Los Angeles Times publisher and chief executive Ross Levinsohn was a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits, according to a January 18 National Public Radio report.
The union drive - which the Times' owner, Tronc, staunchly opposed - became yet another source of tension between Times' employees and ownership, adding to a growing list of such issues.
On the same day the Los Angeles Times newsroom voted overwhelmingly to unionize, Tronc, the parent company of the newspaper, is investigating allegations of inappropriate behavior by Ross Levinsohn, the newspaper's CEO and publisher.
"Ross Levinsohn should resign or be fired immediately", the unionizing committee said in a statement.
The allegations against Levinsohn span decades, though one comment in particular that roiled Times staffers Thursday allegedly was made in 2013.
Times union organizers also were incensed that while staff benefits were being cut, Tronc last month signed a $5 million-a-year contract with a consulting business owned by its chairman, Michael Ferro. The announcement from Tronc came after National Public Radio reported on its flagship news program "All Things Considered" and in a story on its website that Levinsohn had been sued in sexual harassment cases while working previously at two non-Tronc-related companies. Levinsohn reportedly cut his appearance at an industry event in the Los Angeles area short, allegedly telling an executive for the Hollywood Reporter that he didn't want to "hang out with with a bunch of ladies and fags".
The alleged conduct all predated Levinsohn's employment at the Times.
The woman said in her suit that when she asked Levinsohn for a promotion he pointed to a female reporter who was a former pinup model and said she had "learned how to work her way up to the top".
The publishing company found out about the allegations earlier this week and immediately launched its investigation.
"At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion", according to the statement. The National Labor Relations Board counted the ballots in downtown Los Angeles; the final vote count, according to the union and supporters and observers who were in the room and tweeting during the vote, was 248-44. "We will not hesitate to take further action, if appropriate, once the review is complete".
Management, in emails to workers, said a union would not be able to solve the fundamental financial challenges facing The Times and other newspaper companies, which have faced steady declines in print advertising revenue coupled with much slower growth - or declines - in online revenue.