LA Times staff votes to unionize in blow to owner Tronc

Robyn Valdez
January 20, 2018

For the last few months union organizers have listed their grievances with management in a public campaign that lambasted the lack of communication by Tronc Inc., the Times' parent company.

Ballots for the union vote were counted Friday at a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, which conducted in-person voting January 4 and has since been receiving mail-in ballots. In a January 3 email to employees that was reviewed by Bloomberg, L.A. Times Interim Executive Editor Jim Kirk and Editor in Chief Lewis D'Vorkin warned: "union leaders may tell you they can protect against layoffs but they didn't at the New York Times, Huffington Post, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal".

Levinsohn is a veteran media executive who's worked at companies including CBS, News Corp. and Yahoo-ultimately rising to interim chief of the latter (he was ultimately passed over for the permanent job when Marissa Mayer was poached from Google).

The story claimed he encouraged a "frat boy" environment and twice was named as a defendant in lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.

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A vote tally on Friday at a National Labor Relations Board office in downtown Los Angeles counted 248 staffers in favor of unionization and 44 against. Levinsohn was allegedly a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and used a gay slur at a Hollywood event while an executive at other companies, according to the NPR report.

On Thursday, NPR aired a piece on "All Things Considered" and ran an accompanying story online that put a harsh spotlight on Ross Levinsohn, the CEO and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

In a memo to employees, Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn wrote that Levinsohn "has voluntarily agreed to take" the unpaid leave.

"This week, we became aware of allegations that Ross Levinsohn acted inappropriately", the Chicago-based company Tronc said in a statement.

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The day before the January 4 vote, the paper's editor-in-chief, Lewis D'Vorkin, and its former interim executive editor, Jim Kirk, made a last-ditch effort to quash the union campaign.

The NPR article comes during a significant week for the Times, which has endured much turmoil in recent years. The executive said she had warned other top bosses about Levinsohn's behavior.

Two months later at a party in Las Vegas, Levinsohn "aggressively kissed a woman", two eyewitnesses told NPR.

On Thursday, the guild organizing committee demanded that Levinsohn be fired, saying he was "not fit to lead our newspaper". "We are immediately launching an investigation so that we have a better understanding of what's occurred".

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"At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion", the media company said in a statement. "Once that review is complete, we will take swift and appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of our expectations".

Other reports by Info About Network

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