LA Times Journalists Vote Overwhelmingly to Unionize as Questions Surround Publisher

Ross Levinsohn is shown in an undated

Tronc and its board of directors must be held accountable for their failure to properly vet Levinsohn for one of the most important positions at the company and in American journalism.

Ballots for the union vote were counted Friday at a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, which conducted in-person voting January 4 and has since been receiving mail-in ballots. By a vote of 245-44, employees voted overwhelmingly to join the newly-established L.A. Times Guild.

A few years later, Levinsohn was named in a lawsuit stemming from his tenure as an executive for News Corp.

The announcement comes a day after an NPR report uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct against the Times' publisher and CEO, Ross Levinsohn, increasing tensions between staffers and the executives who have always been hostile to the union campaign.

The article comes as the Times' newsroom has been aggressively reporting on politicians in Sacramento and media and entertainment figures who have been embroiled in sexual harassment scandals, including Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Russell Simmons, James Toback and James Franco.

Journalists working for the Los Angeles Times have voted to unionize, according to a vote count Friday by the L.A. Times Guild.

Some Times employees had called for Levinsohn to be fired after National Public Radio reported Thursday on allegations that he had engaged in what has been termed "frat-boy" behavior while serving as an executive at two previous companies and was a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits before he joined the Times on August 21.

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Ross Levinsohn "has voluntarily agreed to take an unpaid leave of absence, effective immediately", Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said in a message to employees Friday afternoon. The law firm Sidley Austin LLP will conduct "a review of the allegations regarding his behavior", Dearborn said.

Times Guild organizing committee member and 30-year L.A. Times newsroom veteran Bettina Boxall said after the vote that it was time for journalists to have a formal spot at the bargaining table.

In one lawsuit filed in 2001 by a former employee of the search engine Alta Vista, a female worker accused Levinsohn and other top executives of creating a hostile work environment. Several weeks later, audio from another all-hands meeting, in which LAT editor-in-chief Lewis D'Vorkin chewed out staff over the leak, was itself leaked. According to NPR, Levinsohn called allegations against him "lies" in a Wednesday phone call.

Levinsohn did not respond to detailed questions from NPR.

"We respect the outcome of the election and look forward to productive conversations with union leadership as we move forward", the statement reads.

"At Tronc", the statement added, "we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion. We will not hesitate to take further action, if appropriate, once the review is complete".

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