Long Beach Post staffers laid off after moving to unionize and going on strike


The Long Beach Media Guild announced Friday that at least 60% of the bargaining unit received layoff notices shortly after newsroom employees moved to unionize and went on strike to protest the impending cuts.

The unit, which is seeking voluntary recognition from its employer, the Long Beach Journalism Initiative, said that nine of its members were laid off, while three surviving members remain on strike. The entire Long Beach Post staff was reduced from 17 to eight, said a source close to the nonprofit who was not authorized to comment.

Chief Executive Melissa Evans and the board of directors of the Long Beach Journalism Initiative, the parent nonprofit of the Long Beach Post and the Long Beach Business Journal, said Friday in a statement that “financial circumstances were the only reason for these cuts” after the Long Beach Post and the Long Beach Business Journal switched from corporate to nonprofit ownership four months ago.

“Everyone on staff, as well as our Board of Directors, knew that this move to a nonprofit carried with it considerable uncertainty and risk,” the statement read.

“We completely changed our business model, with greater reliance on donors and grants. We’ve made huge strides — Long Beach is a fantastic and generous city — but carrying so much salary was threatening our ability to pay our bills now and in the long term.”

The Long Beach Media Guild has alleged that all nine staffers were laid off without severance pay. Evans did not respond to The Times’ request for comment on that claim.

Evans announced the impending layoffs Thursday during an all-staff meeting, after which the bargaining unit went on strike, said Jason Ruiz, a City Hall reporter at the Long Beach Post and spokesperson for the Long Beach Media Guild.

Staffers at the Long Beach Post moved to unionize under the Media Guild of the West a couple of weeks after sending a letter to the Long Beach Journalism Initiative board of directors outlining their concerns about recent leadership decisions, alleged labor violations and other grievances, Ruiz said.

The Long Beach Media Guild requested voluntary recognition from its employer last Wednesday after the entire bargaining unit signed union cards.

Ruiz said the bargaining unit is considering Friday’s layoffs an act of retaliation and is filing an unfair labor practice claim against the Long Beach Journalism Initiative. Striking staffers are seeking workplace protections, wage increases and benefits that cover both physical and mental health, as well as updated diversity, equity and inclusion standards for the publication and its coverage.

“If we go away, Long Beach is going to become a news desert,” Ruiz said. “Our community … deserves more than that.”

The Media Guild of the West has been corresponding with the Long Beach Journalism Initiative to schedule a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, though it’s unclear how such an election would move forward after the majority of eligible voters were just laid off.

“Laying people off is the last thing we wanted to do, and we took every measure to avoid cutting jobs,” Evans and the Long Beach Journalism Initiative board said in their statement.

“The employees who were impacted by these layoffs today are talented journalists and support team members, and they did not deserve to be out of a job. But our obligation to our donors, to foundations, and to our readers is to ensure that the Post and the work we do survives this critical transition.”

This is the latest round of layoffs to befall the newspaper industry. The Los Angeles Times in January announced that it was laying off more than 20% of the newsroom, which is also represented by the Media Guild of the West.



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