unionizing the newsroom.

"We want to try and get a bigger voice with how The Southern Illinoisan is run," Hefferman said.

Hefferman said the problem isn't with local management, but with Lee Enterprises, the company that owns the Southern.

He said the newsroom has been hurting since the January layoffs.  

"We want to be able to protect our ability to cover the area and be a watchdog for the area and I think the reductions have made that tougher," Hefferman said.

Lee Enterprises can voluntarily accept the union and start contract negotiations immediately, but they didn't in the cases of the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming and the Missoula Independent in Montana this year, forcing both newsrooms to submit a vote to the National Labor Relations Board.

Both newsrooms overwhelmingly voted in favor of unionizing and Hefferman believes the Southern will follow suit.

So what would unionizing mean for The Southern?

Hefferman said only newsroom employees are involved right now; no sales staff, no management.

They hope to use their collective bargaining power to get a multi-year contract from Lee Enterprises.

"We all want pay increases. We all want more vacation but those are things we'll negotiate," Hefferman said. "And if we are going to lay people off, we want a bit bigger voice in how that's handled."

And Hefferman said he's confident there won't be any negative, unintended consequences of forming a union.

A representative for Lee Enterprises told me the company has no comment at this time.

Hefferman said the newsroom plans to vote on unionizing May 17, unless Lee Enterprises accepts their union request.

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