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The Ledger Of Lakeland Votes To Unionize Newsroom

Ledger of Lakeland

Journalists at The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland voted overwhelmingly Thursday to form a union.  The 22 to 3 vote comes after years of cutbacks at the paper.

Unions are a rare thing in Florida, and amost unheard of at newspapers. So it made news when employees of The Ledger voted to become the only unionized newsroom in the state.

Gary White has been a reporter there for 14 years, and says there is a sense of "helplessness and frustration" among Ledger employees, especially after the latest round of layoffs there in July.

"What we hope is that by asserting a voice, that we'll be able to have some influence over the future direction of the paper, and that company management will have to negotiate with us, and have to consider the wishes of the newsroom," he said.

"The concerns are, of course wages and job security, because we've seen positions continue to be eliminated, even as the paper has been profitable and corporate ownership is paying dividends to its shareholders. And we're also just concerned about working conditions, about the fact that as staff shrinks, reporters and editors are expected to take on more and more work and they're not being compensated for it."

White says the action was aimed at the paper's corporate managers, GateHouse Media, based near Rochester, New York, and not at the local Ledger management.  In a statement, Ledger Publisher Kevin Drake said, “While we are disappointed by the result, we respect our employees’ right to vote in favor of unionization.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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