Lee Enterprises Cancels Health Insurance for Retirees, Union Says
Lee Enterprises, owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other newspapers, is canceling company-paid health insurance for scores of retirees, the Newspaper Guild of St. Louis said today.
In a press release, it announced that the Guild would protest outside the Post-Dispatch building on Dec. 15.
The move affects about 100 retired Guild members and dozens more management retirees, the Guild said. Many will lose their health coverage because they can’t afford the premiums, according to the union. Some couples will have to pay nearly $1,200 per month to continue coverage under company plans.
Lee said it was eliminating the coverage for some retirees and increasing the share of the premium cost for other retired employees. Its statement was part of its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.
“The changes are expected to reduce annual net periodic postretirement medical cost beginning in 2010 and will reduce the benefit obligation liability by up to $30 million,” Lee said in the filing. Other than that, there has been no comment from Lee.
The union said it expects Lee to cancel coverage for dozens of other retirees once the current union contract expires.
“Lee is trying to increase its profits on the backs of the sick and elderly. The greed and venality of this profitable corporation know no bounds,” said Shannon Duffy, business administrator for the union, which represents news and advertising employees at the paper.
Duffy compared the action to the executive pay of Lee’s top management. Chief executive officer Mary Junck received compensation worth $2.5 million in the 2008 fiscal year, according to the company proxy. Chief financial officer Carl Schmidt was paid $1.2 million.
“For executives to enrich themselves while cutting health care for the elderly is morally repugnant,” said Duffy. “Lee is reneging on a promise made to men and women who dedicated their working lives to the Post-Dispatch. “That promise was explicit in union contracts.”