Guild to Protest Retiree Health Cuts at ‘St. Louis Post-Dispatch’

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Newspaper Guild of St. Louis is planning a protest outside the offices of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday morning to protest parent corporation Lee Enterprises Inc.’s decision to cancel company-paid health insurance for certain retirees.

In its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Lee said it was eliminating the coverage for some retirees and increasing the share of the premium cost for other retired employees.

“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.

According to the Guild local, the decision cancels health coverage for about 100 of its retired members and “dozens” more retired management employees. The Guild represents newsroom and advertising department employees at the Post-Dispatch.

“Many will lose their health coverage because they can’t afford the premiums,” the Guild said. “Some couples will have to pay nearly $1,200 per month to continue coverage under company plans.”

The Guild said its members were promised company-paid health coverage for life, so many retired before becoming eligible for Medicare. Those who qualify for Medicare will lose their supplementary health coverage paid for by Lee, the union added.

“Lee is trying to increase its profits on the backs of the sick and elderly,” the local’s business administrator, Shannon Duffy, said in a statement. “The greed and venality of this profitable corporation know no bounds.”

A spokesman said Lee had no comment on the Guild statement.

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