Business & Economy

LA Times journalists vote overwhelmingly to unionize as questions surround publisher

The Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A.
The Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Newsroom employees of the Los Angeles Times have voted in favor of forming a union. 

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. 

"It's a great victory," said reporter Ivan Penn, who was on the organizing committee. "Without a doubt, it’s united people in the newsroom."

The union drive came during a period of turmoil for the newsroom. Recent years have seen deep cuts to editorial staff, swift leadership changes and clashes with parent company Tronc over pay and vacation benefits.

Investigative reporter Paul Pringle said the landslide victory sends a message to Tronc.

"The only road to our long term success is quality journalism. No gimmicks, no short-term fixes, no debasing of the product, [but] quality journalism," he said. 

Los Angeles Times staffers react to a vote in favoring of unionizing newsroom employees, Jan. 19, 2018.
Los Angeles Times staffers react to a vote in favoring of unionizing newsroom employees, Jan. 19, 2018.
David Wagner/KPCC

Tensions were heightened this week after NPR published an investigation detailing allegations and settlements over inappropriate conduct by Times publisher Ross Levinsohn, who was appointed after last summer's ouster of Davan Maharaj. 

Times journalists called for Levinsohn's removal. On Friday afternoon, Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn sent an email informing staffers that Levinsohn had agreed to take an unpaid leave of absence while an outside law firm looked into the allegations.

Leading up to the vote, management urged staffers to oppose unionization. In emails to the bargaining unit, top editors said a union would threaten the "independence" of the Times and hamper workers' "flexibility."

The vote marks a turning point for the Times, which has been owned by a number of staunchly anti-union publishers over its 136-year history.