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Noted Strib biz writer and Guild activist Chris Serres leaving to organize Vegas casino workers

The Star Tribune is losing another of those colorful — and talented — characters who are so hard to replace.

Business writer and union activist Chris Serres is leaving the paper to take a job as a research analyst and union campaign organizer with Unite HERE in Las Vegas. He's attracted by the passion of the effort by the Culinary Union to organize workers in some of the city's largest casinos.

This is not exactly a standard sort of move for a talented business journalist. Typically, if a business writer leaves the paper, it's for a job in the corporate world.

But Serres, 40, never has been typical. Before arriving at the Strib in 2004, he worked at a magazine in Canada and then took a position for two years as a business reporter for a journal in Poland.

Only after a couple of years there did his route to the Strib become a little more traditional. He went to work for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., which for a while was the top farm club of the Strib.


Serres had not been a union member until arriving at the Strib, a Guild paper. But he arrived in 2004 at a point when the paper's management was attempting to dump its longtime readers representative, Lou Gelfand. The Guild was holding a rally in Gelfand's support across the street from the newspaper, Serres attended the rally out of curiosity and was deeply moved.

Chris Serres
Chris Serres

From that day on, the aggressive biz reporter also became an aggressive union activist.

As an old union activist myself, I saw Serres' activism as a two-fer.

Unlike most of us who were active, Serres not only had hair — but his wasn't gray. For obvious reasons, a union can only be as strong as its youngest leaders.

Additionally, he was a business reporter, meaning he could command the respect of some in the newsroom who were highly suspicious of the old 1960s newsroom crowd. Hey, they seemed to think, how radical could a biz reporter be?

It turned out that at times, Serres' beliefs in the union cause — and the need for solidarity among all Strib unions — put him as out of step with the Guild's moderate mainstream as it did with company management.

Still, his voice was important as the Strib went through its period of painful downsizing and Guild members saw cutbacks in their union contract.

For all of his union activism, Serres never backed off his aggressive biz reporting, specializing in coverage of banks and finance firms at a time of huge upheaval in those industries.

In an e-mail, Serres explained his reasons for leaving.

"My reasons for leaving newspapers after 20 years are personal and political,'' Serres wrote. "They stem from a growing belief that without a vigorous union movement there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery and impoverishment. In the midst of blatant injustices against workers and recent unjustified attacks unions, I found it increasingly difficult to stand on the sideline as a spectator.''

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Comments (10)

Well that explains everything.

The Strib's business writer is a union activist. You can't make this stuff up. lol

I can't recall if Chris and his fellow Star Tribune union members always alerted readers to their possible conflict-of-interest when covering the union protests in Madison, WI. Does anyone remember?

As a former journalist who now works in the finance industry with one of my jobs answering reporters questions, I can tell you Chris Serres was very tough but very fair. When he first arrived and ended up on our beat, he made a point to meet me and my group's leadership in person so he'd know who he was dealing with.
His questions were tough, but complete and I never felt that we had ever been treated unfairly by him. I have a great deal of respect for him and wish him the best.

It seems unfair and disingenuous to question the credibility and professionalism of a reporter who leaves for union work when the same questions are not raised about reporters who leave for corporate work.

Chris has done so many important, complex stories during his time at the Star Tribune -- particularly about the relentless, sometimes unethical pursuit of people who allegedly had unpaid consumer debt. He pointed out the lack of protection for people who were mistakenly harassed.

I admit my bias. Chris is also a friend. And he's a big loss to community members who appreciate tough, fair reporting about important issues that are often ignored.

It's been a fact for years and widely known that the StarTribune has a unionized workforce. I think it's a non-starter to express surprise that a writer in the business section is a union member. While some may disagree it's still a legal activity most placess in the U.S.

Chris is both a first-rate journalist and, even more important, a first-rate human being.

He cares deeply for the quality of his work -- I know because I edited many of his news reports for several years -- and for his fellow workers. (I know about that first-hand, too, because of the great support he gave me during a time of difficulty -- time he always managed to find despite a huge workload.)

His professional skill was rendered with humility. In a business where it's easy to become impressed with oneself, Chris never showed a hint of conceit or short temper in the many times we worked together on news reports. It was a joy to work with him.

I wish him professional success and great happiness in his new role.

His departure is a huge loss for the newspaper and for his colleagues.

@Dennis

A business writer who isn't turned on by the lying, cheating, and stealing of the corporate world? Geez, you really *can't* make that kind of stuff up. You better just stick to the WSJ.

You'll find no finer, kinder, wiser fellow than Chris Serres.

-- Pam Miller, Star Tribune

Well I guess there's n opening for Jason Lewis. As the Strib drifts furthrer from reality and deeper into the morass.

I know that former Star-Tribune employees Erick Black, Doug Grow, Dane Smith, Jim Boyd, Susan Albright Jay Weiner and others along with their Pioneer Press colleagues have found new homes at left-wing organizations like MinnPost and Growth & Justice founded by former Star-Tribune editor and publisher Joel Kramer. I think it would be fascinating to study just where reporters and editors land after their newspaper careers. I am unaware of any of have that gone to right-wing think tanks, websites or publications. I would like to know if any have and, if so, what is the ratio.