In late March, Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck and CFO Carl Schmidt were given six-figure bonuses for refinancing the newspaper chain’s considerable debt. At the same time, Lee was laying off journalists at several of its papers. On Thursday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch employees are protesting the company’s actions at what’s been billed a “Let Them Eat Cake” event. Here is the union’s notice:
Employees of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will gather outside their newspaper at noon on Thursday, April 12, to protest the outrageous bonuses awarded Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck (who received $500,000) and CFO Carl Schmidt (who received $250,000).
Noting that the bonuses were awarded the same day as layoffs at several Lee papers were announced, the event is billed as the “Let Them Eat Cake” protest, as the Guild contends those running Lee Enterprises are as out of touch as eighteenth century French Royalty and promises that “all who attend will receive a delicious cupcake” from a union bakery.
“Since when does tanking a company rate a bonus?” asks Shannon Duffy, business representative of the United Media Guild, the largest union at the Post-Dispatch. “For a corporation that saw its stock plummet from $40 per share when it purchased the Pulitzer chain in 2005 to just over a buck-a-share today, it’s unbelievable that Lee’s board of directors would reward that kind of performance.”
Speakers will include Duffy, Guild Local President Jeff Gordon, Post-Dispatch retirees and Erica Douglas, daughter of Robert Douglas, a 40-year employee who died one year after having his retiree medical coverage cut off by Lee. Douglas recently returned from attending Lee’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Davenport, Iowa where she read a letter to Lee’s Board of Directors about her father and his life. It was a powerful moment and Douglas has vowed that her father’s death will not be in vain as she continues to speak out about the callous regard that Lee has for its retirees.