St. Louis Public Radio News
5:42 pm
Tue December 15, 2009

Lee cuts health care benefits for Post Dispatch retirees

St. Louis, MO – Some retirees from the St. Louis Post Dispatch are having their health benefits eliminated.

The paper's parent company, Lee Enterprises based in Davenport, Iowa says eliminating health care obligations will save the company about $30 million annually.

About 75 former employees and union reps were picketing in the bitter cold outside of the Post on Tuesday morning.

Many of them retirees like Oliver Berger who worked 22 years in the press room.

"I signed a contract when I retired that said I get my health insurance and my pension until the day I die," said Berger. "My wife is covered my health care too and now that's being taken away from us."

Berger says he doesn't know how he'll afford to replace his current coverage

Shannon Duffy is a spokesman for the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. He accused Lee of trying to boost profits on the backs of the sick and elderly.

"The only reason they did this, was not because they were losing money," says Duffy. "They did this because they want higher profits, and they're doing it off your back. You were the people who put your lives into building this newspaper."

Lee teetered on the brink of bankruptcy earlier this year before successfully refinancing $186 million in outstanding debt.

The company says advertising sales have strengthened for the third month in a row. However, operating revenue is still expected to decline 14 percent over the same period last year.