Retirees Take Action to Stop Koch Brothers From Taking Over LA Times

A bus full of retirees traveled around Los Angeles, Thursday, June 20th, as senior citizens delivered letters to the Tribune Company Board Members in their offices. The letters ask Tribune Co. not to sell the Los Angeles Times to the Koch brothers. The billionaire duo hopes to acquire eight Tribune Co. newspapers around the country, and use them to advance their extremist right wing agenda.

The letter delivered by the group cited three specific reasons why a sale of the Tribune newspapers to the Koch brothers is not in the best interests of retirees, including public employee retirees. First, the Koch brothers’ long history of aggressively opposing Social Security, as well as pursuing policies to weaken public pension funds and, and the likelihood that they would use the Tribune newspaper platform as a powerful political and advocacy tool to promote their anti-Social Security and public pension fund policies.

Second, democracy is best served by an objective, empirically based and unbiased free press, and public employee retirees are best served in the short-term and long-term by making sure that a powerful media platform is not controlled by entities seeking to hurt their retirement security. And, finally, selling the newspaper to the Koch Brothers at this time is not in the best financial interests of the Oaktree-invested pension funds nor their participants and beneficiaries because a rushed sale of the Tribune Company newspaper to the Koch Brothers may not maximize returns.

Doris Wallace, a retired social worker from the Los Angeles County, and Chair of the SEIU Local 721 Retiree Committee, served as spokesperson for the group at each office. Said Doris:

I’m really impressed with our action today. I think we had a great response. Every office we visited sent a representative to hear what we had to say and to take our letter to the Tribune Board Members. It would be horrible for Angelenos if we had a Koch brothers owned LA Times. We wouldn’t have any media consistently covering labor issues, or working family issues. Their coverage would solely serve the rich. It would definitely hurt the 99%.

Antonio Armijo, 71, a retired steel worker and member of the Federation of Retired Union Members (FORUM), said the Kochs would

turn the LA Times – which isn’t really pro-labor – into a fundamentally anti-worker paper. A newspaper run by the ultra-right would serve nobody, but the corporations.  With the money they have they wouldn’t even care if the newspaper didn’t turn a profit. They want the influence across the nation for whatever they preach. They just want to control the media.

The lively group of 44 senior citizens first stop at the Los Angeles Times, from there they went to pay a visit to Oak Tree Financial, the LA Times’ parent company, where two Tribune Company Board Members work. The retirees set out to visit five Tribune Co. Board Members, Eddy Hartenstein, Kenneth Liang, Bruce Karsh, and Craig Jabobson. In LA, besides the Los Angeles Times, the Tribune Co. owns, Hoy, a renowned Spanish language newspaper.

There are millions of working people in California who are the participants and beneficiaries of the California Public Employee Retirement System (CALPERS) and the California Teachers Retirement System (CALSTERS), both of which are invested as limited partners in Oaktree Capital Management. Oaktree is the largest owner of the Tribune Companies, parent of the newspapers.  As the largest owner of the Tribune Company, Oaktree will determine whether the Tribune Company sells the newspaper platform to the Koch brothers.  Because public pension plans have invested retirement money with Oaktree, workers have a stake in the future of the Tribune Company's newspaper and deserve to have their voices listened to by the Tribune Board. 

Lloyd Harvey, 61, a retired utility worker and member of IBEW Local 18:

I came to help the movement to stop the Koch brothers from taking over the Tribune. They are known to be anti-pension, anti-union, and trying to take away social security. They really have no strong hold here in the LA area, and we want to keep it that way by not letting them into the media.

The Koch brothers are known for financing conservative and libertarian causes. They founded an advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity, whose stated goals are to limit government, and eliminate regulations. 

Megan Boyd, a retired member of the teachers’ union, UTLA/AFT Local 1021, said:

Basically, all the underpinnings of the middle class are things that the Koch brothers have gone on record opposing, and what they will definitely try to undermine through the media: Public education, pensions, social securities, unions, and collective bargaining. We need to stop them.

The action ended in Beverly Hills, where, Bruce Karsh, the chairman of the Tribune Co. Board works. The retirees hope Tribune Co. Board realizes that this is a serious issue, and that public opinion is against the Koch brothers.

IBEW retiree Lloyd Harvey added

It is important to be in the fight against the Koch brothers because we want to protect unions. The Koch brothers have systematically attacked unions, and government workers. Our action was important to show how much seniors care. It was also important to help inform the community about who the Koch brothers really are, and I hope that everybody who learns about them will let someone else know, so we can keep them out of LA.