St. Louis Post-Dispatch head carpenter quits over Lee Enterprises CEO’s $700,000 bonus

On April 7, I reported that Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck received a $700,000 bonus for simply refinancing the newspaper chain’s debt.

The news disgusted longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch carpenter Scott Bujnak.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he says.

Bujnak, 56, went into publisher Ray Farris‘s office last Wednesday and quit after 18 years at the Lee-owned daily.

Columnist Bill McClellan writes:

He told his boss he was through and explained why. What’s the point of saving nickels and dimes when the big boss gets a $700,000 bonus? Word spread quickly. “He did what?” “Wow.”

How many people at how many companies have daydreamed about doing the same thing?

Bujnak apparently doesn’t regret quitting, even without another job lined up. “I have a smile on my face you can’t wipe off,” he tells McClellan.

The columnist points out:

Workers have suffered while the big bosses have prospered. Pensions were long ago frozen. Mandatory unpaid furloughs were introduced. Layoffs were the worst. Families were ravaged. Yet, it was the small things that got to Bujnak. Mixing paints, cannibalizing chairs. He started resenting saving the company money.

Especially when people like CEO Junck were regularly getting big bonuses. (She also got a bonus of $500,000 in March of 2012 – again for simply refinancing Lee’s debt.)

I called McClellan to see if he had difficulty getting a column critical of the Big Boss into the paper.

Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan

“I didn’t have any problems,” he says. “The only thing I did out of the ordinary is turn it in at one [instead of the usual 5 p.m.] in case there were any questions.”

There was one, he says.

“I got one call about mixing the paint, and that’s all.” (He makes reference to Bujnak’s recycling paint to save money.)

McClellan guesses this column “probably went up the ladder” higher than usual for approval, but he’s not certain. (In an email and voicemail, I’ve asked metro editor Marcia Koenig about that.)

McClellan says today’s piece only helps the Post-Dispatch.

“It makes us look good when we criticize ourselves.”

I’ve asked Lee spokesman Dan Hayes if he’s seen the column. Since he’s never returned my calls, I suspect we won’t find out.

* A carpenter has the making of a folk hero (
* April 2014: Lee CEO Mary Junck gets $700,000 bonus for refinancing debt (
* March 2012: Lee CEO Junck gets $500,000 bonus for refinancing debt (

Meanwhile, at another Lee-owned newspaper…. The Montana Standard is looking for local columnists who will write for free.

The paper says: “We might be able to round up some Standard swag if a coffee cup or pen would make it worth your while. The exposure to almost 30,000 readers a day is usually gratifying, and just think how your voice could help shape public discourse and make our communities better places.”