On day of Lee Enterprises’ annual shareholders meeting, Guild issued a vote of no confidence

For the first time, The Buffalo Newspaper Guild has issued a public vote of “no confidence” in the ownership of The Buffalo News. The public statement was shared on our social media pages on April 18, 2023, the day of Lee Enterprises’ annual shareholders meeting. Read the full statement below:

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild’s Executive Committee has issued a vote of no confidence in the executive team of Lee Enterprises, the corporate parent of The Buffalo News.

The vote, which was unanimous and taken at Monday night’s Guild Executive Committee meeting, comes on the heels of a particularly tumultuous time in Lee’s three-year ownership of The Buffalo News, a period in which the Iowa-based chain has struggled with such basic tasks as paying its employees and ensuring benefits coverage.

The vote was based on a multitude of factors including, but not limited to:

  • The continued pattern of disinvestment in The Buffalo News, which has included outsourcing departments from Western New York and further stripping away local control. This includes the planned outsourcing of print production to Cleveland, which will frustrate our valuable print readers (who continue to account for most of our revenue) while considerably moving up deadlines and undoubtedly causing print circulation to decline.
  • The absolute lack of understanding on how to build a functional, simple, user-intuitive website and mobile app, both of which have somehow – inexplicably – managed to get worse with every new version that Lee rolls out. Our readers are tired of having to constantly log in, and we are tired of Lee managing to erect barriers to our content.
  • The systemic issues of poor communication with customers and with employees. Most of our customer service operation has been outsourced from Buffalo, causing further headaches for readers and no doubt accelerating the outflow of subscribers and hindering growth. Internally, employees are rarely told of any upcoming changes, even the ones that deeply affect their personal situations. 
  • The complete failure of Lee’s benefits and payroll administrators, who have managed – despite a year of planning – to make a mockery of the simple practice of paying employees and delivering health, dental and other benefits. It is now mid-March, and issues still remain with health and prescription benefits that went live Jan. 1. And some employees were shorted hundreds of dollars, without explanation, in their checks Friday. One employee wasn’t paid at all. 
  • The fact that Lee executives have never been richer at a time when the company is marginally profitable and is actively seeking cost cuts from its employees. Lee’s top three executives all made more money in 2022 than 2021. That includes President and CEO Kevin Mowbray, whose total compensation increased from $2.17 million to $2.33 million.

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild’s Executive Committee understands the challenges of the local news business, but those challenges are made even more insurmountable in the incapable hands of Lee executives. 

Transformative change requires investment and dynamic leaders capable of treating customers and employees with the same respect as shareholders. 

It is clear that Lee’s current executive team has no intention of doing that.

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