Newspaper Guild Votes ‚ÄúNo Confidence‚ÄĚ in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris,¬†Publisher John Robinson Block and owner Block Communications Inc.

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The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA 38061, today took the unprecedented act of voting ‚Äúno confidence‚ÄĚ in PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and newspaper owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI) for their escalating unconscionable treatment of employees, union members and managers alike.

In further protest of this hostile work environment, PG journalists will withhold their bylines from stories, photographs and graphics beginning Wednesday and continuing indefinitely. Members who work on the copy and web desks and therefore who do not have bylines will wear buttons reading ‚ÄúI support the byline strike.‚ÄĚ

Additionally, all members will wear ‚ÄúNo Confidence‚ÄĚ buttons in the newsroom as well as stickers supporting mistreated managers and decrying BCI‚Äôs cruelty.

Both the no-confidence vote and byline strike were overwhelmingly approved by Guild members at an emergency membership meeting today.

‚ÄúKeith Burris, John Robinson Block and his twin brother Allan, BCI chairman, have declared an unprecedented scorched-earth war on their employees and the culture of the PG newsroom,‚ÄĚ said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president of the local representing 140 journalists.

‚ÄúThey have created a culture of fear, hostility and intimidation in the newsroom. They have transformed a previously collegial, pleasant and enjoyable workplace — one conducive to Guild members fulfilling our journalistic calling — into a tense, toxic environment, bereft of joy and respect.

‚ÄúWe must take a stand against this orchestrated attack on the very soul of the newspaper we love. We find it hypocritical of Burris to opine in his columns about the need for civility in society when his treatment of employees is so outrageously uncivil.‚ÄĚ

Burris, whose controversial appointment as executive editor occurred nine months ago, has:

  • Fired or forced out three beloved newsroom managers with combined service of nearly 100 years to the PG because they stood up to his dictatorial actions. Four other managers have left this year and one departure is pending.
  • Cultivated hurt and bewilderment among his staff through his belittling behavior toward individual Guild members. This has led to turmoil and uncertainty among the remaining staff and has contributed to a desperate exodus of 16 talented journalists from the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper over the last six months.
  • Retaliated against certain Guild members and leaders by reassigning those who have challenged him in any way to positions that adversely affect their lives or their work on behalf of the union.
  • Abused and refused to work cooperatively with or even speak to Guild leadership.
  • Triggered an unprecedented number of grievances and Unfair Labor Practice charges filed by the Guild never before seen in the union‚Äôs 85 years at the PG.
  • Has deliberately set about to destroy a collegial, creative, efficient, enjoyable and safe workplace culture.

These anti-union, anti-employee actions are not happening in a vacuum. The Guild and other unions at the PG for three years have been embroiled in contentious negotiations for new contracts with King & Ballow, BCI’s union-busting Tennessee law firm. A pending labor action by the Guild accuses the law firm of bargaining in bad faith.

The unions have not had a raise in 14 years. Union employees have lost more than 27% of the buying power they had in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And because the unions, in an effort to aid the company and to help pay for health insurance, have voted to give back 8-10% of their salaries over that period, their purchasing power has actually declined more than 35% from 2006 levels. Additionally, pensions have been frozen and the company has for two years and counting refused to pay for increases in health care premiums as required by union contracts.

While the Post-Gazette, like most newspapers in the country, is losing money, Toledo-based BCI is making tens upon tens of millions of dollars in profits annually on its reported 2018 revenue of $564 million from cable systems, TV stations and other media holdings.

Burris and the Block twins are no strangers to controversial actions that have garnered unflattering national headlines. Over the past two years:

  • Burris, at the time the editorial director at the PG‚Äôs sister paper The (Toledo) Blade, also embroiled in contentious negotiations with King & Ballow, penned the notorious editorial, “Reason as Racism,” that defended Trump’s comments about “shithole” African nations. Block published it in the PG on Martin Luther King Day 2018. It was immediately condemned as racist by civil rights groups, foundations, politicians, the public, journalists including the Guild and even members of the extended Block family.
  • John Block reacted to the national controversy by naming Burris head of both the PG and Blade editorial departments.
  • Months later, Rob Rogers, the paper’s most prominent personality, was fired for his anti-Trump political cartoons.
  • David Shribman, the PG executive editor for 15 years — he won a Pulitzer Prize with the Boston Globe and steered the Post-Gazette to a Pulitzer this year for its coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting — was unexpectedly removed in December 2018.
  • John Block manhandled his 12-year-old daughter late on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in front of more than a dozen journalists in the PG newsroom. During his tirade, Block tried to demean his employees by calling them “working class;” ranted about firing Shribman and threatened to do so to other managers and top Guild officers; and said he would shut down the paper unless the Guild removed a federally protected sign reading “Shame on the Blocks” that was hung in response to the PG’s refusal to abide by the contract and pay health care premium increases. To date, there have been no consequences for Block’s threatening actions despite the Guild’s attempts to hold him accountable. A Guild ULP charge is pending.
  • Nine days later, Burris was named PG executive editor.

‚ÄúThis reign of terror continues but we stand united in staunch opposition to this unprecedented mistreatment. We will not quit fighting until these horrific actions end,‚ÄĚ Fuoco said.

‚ÄúWe will fight for our right to work in an environment free from hostility. And we vow to continue to produce journalism worthy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our readers, even as we are daily under siege by Burris and the Blocks.‚ÄĚ

CONTACT: Michael A. Fuoco
Newspaper Guild President
412-576-4665
mfuoco@post-gazette.com

Frequently Asked Questions, Press Releases, Media Coverage | Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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FAQs

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.”

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“Fair Contract for a Free PG Press” – Sign the community-made petition in support of the unionized journalists at the Post-Gazette

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Update: 6/11/19 We now have over 1400 supporters joining in. It’s not too late to sign to support the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Update: 5/8/19 The petition is now almost 950 signatures strong! Sign today to join the fight.

Among the outpouring of community support for the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a set of community members have created a Change.org petition fighting for a “Fair Contract for a Free PG Press”.

Join the over 400 strong who have already filled out the petition and send a message to Block Communication that the community supports and a fair and equitable contract for the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh!

Newspaper Guild members wear black in mourning decline in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette print days

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Today, Sept. 30, marks the first Monday without a print edition under the Post-Gazette’s new production schedule, with no clear vision for moving forward as a mostly digital operation.

All of us in the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh mourn the loss of print days for an award-winning newspaper and are equally concerned about the future.

To mark this sad occasion, Guild members at the PG today will be wearing black clothing and a black ribbon as reminders of what we and our community have lost.

We do this because we worry about our readers not receiving the information they need. Many are not inclined or equipped to switch to digital platforms. We worry about the effect on democracy because of that. We worry about where the Post-Gazette, and our community, go from here.

Even as the Guild has been struggling for 2 1/2 years to gain a fair contract with PG owners Block Communications Inc., what hasn’t been lost is the vigilance and professionalism of the 140 journalists of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council Labor Day Parade 2019

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Post-Gazette notifies unions that it will be eliminating two additional days of print, starting in September 2019.

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The Post-Gazette informed Guild president Michael Fuoco today that beginning on Sept. 30 it will eliminate two more days of print, meaning the P-G will print for home delivery only three days a week. This is yet another bad decision from a company that continues to show zero respect to employees or readers.

Coverage of the elimination of two more days of print:

‚ÄĘ Laura Bassett Statement Regarding the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Print Publication Cuts
SaveJournalism.org
‚ÄĘ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Only Print Three Days A Week
90.5 WESA
‚ÄĘ The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is cutting more print days in transition to ‚Äúdigital-only newspaper‚ÄĚ
The Incline
‚ÄĘ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper cutting down to 3 days a week for print edition
WTAE
‚ÄĘ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to ‚ÄúPhase Out‚ÄĚ all Print operations to become fully digital
Pittsburgh Current
‚ÄĘ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to cut two more print days, print only 3 days a week
Pittsburgh City Paper

Community rally during Newspaper Guild contract negotiations

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Labor unions, activists, politicians, and supporters take to North Shore Drive in support of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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On Friday, June 7, politicians, labor unions, activists, and supporters of all kinds rallied on N. Shore Drive in front of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offices to demand that Block Communications negotiate a fair and equitable contract with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

A huge thank you goes out to all of the organizations that showed up in support.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit
ATM 85
Battle of Homestead Foundation
Teamsters 249 and 211
American Association of African Americans Labor History
SEIU Healthcare PA
UE
PG Mailers Local 22
Pittsburgh DSA
United Food and Commercial Workers
Keystone State
aIBEW
Thomas Merton Center
Pittsburgh United
Mon Valley Unemployed Committee
SAG-AFTRA
CWA 13,000

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