National Labor Relations Board issues complaint against Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Block Communications, Inc.

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The National Labor Relations Board’s Pittsburgh office has issued a long-awaited complaint against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its parent company, Block Communications, Inc., for bad-faith bargaining and other improper conduct in its contract talks with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

The complaint, dated Wednesday, April 27, 2022, and filed by NLRB Regional Director Nancy Wilson, said the company “bargained with no intention of reaching agreement” by “insisting upon proposals that are predictably unacceptable to the union.” It orders the company to attend a hearing before an administrative law judge Sept. 12, 2022 to respond to the charges.

This once again proves what Newspaper Guild leadership has been saying for years, that the company has acted in bad faith against the workers that create its award winning product, and that they would rather spend millions of dollars on an out-of-state attorney rather than the journalists who report the news.

The Guild’s last contract with the company expired in March 2017 and unproductive contract bargaining continued until July 27, 2020, when the company declared an impasse to bargaining and unilaterally imposed working conditions that lowered wages, reduced benefits, and stripped away years of bargained protections for over 100 newsroom journalists represented by the Newspaper Guild. Since then, the Post-Gazette has assigned work normally done by union members to managers and freelance writers, has denied earned vacation time to the most senior members, and has hired new employees at positions and wages not agreed to in previous bargaining sessions with the Guild. These actions have led the Guild to file a series of grievances and unfair labor practice charges. 

The company and Guild have negotiated a series of concessionary contracts in recent years and union members haven’t had an across-the-board raise since 2006.

“This complaint supports what we have been saying all along — the company has had no interest in reaching a new contract and has been out to break the union,” said Ed Blazina, the union’s acting president. “Now, it is time for the company to be held responsible for its illegal actions.”

In addition to bad-faith bargaining, the complaint says the company acted illegally by taking photographs and video of union members when they held rallies or demonstrations to express concern about the lack of progress in contract bargaining.

The complaint about bad-faith bargaining comes on the heels of a ruling late last year by a U.S. Circuit Court that the Post-Gazette and BCI illegally changed health care benefits during contract negotiations. As a result, the company had to pay members more than $100,000 plus interest to reimburse them for health-care costs that would have been covered under the previous insurance.

“Our great hope is that the company can see that the writing is on the wall and they should drop their outrageous attempts to break this union,” Blazina said. “Through all of this turmoil, our members have continued to do award-winning work, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Tree of Life shootings in Squirrel Hill. It’s time for this company to do the right thing and settle this labor dispute.”

The NLRB complaint can be found here.

Contact: Ed Blazina, 412-773-2242, pghguild@gmail.com

Post-Gazette Union Journalists Mark Five Years Since Expiration Of Contract

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Union journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, on Thursday will mark five years since the expiration of their last collectively bargained contract, which was signed on October 14, 2014, and expired on March 31, 2017.

In order to commemorate the day, NewsGuild members will hold an “Unhappy Anniversary” action at 12 p.m. on North Shore Drive in front of the Post-Gazette newsroom. Members will then deliver an anniversary card to the newsroom that, among other things, lists the many accomplishments that PG journalists have achieved over the past five years, including a Pulitzer Prize and dozens of other national, state, and local awards.   

In the five years since the contract expired, PG parent company Block Communications Inc. has spent millions of dollars fighting their own workers at the bargaining table and illegally and unilaterally slashing benefits. Those benefit cuts included increasing the cost of and reducing the coverage in health care, cutting vacation time for the most senior workers, and reducing jurisdiction and job security language. To top it all off, the journalists at the PG have not had a collective raise since 2006.

This reprehensible behavior culminated on July 27, 2020, when the PG illegally declared an impasse at bargaining and unilaterally imposed work rules onto journalists at the paper.

“It is hard to believe Block Communications has been so willing to spend millions on out-of-town, union-busting attorneys rather than its own loyal employees,” said Ed Blazina, the union’s interim president. “In that same five years, our members have continued to do exemplary work, including winning a Pulitzer Prize, and providing award-winning coverage during the pandemic. It’s sad that we are five years from the expiration of our last contract and the Post-Gazette has yet to show interest in negotiating a fair contract.”

NewsGuild members have pushed back, staging public actions and rallies and filing multiple unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to get the PG to bargain in good faith to secure the future for workers and a strong newspaper for the Pittsburgh community.

“We hope that by highlighting the award-winning work of the journalists at the PG in the absurd amount of time that we’ve worked without a contract, we’re able to collectively show ownership that the workers of their paper deserve their fair share,” said Zack Tanner, Post-Gazette unit chair.

The Post-Gazette is a community asset that the Newspaper Guild wants to preserve, but reaching a fair agreement that benefits the award-winning journalists is paramount to maintaining quality journalism in Pittsburgh.

Newspaper Guild Of Pittsburgh Members Collect Reimbursement In Victory After Years Long Health Care Legal Battle

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Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members will be receiving over $100,000 in reimbursement money, plus 6% statutory interest, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a years-long legal battle over the company’s refusal to pay contractually obligated health care coverage increases that commenced in 2018.

This reimbursement comes after a November 2021 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which upheld a December 2020 ruling from U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. Horan.

“Saying this is an incredible win for our members is an understatement,” said Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President Lacretia Wimbley. “Post-Gazette parent company, Block Communications (BCI), has gotten away with disenfranchising us from our contractual rights for far too long — this decision by the Third Circuit is empowering and liberating. 

“It’s sad and ridiculous that the company would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting us. Now they have been forced to pay what they should have paid to begin with, and it has cost them much more than it would have to simply do the right thing. Many, many thanks to our longtime legal counsel Joe Pass and his firm, as well as our members and leaders, and all of our allies and supporters. Our union has been through so much the last several years due to egregious actions by BCI. Victory has never tasted so sweet, and this is only the beginning.”

Judge Horan’s ruling rejected all seven points the Post-Gazette raised when it appealed an arbitrator’s Dec. 30, 2019, ruling in favor of the Newspaper Guild. She ordered enforcement of the arbitrator’s order, which requires the Post-Gazette to reimburse members of the Newspaper Guild for higher deductible payments they incurred because the company’s refusal to pay insurance increases reduced the level of coverage for union members.

Judge Horan upheld U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan’s recommendation rejecting all seven of the Post-Gazette’s issues challenging an arbitrator’s award in favor of the Newspaper Guild on all issues. That included technical points such as missing the deadline to file an appeal and having no grounds to appeal an arbitrator’s decision, as well as the legal merits of the case because the Post-Gazette violated its contract with the Newspaper Guild by refusing to pay for health care increases during contract talks.

“This is a monumental victory for the journalists at the Post-Gazette. We are finally collecting money that the company tried to steal out of the worker’s pockets instead of doing what was right and preserving our collectively bargained benefits,” said Zack Tanner, Newspaper Guild Post-Gazette unit chair. 

The healthcare issue is part of an on-going labor dispute between The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The union’s contract expired in March 2017 and the company unilaterally imposed conditions in August 2020, a move the union is challenging through an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board that claims the company engaged in bad-faith bargaining. Our goal is to get back to the bargaining table and secure a fair contract that respects the union journalists who make the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We all deserve a local newspaper that invests in our community and empowers inclusive journalism that reflects our city.

CONTACTS: LACRETIA WIMBLEY
PRESIDENT
412-913-4083

ZACK TANNER
POST-GAZETTE UNIT CHAIR
412-475-8417

Point Park University Full-Time Faculty Union Unanimously Ratifies 3-year Collective Bargaining Agreement

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In an unanimous 72-0 vote, members of the Point Park full-time faculty union, affiliated with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Local 38061, ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Point Park University.

Members of the faculty union — which gained a tentative agreement with university administration on Oct. 30 — officially ratified the union’s second CBA on Wednesday. The three-year deal includes minimum salary increases, progressive yearly salary increases for all faculty over the course of the agreement, new policies on leave for the Juneteenth federal holiday and other religious observances, and the addition of paid time off for parental leave.

“This is a good deal for Point Park University; it improves significant elements of our full-time faculty’s compensation and working conditions, and provides an important measure of stability to those who continue to labor mightily to help the institution adjust to the difficult circumstances resulting from COVID-19,” said full-time faculty union chair J. Dwight Hines.

“We now call upon the administration to rescind the austerity that was visited upon the University’s staff under the guise of the pandemic and to extend similar benefits, especially retirement and parental leave, to our colleagues.

The previous agreement expired on June 30, and, from June through October, the faculty union’s bargaining committee met 25 times with university administration to negotiate. NewsGuild-CWA, under which the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh is affiliated, submitted its endorsement of the tentative agreement on Monday. The Local’s Executive Committee unanimously passed a motion approving it on Tuesday. 

The new CBA, which goes into effect as of ratification and is in effect through June 30, 2024, provides full-time faculty members with pay increases retroactive to the start of the fall semester, and will see those raises paid out just in time for the holiday season. 

Key provisions of the three-year agreement include annual salary increases of 3.5%-4.25% percent; increases in the minimum salaries for all full-time faculty positions, with lecturers’ minimum salaries increasing by 12-15% this academic year; and four weeks of parental leave with 100% pay, with parents who give birth continuing to be eligible for short-term disability beyond four weeks if they are unable to work.

“The faculty union’s bargaining team worked very hard these last few months to reach this agreement,” said Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President Lacretia Wimbley. “We came out with a CBA that is much better than anticipated. Faculty members gained progressive wage increases each year of the deal and for the first time, obtained paid parental leave. The team also fought to have Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday at the University.

“I say this often, but I couldn’t be more proud. Faculty union members, along with all the passionate students, allies and supporters, have truly exemplified what it means to stand in solidarity in the fight to be recognized, valued and respected by the administration. 

“This CBA proves what can happen when you stand together and refuse to relent. Hats off to the administration for working with us to accomplish this.”

In addition to the gains listed above, the newly ratified CBA gives faculty a greater role in shared governance at the university, as well as more input into health and safety matters.

The union’s bargaining committee consists of full-time faculty union Unit Chair Dwight Hines, faculty member Bob Ross, the Local’s Second Vice President Karen Dwyer, faculty member and former Faculty Union Delegate Ben Schonberger, faculty union Delegate Kirstin Hanley, faculty union Treasurer Bill Breslove, faculty member and former faculty union Secretary Barbara Barrow, attorney Steve Winslow of Jubelirer, Pass & Intrieri, P.C., PG Unit Chair Zack Tanner and Local President Lacretia Wimbley.

CONTACTS: DWIGHT HINES
UNIT CHAIR
(936)-615-4742
JDWIGHTHINES@GMAIL.COM

LACRETIA WIMBLEY
PRESIDENT
(412) 913-4083
CRETIA483@GMAIL.COM

Report on harassment out of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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In September 2020, credible allegations of misconduct were shared with the International NewsGuild leadership about the former president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh. Those allegations were shared with the local leadership and the president resigned his position and retired from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. An investigation was completed by the Communications Workers of America and NewsGuild and a report was released in December 2020.

In response to member requests, a consultant was hired in March 2021 to conduct a review and listening tour with current and former members at the Post-Gazette. The final report from the listening tour assesses and evaluates the culture of the local.

The report details both suggestions for moving forward and recounts the experiences of past and current members.

We hope Guild members take the time to read the report and reflect on what you would like to see moving forward. It is not an easy read — some of the experiences are difficult to hear about, as we are sure they were difficult to recount for those involved — but it is optimistic. 

Our members are committed to improving this union and it is clear through the recommendations outlined that change is possible.

These are the changes we have already begun to implement:

  • Any member of the International NewsGuild Executive Council can be contacted if you experience harassment or discrimination in our union and do not feel comfortable going to your local steward or leaders. Find a list of Executive Council members and their emails here. You can also submit complaints here.
  • The Executive Council will review a resolution submitted for consideration at the October Sector Conference that, after approval by delegates, will require yearly anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all local officers. 
  • Members of the Safer NewsGuild committee have proposed three changes to our parent union’s constitution for the October CWA Convention. The three amendments have been recommended by the Constitution Committee. These include adding “fighting harassment and discrimination” as a core objective of our union in Article III, clarifying that violating CWA’s Policy on Mutual Respect is a chargeable offense under Article XIX and clarifying that accusers can be victims of an offense, witnesses or someone who learns of an offense under Article XX
  • A new module will be added to the Guild’s steward training program to teach stewards how to handle and prevent harassment in our union.
  • Clear instructions on how to file a charge against another member for harassment will be provided to all members.

We would also like to hear from you about what is most important. You can find a Google form here to offer feedback on the report and let us know what recommendations you consider priorities. 

We’re also hosting a town hall for all NewsGuild members at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, Sept. 22. Register here.

The recommendations in the report are extensive and some will take more time to implement than others. We are committed to moving swiftly to implement the suggestions and hope to work with members as we go. Crafting a code of conduct, for example, is something that we hope includes feedback from members. 

The report speaks for itself, but we wanted to add our thoughts as well: 

“I’m so proud of our members speaking up about the issues they’ve faced. It’s honestly hard to read, but it’s necessary if we want to foster a union that’s radically transparent and progressive. Our members are leading the way and we will back them up with new policies to improve the culture and provide support for every member.”  —Jon Schleuss, President, NewsGuild-CWA

“I am optimistic that the collective reflection on the allegations of harassment within the Pittsburgh local — along with the recommendations for improvement offered by our consultant —  will help us all find better processes to ensure that our union and our workplaces are equipped to deal with harassment concerns going forward.”  —Marian Needham, NewsGuild-CWA Executive Vice President

“In addition to leading the path forward, this report will aid the Guild in ensuring a safe space for all members, especially women. All members should feel that they will be heard, and that there is someone available to not only listen, but to take action and improve the policies of the Guild at both the local and national level. Guild leadership has now been tasked with strengthening the trust of members and providing a transparent plan to move forward, but it will also require the work of all members to create change.” —Alyssa Brown, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, former secretary and co-chair Human Rights Committee

“Hearing the sincere concerns of members in our Union has been troubling, yet very enlightening. It takes more strength to engage in honest transparency than it does to ignore the signs that something is wrong. No union is perfect, but it is our absolute duty to listen to Guild members and ensure we are cultivating an atmosphere of safety for women in our Local. We must be intentional about creating and maintaining ethical processes and procedures that are clear and concise for the well being of the members we serve. Healthy development doesn’t happen overnight, but it begins with truth and humility, and by recognizing there is always room to grow.

“I believe this is the start of a more secure, collaborative future for our Union. Our goal is to move forward better equipped to serve one another through the implementation of fresh ideas, and with respect and sensitivity for our fellow counterparts.” —Lacretia Wimbley, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President

“I’m grateful to our members who took the time to share their experiences and ideas, and am glad Rebecca was able to provide a forum for so many to express their thoughts. This hasn’t been an easy process but it was a necessary one – and it’s just the start.”  —Lauren Rosenblatt, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Third Vice President, Co-chair Human Rights Committee

“It was a long process from the place we started to where we are today. Reading each of these testaments touches us all in our hearts. From the courage of those who spoke to our consultant and opened up about their own experiences, I find strength. Our union is made stronger when we give voice to those who remained silent about what they felt was wrong but could not share for fear of not being believed. I am proud of what has been done by our leadership to approach this problem directly and to work on solutions to avoid the now decades-long period of silence over serious wrongdoing. This is just the beginning.” —Grace Catania, Chicago NewsGuild Vice-President.

Read the report here.

In solidarity, 

The Listening Tour Task Force

Lacretia Wimbley, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president

Lauren Rosenblatt, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh third vice president, co-chair Human Rights Committee 

Alyssa Brown, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh former secretary, co-chair Human Rights Committee 

Grace Catania, Chicago NewsGuild vice president, former chairperson CWA National Women’s Committee

Jon Schleuss, NewsGuild-CWA president

Marian Needham, NewsGuild-CWA executive vice president

Join the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh for a community town hall forum and workshop

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh invites the community to participate in a virtual town hall forum and workshop on Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. 

Attendees will hear from guild leadership as well as columnist Tony Norman, reporter/editor Sara Bauknecht, and sports reporter Nubyjas Wilborn about the state of the Post-Gazette and why the union is crucial to the direction and future of the centuries-old community institution.

In addition to hearing from guild members, readers and community attendees will participate in breakout rooms and in-depth discussions with guild members on what the unionized workers at the Post-Gazette, a critical asset to the community, can do to work toward a secure future for the newspaper that Pittsburgh relies on for holding leaders accountable, to bringing to light issues in our region.

Newspaper Guild members at the Post-Gazette have been without a contract since 2017 despite continued efforts on the union’s behalf to come to a fair and equitable agreement with company owners. The Post-Gazette and the Block family, however, have hired a union-busting Tennessee law firm, King & Ballow, to delay and deny progress on a new contract, have refused to negotiate on a fair contract in good faith, and have illegally imposed harsh and unnecessary cuts to employee pay and benefits.

In the past three years alone, the newsroom staff won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue, several guild members were finalists for another Pulitzer for their series on sexual abuse in the Plain community, and staff members have won dozens of other awards. Meanwhile, the size of the staff has continued to shrink as talented journalists have left the newspaper and, in many cases, Pittsburgh.

Join the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. as we discuss these issues and work together with our community to ensure a strong future for the Post-Gazette. Registration will be open until the beginning of the forum.

Newspaper Guild speaks out against Post-Gazette’s latest attempt to shrink newsroom

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh stands firmly against the latest attempt by Block Communications Inc. (BCI) to further shrink the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PG) newsroom.

In its latest attempt to slash newsroom numbers, BCI recently introduced its “Voluntary Separation Agreement”, also known as a buyout package, with a stated goal of reducing the number of Guild positions in the newsroom by 19. The reason, according to the company, isn’t economic or financial, but merely because the company feels it “can operate with fewer” workers.  

Although buyouts are voluntary, and the Guild does not oppose voluntary separation, this decision and reasoning provided by the company appears counterintuitive during a time when at least a third of union members have left the PG in the last two years, and those who remain are already stretched thin due to the loss in manpower, according to Guild President Lacretia Wimbley.

In spring 2020, BCI offered an identical buyout package with a stated goal of eliminating 24 Guild positions from the PG newsroom, and ultimately accepted the 14 individuals who applied for the buyout package. An additional 19 workers exiting the newsroom would be devastating to the newspaper that readers in the Pittsburgh area rely on to stay informed.

“Buyouts in general are one thing, but to offer a second round of buyouts less than one year after the last round was offered is very concerning,” Ms. Wimbley said. “The fact that the company said it has made this decision, essentially, just because they can, is absolutely outrageous.

“Our community deserves so much better than this. Pittsburgh deserves quality journalism, but that is being hindered by such decisions being made by BCI.”

The Guild does not view this buyout package in a vacuum. On July 27, 2020, after bargaining in bad faith for over three years, BCI illegally declared an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposing working conditions on the Guild. These illegally imposed terms destroyed years of bargained for protections designed to protect Guild members in the event of layoffs.

In addition the company has:

  • Denied collective raises for 15 years
  • Illegally slashed health care benefits and astronomically driven up insurance costs
  • Created a hostile work environment, forcing members to leave the PG for other jobs
  • Consistently shown intolerance on race issues, including blocking the coverage by a Black reporter of stories related to Black Lives Matter protests
  • Paid millions of dollars to the Nashville, Tenn. union-busting law firm King & Ballow and now wants to reduce those employees that form the backbone of the enterprise
  • Eliminated seniority benefits 

While BCI hasn’t moved to layoffs, in their own buyout package language distributed to Guild members they state: “In the event enough eligible employees do not choose to voluntarily resign their employment, additional staff reductions may be necessary.”

The Post-Gazette is a community asset, and the Newspaper Guild wants to preserve it. The Guild believes that BCI needs to rescind the illegally imposed working conditions and come to an agreement on a fair contract that respects the union workers who make the Post-Gazette. We all deserve a local newspaper that invests in our community and empowers inclusive journalism that reflects our region.

CONTACT: LACRETIA WIMBLEY
PRESIDENT
CRETIA483@GMAIL.COM

Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh launches interview series to assess internal culture

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, along with our parent union The NewsGuild-CWA, is launching an interview series to assess and evaluate the culture of our local’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette unit and identify areas of improvement inside the newsroom. 

The assessment is in response to an investigation by the Communications Workers of America that was prompted by allegations last September that former local president Michael Fuoco violated an internal policy of respect. The CWA’s mutual respect policy, which every member is expected to adhere, prohibits harassment and discrimination. 

The situation brought attention to areas of concern within the Guild at the local and national level, including concerns that people did not feel comfortable reporting harassment or misconduct, did not feel there were proper procedures in place to respond to and act on these types of reports and did not feel protected by the very body put in place to protect them.

The Guild does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind and leadership at all levels is committed to making the necessary changes needed to address these concerns.

Guild leadership was stunned by the allegations against Fuoco that gave rise to the internal CWA investigation as well as those which spurred a Dec. 6, 2020, article in The New York Times. In light of the CWA investigation, Guild leaders at the local level felt it was imperative to assess the culture of our own local, especially since none of these allegations were brought to our executive committee.

National leaders and our local’s Human Rights Committee have spent the last several months setting up an assessment process that will help us create a path forward. It aims to both look back at what happened and look forward at what we can and should do differently to cultivate an atmosphere of safety.

Rebecca Feaster, a former journalist who has experience developing and delivering bias, cultural awareness and anti-sexual harassment training programs will conduct the assessment over the next several weeks. 

She has more than 25 years of experience in executive coaching, curriculum development, facilitation and consulting services. Feaster has worked as a journalist covering issues of bias, inequality and sexual harassment and has delivered diversity and inclusion-based training and consulting with the Virgina State Police, the City of Rockville, Maryland and The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

TNG lawyer Barbara Camens recommended Feaster for this role. 

Feaster will interview former and current members with a pre-set list of questions that will prompt interviewees to share their experiences and shed light on the types of processes they feel should be put in place.

All the interviews will be anonymous.

Following the interviews, Feaster will release a public report that details what she has learned while keeping the identities of all interviewees anonymous. Based on members’ feedback, she will make a set of suggestions for how the Guild should improve its culture and its procedures moving forward. Those suggestions will be tailored to the Pittsburgh local but can act as a framework for other parts of the Guild looking to update their own policies and procedures.

This has been a monthslong process and Guild leadership is happy to see it coming to fruition.

“I strongly urge all Guild members to participate in this assessment,” said Guild President Lacretia Wimbley. “This is such a necessary step, and with the help of TNG, your Guild leaders decided to hire a third-party consultant to hear your accounts and concerns regarding the culture of our Guild. The only way we gain clarity and begin to heal is by being open and honest in this process. I implore everyone to participate and share.”

“This has been a learning process for all of us and we still have a lot of work to do,” NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss said. “Every one of us must be dedicated to creating a safe union for all of our members. I encourage folks to participate so we can improve our culture and make sure our union is safe for every member.” 

Schleuss first heard credible allegations against Fuoco last September when he received a call from a woman regarding misconduct by Fuoco. The next day, he contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. Fuoco resigned from the Guild that evening and later retired from the Post-Gazette.

This assessment will build off the initial investigation from CWA, which was opened in September and closed in December, and have a forward-looking approach that focuses on what the Guild can do differently to better protect members.

In the end, we hope it results in new policies, procedures and systems that will enable members to come forward with concerns about harassment and misconduct and enable the Guild to take action immediately. We hope it fosters a culture where members know how to identify and prevent harassment, where survivors feel protected and where leadership is held accountable.

The assessment should conclude sometime this summer. Armed with feedback and suggestions, the Pittsburgh local is committed to creating an environment where members feel safe and protected. We are the first line of defense for our members not only when it comes to management and contract negotiations; we are ready to make the necessary changes to act as a more effective line of defense for protection against harassment, discrimination and misconduct against any members.

We are eager to get started. 

In solidarity,
The executive committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
Alyssa Brown, Lauren Rosenblatt, Lacretia Wimbley, Zack Tanner, Jonathan Silver, Ed Blazina, Melissa Tkach, Ashley Murray, Patti Sabatini, Tyler Dague and Dan Gigler  

For questions or media requests, please email pghguild@gmail.com with a subject line “Listening Series”.

Lacretia Wimbley elected as Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president

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After a failed special election in December, Lacretia Wimbley, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter, has been declared President of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

The special election was required after former guild president Michael Fuoco resigned in September following reports of sexual harassment allegations against him. Guild first vice-president Ed Blazina filled the role of interim president, per the local’s bylaws.

In an initial election on Nov. 17, Wimbley defeated second vice-president Melissa Tkach by a 55-52 vote and was seated as president for six days before the election committee discovered two irregularities in the conduct of the mail-in ballot election and sought insight on how to proceed. Blazina then returned to the role as interim president. After consulting with NewsGuild-CWA officials, the election committee decided to hold a new election.

Procedural missteps included a violation of the U.S. Department of Labor rules that require ballots for local union officer elections to be sent to a secure post office box. Secondly, 33 of 107 total votes arrived in outer envelopes that lacked a voter’s name, signature or a return address. U.S. DOL rules require that such votes cannot be counted.

Wimbley was once again declared guild president, uncontested, after the two other nominees — Tkach and Post-Gazette reporter and guild member Andrew Goldstein — had declined their nominations. 

Wimbley will fill out the remainder of the 2020-21 term, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021. 

A native of Jackson, Miss., and graduate of Mississippi State University, Wimbley has been with the Post-Gazette since 2016. In that time, she edited local and national stories and designed print pages as an intern on the copy desk, before eventually becoming a full-time reporter where she currently works in breaking news.

“During my time here in Pittsburgh, I’ve observed from several angles the heroic efforts made by our TNG-CWA Local 38061 leaders as they have advocated for and fought to protect members in contract negotiations, on discrimination fronts and in other disputes,” Wimbley said.

“It has been nearly four years since our members had a contract. This is ridiculous, because there’s no reason the company shouldn’t be willing to negotiate in good faith with us. The legacy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is truly hanging in the balance.”

The election to fill the vacant seat came at a time of labor unrest at the Post-Gazette, and as the unionized full-time faculty members at Point Park University enter the last semester under their existing collective bargaining agreement.

“We are in such a critical time in our history,” Wimbley said. “I am relieved to put election woes behind us so we can all move forward. As journalists dedicated to our community, we must maintain our dignity and do so with grace in this battle, although not without a fire that signifies our worth.”

In August, Guild members authorized a strike against the Post-Gazette with 74% approval after the Post-Gazette and its out-of-town, union-busting law firm, King & Ballow, illegally and unilaterally imposed working conditions onto the Newspaper Guild that eliminated major parts of the previous contract. The strike authorization vote was tied to unfair labor practice charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board based on bad-faith bargaining, unlawful declaration of an impasse and the unilateral imposition of working conditions.

Since then, Guild members have taken part in several mobilizing actions to build support as they fight to get back to the negotiating table and reach the goal of a fair and equitable contract with the company.

This fight centers around three major pillars: Respecting union journalists, strengthening local news in our region, and creating an inclusive newsroom that reflects that community that Guild journalists represent.

Full-time faculty at Point Park University started working under their first collective bargaining agreement in 2017 after years of court battles and negotiations in their initial organizing, and will be looking to begin bargaining with the university for their next contract in the coming months.

TOLEDO AND PITTSBURGH NEWSGUILD LOCALS HOLD JOINT NEWS CONFERENCE IN RESPONSE TO MANIPULATED BLADE COVERAGE

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We have known for years that publisher John Block’s politics are far-right leaning and he has repeatedly tried to slant news coverage to paint Trump, the presidential candidate The Blade and Post-Gazette endorsed under Block’s guidance, in a more positive light.

On Wednesday, Blade Executive Editor Kurt Franck issued an edict to all Blade web staff saying they could not refer to those rioting in Washington as “Trump supporters,” despite the event being Donald Trump-branded, and one the president appeared at and encouraged.

Blade newsroom managers inserted the qualifiers “a majority,” “mostly,” and “some” in front of references to Trump supporters, both in wire copy, wire photos, and a story written by a Blade reporter. Doing so waters down the truth of what happened on Wednesday and is a disservice to our readers. They are also done in a political climate where some are attempting to create misinformation about who was responsible for, and participated in, Wednesday’s chaos.

These actions follow years of blatant moves by the Blocks to push their political views into the newspapers that the communities of Toledo and Pittsburgh depend on for fair and accurate reporting. 

In January 2018, The Blade and Post-Gazette co-published the wildly controversial “Reason as Racism” editorial that was called, among other things, “a sorry pastiche of whitewashing drivel.” The author of the editorial, Keith Burris, was promoted a year later to executive editor of the Post-Gazette.

During the protests that arose after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Post-Gazette management barred a Black reporter, Alexis Johnson, from covering anything related to the protests, citing bias because of a tweet about property damage at a county-music concert. Johnson currently has a pending discrimination lawsuit against the paper.

After tweeting support for Johnson, Post-Gazette reporters were also barred by management from covering protests. On the night of June 5, PG management deleted two published articles by reporters Ashley Murray and Lauren Lee from post-gazette.com and the next morning replaced them with stripped down copy, without bylines.

Throughout all of this, the NewsGuild locals that represent the workers of The Blade and Post-Gazette have been the last line of defense for the editorial integrity of the newspapers. When the unions saw the wife of Block Communications chairman Allan Block, Susan Allan Block, spread lies and conspiracy theories on social media regarding the presidential election, they couldn’t stay silent.

The communities of Toledo and Pittsburgh deserve better.

CONTACTS: NOLAN ROSENKRANS
PRESIDENT, TOLEDO NEWSGUILD
NOLAN.ROSENKRANS@GMAIL.COM

ASHLEY MURRAY
UNIT SECRETARY, NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH
ASHLEYNICOLEMURRAY@GMAIL.COM