How is the contract situation at the PG?
Not good. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s contract expired March 31, 2017. Since then, we’ve been negotiating with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its highly profitable Toledo-based parent company, BCI. As of December 2018, we’re in the 22nd month of negotiations.
That sounds like a long time.
It is! BCI and its owner, Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block and his twin brother, BCI Chairman Allan Block, have sicced on the Guild the pricey, union-busting Nashville, Tenn. law firm King & Ballow. Their representative at the bargaining table is firm partner Richard Lowe.
What does the Guild want?
A fair and equitable contract. The dedicated journalists who put out the news around the clock every single day for the greater Pittsburgh community have not had a raise in 13 years. Meanwhile our members have given back millions of dollars in concessions — part of the tens of millions of dollars the Blocks have received from all of the PG’S unions — as part of years-long pay cuts to help keep the Post-Gazette afloat.
To add insult to injury, the Blocks have violated federal labor law by refusing to properly fund our health insurance in 2018 despite an administrative law judge’s order to do so — and the PG has said it won’t comply with the judge’s order in 2019 either. That means our health insurance benefits, which already got worse this year thanks to the Blocks, will suffer again next year. Asked whether the company couldn’t afford the premium increase, Lowe said recently at the bargaining table that the PG “is not claiming an inability to pay.”
Why is it taking so long to get a contract?
The Blocks and Lowe gave us an absurd initial proposal that essentially sought to rewrite our entire 85-year labor history by eliminating all Guild protections and benefits and creating a new model management-rights contract.
What does that mean?
That means if it’s good for the Blocks, they want it. If it’s good for the Guild, they don’t.
Among many other things, the company wants to:
- Eliminate a guaranteed work week
- Be able to replace Guild members at any time by using freelancers, managers and outside vendors
- Maintain an 8 percent pay cut
- Modify our health care benefits at any time without our consent
In one of the company’s most egregious and heartless proposals — since withdrawn — the Blocks and Lowe actually wanted to take away from Guild members a day of paid funeral leave for the death of a spouse.
What should we know about King & Ballow?
The law firm is notorious among unionized newspapers in the U.S. This is the same firm that led the Blocks to lock out union workers in 2006 at the PG’s sister paper, the Toledo Blade. The Blocks ended up agreeing to pay the locked-out unions $3.5 million in back pay as part of a settlement. The unions, according to a 2007 Communications Worker of America bulletin, “will settle the unfair labor practice charges that the National Labor Relations Board brought against the company alleging an illegal lockout and bad-faith bargaining.”
Why aren’t the Blocks and Lowe being more reasonable?
We can only speculate that the Blocks wants to break our union and Lowe wants to make more money for his law firm.
Is the Post-Gazette making money?
Company officials regularly tell us how much money the PG is losing. That well may be true. But what is also true is that BCI, the Post-Gazette’s parent company, is highly profitable, became wealthy off the newspaper industry’s excellent profit margins in past years, subsidizes the PG’s operations, is privately held and has owners and top managers who are exceedingly wealthy and well-paid.
What’s happening with the health care situation?
The PG refused to pay a contractually mandated 5 percent health insurance premium increase in 2018. Even though our contract expired, specific language it contains as well as federal labor law obligate the company to maintain the contract’s status quo. The PG’s refusal triggered the Guild to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board in Pittsburgh. The board ruled in our favor, and the company appealed. Then an administrative law judge also ruled in our favor and ordered the company to pay the premium. Again, the PG refused. They have a pending appeal before the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC.
- The union representing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom employees files first unfair labor complaint against ownership in decades
The Incline | Jan. 17, 2018
- Post-Gazette management violated labor law, NLRB rules
Pittsburgh Business Times | Mar 21, 2018
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated labor law, judge rules
Tribune- Review | Oct. 17, 2018
- Ruling from administrative law judge sustaining the unfair labor practice charge
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh | Oct. 18, 2018
- Guild statement on judge’s ruling
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh | Oct. 18, 2018
- Judge: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated labor law
Pittsburgh Business Times | Oct 18, 2018
- Judge Says Post-Gazette Must Adhere To Expired Union Contract. The Company Is Appealing
WESA 90.5 | Nov. 15, 2018
- Guild Letter to the editor
January 16, 2018
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Appeal NLRB Regional Director’s Finding it Violated Federal Law
March 23, 2018
- Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh institutes byline strike at the Post-Gazette in protest of contentious negotiations after 12 years of economic givebacks
- Guild Statement on Rob Rogers
- Post-Gazette newsroom pays for full-page ad in the Post-Gazette to promote its committment to independent, quality journalism
June 19, 2018
- Administrative Law Judges Sustains the Unfair Labor Practice Charge that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Violated Federal Law
October 17, 2018
- Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet Downtown as PG publisher speaks at noon luncheon
December 5, 2018