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Employees at five Montana papers ordered to take unpaid furloughs

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Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 01, 2023

Updated 3:30 PM, 3/6/23:

Brett French of the Billings Gazette contacted MTN News with clarifying information on the unpaid furloughs:

The Billings Gazette newsroom is the only unionized Lee Enterprises newsroom in Montana. Established in 2020, the Montana News Guild is a member of the Communication Workers of America, which also represents several other unionized newsrooms in Lee Enterprises and other news organizations – including the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s Yellowstone Newspaper Guild. Lee has asked the unionized Lee newspapers to take a two-week furlough and the Guild declined. It is the CWA’s contention that the furloughs are a change in working conditions and under existing contracts must be negotiated with each union. So far that has not occurred.
Brett French

(First report)
BUTTE — The company that owns five major newspapers in Montana is requiring most of its employees to take unpaid furloughs.

Lee Enterprises announced in mid-February employees at all its newspapers nationwide would be required to take a total of two weeks of unpaid leave between now and the end of September. The company owns 77 daily papers in 26 states.

The furloughs will include employees at Lee papers in Butte, Billings, Hamilton, Helena, and Missoula.

Lee has struggled financially in recent years, including laying off roughly 10 percent of its staff in 2022.

When reached for comment today, Lee Enterprise's Regional Local News Director David McCumber said he could not comment on the situation.