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Lakeland Ledger reporters, staff to vote on unionization

Members of newsrooms all over Florida will be watching the reporters, photographers and copy editors of The Lakeland Ledger this afternoon as they vote on whether to be represented by the News Guild-CWA (Communications Workers of America).

The union vote will be supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, which has indicated it will release the results following the vote today.

If the vote at The Ledger favors joining the union, it will be the first newsroom in Florida to do so, but likely not the last.

The news media industry — due to the internet, the 24-hour news cycle and so many more avenues for obtaining information — has become the latest focus of what once was called corporate raiders. Papers struggling to survive have been bought and sold, and downsized with little regard for employees who provide the product.

The Ledger, owned for decades by The New York Times Company, was sold to Halifax Media in 2011 and then sold to GateHouse Media in 2015. The parent company of GateHouse is New Media Investment Group, which is managed by the private equity firm Fortress Investment Group.

College-educated news specialists often face low wages and numerous layoffs from companies focused on the bottom line. Ledger news personnel stated there had been no pay raises for more than eight years.

In the two weeks since the announcement that Ledger newsroom staff had signed cards asking for union representation, both sides have determined those eligible to vote — believed to be about 25 — with another handful of employees, who will vote by provisional ballot because their eligibility has not yet been determined.

Written By

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”

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