NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH DEFEATS PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE AGAIN IN FEDERAL HEALTH CARE CASE

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A federal judge ruled overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh in its disputwith the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette over the company refusing to pay increases in health care premiums during ongoing contract negotiations.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. 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 about 140 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. The Newspaper Guild estimates members are owed more than $70,000 in extra costs they were forced to pay since the company refused to pay increases for three years beginning in 2018.

“This is a tremendous victory, but it is one the Newspaper Guild expected because we have been successful at every level,” said Ed Blazina, acting president of Local 38061. “We hope this decision brings the Post-Gazette to its senses and causes it to pay legitimate costs to provide health care for the unionized members of its Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom staff rather than pay millions to a union-busting Tennessee law firm on a losing legal issue.

“So far, they have been more willing to pay an out-of-town lawyer only interested in padding his firm’s pockets rather than investing in the union members who make the Post-Gazette.”

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 fruitless effort by the Post-Gazette to hurt its dedicated employees,” Blazina said. “Our unionized newsroom continues to produce awarding-winning journalism despite regular mistreatment by the company. This ruling is another indication of the Post-Gazette’s bad decisions in how it treats union employees.”

The Newspaper Guild’s contract with the Post-Gazette expired March 31, 2017 — more than 3 1/2 years ago — and the two parties met more than 20 times in fruitless negotiations where the company has been unwilling to move at all on any of its positions. Despite not awarding a general raise to union members in 14 years, the Post-Gazette’s contract proposals demanded additional concessions. In July, the company decided to quit bargaining, declared an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposed onerous working conditions that, among other things, forced members onto a more expensive healthcare plan partway through the year, eliminated a guaranteed work week, gave managers free rein to do union work, rejected daily overtime, removed the right to demand arbitration of disputes, and allowed the company to lay off employees without regard to seniority.

The Newspaper Guild has filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the company acted illegally by declaring an impasse and unlawfully imposed conditions. In August, Newspaper Guild members overwhelmingly authorized a strike that was approved by the national NewsGuild. The Newspaper Guild is pushing the Post-Gazette to return to the bargaining table, but the union also is continuing preparations for a strike if that is unsuccessful.

“We don’t want to strike because Pittsburgh deserves quality local news coverage that only Newspaper Guild staff can provide, especially during this national health emergency,” Blazina said. “But unless the Post-Gazette changes its position, that’s where this situation is heading.”

CONTACTS: ED BLAZINA
ACTING PRESIDENT
412-559-2092

JOSEPH J. PASS
ATTORNEY
412-281-385

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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 January 2020, we’re in the 35th 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 14 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.

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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

No place for harassment in our union: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh responds to New York Times report

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With the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette once again finding itself in the national spotlight, this time for a recent New York Times story revealing new information about the allegations of sexual misconduct by this local’s former president, we feel it is important to be transparent, to correct the record and to emphasize our commitment to protecting our members. 

It was difficult, distressing and painful to read the allegations in The New York Times. The report detailed allegations of unacceptable conduct in a union whose fundamental purpose is to protect its members. It now falls on us, the current iteration of the executive committee, to work internally and with our members to find a path forward and take corrective action.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the members of the executive committee do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. This union is in place to guarantee a safe and fair work environment. The Guild has time and again been the first line of defense for Post-Gazette employees, including fighting for members’ overtime pay, short-term disability and FMLA rights, the right for a nursing room for mothers, and defending members in disputes with PG executives and intervening in situations with hostile supervisors. We are committed to upholding those values and to take the necessary steps to make sure members feel safe and protected.

When local leadership was first notified of allegations, we were very disturbed that this was the first we had heard of the claims and are scrutinizing why our systems – at the local and international level – were insufficient. Unions should always be a place where members can report such incidents and feel protected. 

As we work to repair and restore your confidence in our union, it is also important to set the record straight. There is no cover-up here.

The local executive committee took action immediately the day we heard from TNG President Jon Schleuss that he had received credible allegations against Mike Fuoco and that CWA had opened an investigation. 

On Sept. 25, 2020, TNG president Jon Schleuss received a call from a woman regarding allegations of misconduct by Fuoco against her. On Sept. 26, Schleuss contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. That evening, Fuoco resigned from the Guild and shortly after retired from the Post-Gazette. 

The investigation was turned over to CWA Chief of Staff Jody Calemine, who, along with Schleuss, briefed the executive committee earlier on Sept. 26. Schleuss informed local leadership Saturday, Dec. 5 that CWA has closed its investigation into the matter. You can read the final report, which details the investigation and the events leading to it, on newsguild.org.

Leaders at the local and national level were outraged and disgusted when we learned of the allegations against Fuoco, yet Ben Smith’s New York Times article all but insinuates that we were part of a deliberate longtime cover-up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To address a few specific areas of concern, none of the members of the current executive committee had previously been aware of allegations in the story that in 2011 Post-Gazette management had suspended Fuoco for a week due to allegations of misconduct. Local leadership at the time, and now, does not have any specific information of the allegations against Fuoco that led to this action and is not aware of any records indicating the company disclosed that information to Guild leadership at the time. 

The current executive committee is, however, aware of a situation in 2000 involving an allegation against Fuoco that a third-party described at the time as sexual harassment but provided no details. The 20-year-old internal Guild file is incomplete for unknown reasons and leaves out crucial details about the incident.

The local plans to begin discussions with Human Resources at the Post-Gazette and Point Park University to consider steps all sides can take to create an open, welcoming environment for reporting any misconduct or improper behavior.

Additionally, interim president Ed Blazina has released this statement in regards to his own quotes in the story:

“I regret and apologize for my comment at the end of the New York Times story. I repeated a phrase the interviewer used in his question, and I recognize it was inappropriate. I have no tolerance for sexual harassment and my first move as acting president was to re-form a human rights committee empowered to address that issue.”

Moving forward, local leadership and Guild members are going to take part in training to learn how to identify and respond to accusations of harassment, discrimination or misconduct of any kind.

Long term, we will establish policies and create an environment so this never happens again. We are working to build a comprehensive framework that details how to respond to allegations of harassment or discrimination as well as establishing training opportunities to better understand how to prevent harassment and discriminiation in the union and the workplace. 

The executive committee would like members from both the Post-Gazette and Point Park units to be a part of these conversations, whether on the record or anonymously. To start, we would like to plan small group sessions to discuss with members what they feel is needed to improve the environment at the Post-Gazette and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

This is part of an ongoing effort to ensure members’ perspectives and insights are heard and incorporated. This is a team effort; the executive committee is prepared and is eager to hear from you and listen to your ideas as we continue navigating the path forward.

In the meantime, please know that each member of the executive committee, as well as the human rights committee, is available to talk about any concerns and answer any questions as best we can. Members can also contact Schleuss, at guild@cwa-union.org, if they have allegations or information to report.

Once again, our movement has zero room for sexual harassment or discrimination. Union leaders should be held to a higher standard than the company; we are better than this. We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that victims of sexual harassment can safely come forward and to create a union and workplace where members feel heard, protected and safe.

In solidarity,

The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Human Rights Committee Letter to Post-Gazette Executive Editor Stan Wischnowski

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Today the Newspaper Guild’s Human Rights Committee sent a letter to Post-Gazette executive editor, Stan Wischnowski, urging him to hire a person of an underrepresented population in the PG’s national search for a managing editor.

Discrimination and racism by the PG’s previous leadership directly resulted in the loss of talented Black reporters and others from across our newsroom who stood in solidarity with them.

Loss of reporters doesn’t only cause a gap in coverage of our community. Remaining staff members have experienced firsthand a lack of trust and confidence in the PG. We are urging Stan to do his part in helping us #ChangeTheReputation and restore our credibility.

Our hope is that with managers who appropriately represent our newsroom and community, our publication can better cover the issues that matter to our readers and to Pittsburgh. Now is the time for change. Diversity is not a talking point or an accessory. It is a necessity.

Stan,

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on behalf of the newly formed Human Rights Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a group of Guild members working to make sure every individual in this newsroom feels safe, protected and represented. This group, and the members of this newsroom, are committed to creating a workplace that does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.

As a way of introduction, this letter urges you to consider a diverse pool of candidates to fill the open managing editor position, and to continue to intentionally seek out diverse candidates to staff the newsroom. We urge you to increase the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Our newsroom has been woefully deficient in Black employees and other people of color for decades,and we have lost many of those employees in recent years due to unfair treatment and lack of respect.

Our newspaper has developed a reputation of being hostile to minorities and bypassing important stories on the current racial justice movement. Those actions have led to, among other things, the harassment of reporters and photographers at public events, sources pulling out of stories, and advertisers and retailers shunning the paper.

As the new executive editor, you have the opportunity to change that reputation, to begin repairing years of damage and to create a diverse, inclusive newsroom. The Post-Gazette must take the important step in hiring a managing editor who can provide new perspectives based on race, gender, sexuality and class. Considering candidates from a diverse background and improving racial diversity in our newsroom are matters of urgency.

In addition, the next managing editor should be someone to lead Post-Gazette staff to expand the PG’s coverage of the diverse neighborhoods and residents of our city, and to ensure that a variety of perspectives and voices are heard and included in our news coverage.

You have a powerful chance to make an impact at this paper — from increasing equity and inclusion, to resolving the ongoing labor dispute and fighting for fair working conditions.

The Human Rights Committee and Guild members hope you recognize the importance of bringing diverse candidates into the newsroom – starting from the top. Can we count on you to provide a clear statement that you are committed to finding a candidate with a diverse background and to reinvesting in reporters of color already working at the Post-Gazette?

Sincerely,

The Human Rights Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH MEMBERS PICKET OUTSIDE JOHN BLOCK’S SHADYSIDE HOME

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Around 50 Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members picketed Saturday morning outside Post-Gazette Publisher John Block’s Shadyside home as part of an escalating pressure campaign to convince the company to resolve its ongoing labor dispute.

The Guild took this dramatic step in response to the Post-Gazette bargaining for years in bad faith, illegally declaring an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposing working conditions on the Guild. Members picketed on Devonshire Street in Shadyside to send a message to John Block that they are fighting to preserve the Post-Gazette, defend their union rights and obtain a fair contract.

In addition to illegally declaring an impasse and unilaterally imposing working conditions, the Post-Gazette has:

  • Bargained in bad faith since 2017
  • Denied raises for 14 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

These imposed working conditions have destroyed the fundamental union rights of Guild members and prompted them to authorize a strike by an overwhelming margin.

Last Friday, local leaders and politicians, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, as well as representatives from various unions, religious groups and social justice communities, joined the Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council and its president, Darrin Kelly, in leading a labor rally on North Shore Drive to put added pressure on the Blocks to get fair contracts for every Post-Gazette union worker.

In the wake of last Friday’s rally, today’s picket on Devonshire Street is intended to be the first of many Guild-led actions that will be taking place around the area until the company shows a willingness to reach a fair contract.

Ultimately, the goal of today’s action is to show John Block, his twin brother Allan Block, chairman of Toledo, Ohio-based Block Communications Inc., which owns the Post-Gazette, and their family, which controls the rest of BCI’s voting stock, that it is not too late to come together and avoid a strike, an event that no one wants to see come to fruition. 

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

CONTACTS: MELISSA TKACH
2nd VICE PRESIDENT
412-760-9177
MELISSATKACH@GMAIL.COM

ZACK TANNER
UNIT DELEGATE
412-475-8417
ZACK@ZACKTANNER.COM

Newspaper Guild Statement on the resignation of Michael A. Fuoco

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Michael A. Fuoco has voluntarily resigned his position as president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh effective immediately. 

His resignation was communicated to the Guild’s executive committee Saturday night. 

Earlier in the day, officials with our parent unions, the NewsGuild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), first notified local union leaders of an investigation into Fuoco concerning allegations of violations of the mutual respect policy to which every CWA member is expected to adhere.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh is fully committed to upholding the policy, which opposes all forms of discrimination. 

The local is fully cooperating with the investigation that is being conducted by the CWA President’s office.

Local Guild leaders have no evidence either to substantiate or disprove the allegations that are the subject of the CWA investigation.

“Our union does not tolerate discrimination or harassment at any level,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss.

Above all else, this union and the members of the executive committee are in place to guarantee a safe and fair work environment. We are committed to upholding those values. We are committed to making sure every member feels heard and protected.

The trust and confidence of our members is of the utmost importance, especially during this critical time as the Post-Gazette unit prepares for a potential strike and the Point Park University unit enters the last year of its contract. 

Post-Gazette unit leaders and NewsGuild-CWA leaders remain fully committed to preparing for a possible strike.

Anyone with information about discrimination or harassment by a NewsGuild-CWA member should contact their local officials or email guild@cwa-union.org, which will be received by the office of the NewsGuild president.

In addition, the executive committee unanimously decided Saturday to re-establish a human rights committee that will serve as a place where members can report complaints about the conduct of executive committee members or by other people in the membership.

Once again, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh does not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any way. We strive to create an environment where members feel comfortable, safe and protected and are moving swiftly to guarantee that members have plenty of outlets to express their feelings, address concerns and ask questions. As a union, as always, we stand stronger together.

Under the local’s bylaws, first vice president Ed Blazina will assume the president’s role until an election can be held.

This statement was unanimously approved by the entire Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which includes its Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Point Park University units.

CONTACT: ED BLAZINA
ACTING NEWSPAPER GUILD PRESIDENT
(412) 559-2092
edguild2019@gmail.com

Newspaper Guild Wins Victory In Federal Court Over Healthcare Arbitration

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A federal magistrate judge Monday rejected the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s attempt to overturn an arbitration award for its journalists union, handing the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh a significant victory in a long-running dispute with its employer over healthcare costs.

The Post-Gazette’s millionaire owners, twin brothers John Robinson and Allan Block, and their Tennessee lawyers have refused to abide by the December award upholding a grievance filed by the Guild. The Blocks’ actions have forced their own employees, who have not had an across-the-board raise in 14 years, to pay more than $70,000 out of their own pockets for healthcare since 2017 — expenditures that they never should have incurred.

In her 34-page report, Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania concluded that the Post-Gazette’s complaint to vacate the arbitration award should be dismissed, the award should be enforced and the Guild’s counterclaim to enforce the order — including reimbursing members of the unionized newsroom — should be granted.

Lenihan’s recommendation comes three days after the executive council of the Guild’s parent union, NewsGuild-CWA, announced that it had unanimously endorsed Guild members’ request to strike in light of bad-faith and surface bargaining by the Post-Gazette, a declaration of a bargaining impasse and unlawful imposition of economic concessions and other onerous conditions on July 27.

“Overturning arbitration awards is very rare, and most practitioners recognize that principle. Unfortunately the Post-Gazette has more money than brains and chooses to spend its millions on trying to destroy a system that has worked for decades simply to  try and beat down their hard-working journalists who have suffered for 14 years without a wage increase and who are now subject to an inferior health care plan during the worst pandemic in 100 years,” Joseph J. Pass, the Guild’s attorney said. “Unconscionable!”  

“The Blocks’ attempt to destroy their employees and families is reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” Pass continued. “In reality, they use the justice system to thwart justice by appealing and appealing, leaving their employees and families with health care bills that they can no longer afford.”

Arbitrator Jay Nadelbach found on Dec. 30, 2019 that the Post-Gazette had violated its contract with the union by unilaterally refusing to pay health insurance premium increases during negotiations for a new contract, leading to dramatic hikes in Guild members’ deductibles.

The Post-Gazette refused to make the additional premium payments in 2018, 2019 and 2020, leading to deductibles rocketing to $2,000 for single coverage and $4,000 for family coverage, up from $850 and $1,700, the levels that existed when the Guild’s contract expired March 31, 2017.

Nadelbach ordered the Post-Gazette to not only pay the amount needed to maintain the healthcare benefits spelled out in the contract, but to make Guild members whole “for any out-of-pocket monies paid as a result of the Employer’s failure to maintain the contractual level of benefits.”

On Feb. 14, the Post-Gazette appealed Nadelbach’s award, which he declared was “final and binding,” to federal court.

“There is no reason why Arbitrator Nadelbach’s December 30, 2019 Award — on a matter of contract interpretation within his core competence, submitted for expedited determination by the parties — should not now be enforced,” Lenihan wrote.

Lenihan determined that the Post-Gazette did not file its appeal within the 30-day statute of limitations. But even if it had, she wrote, the company’s arguments would have failed on the merits.

The Post-Gazette has 14 days to file objections.

Previously, the Guild and five other unions at the Post-Gazette battled against the company’s refusal to pay healthcare premium increases during contract negotiations by filing Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. 

The board’s regional office in Pittsburgh issued a complaint against the Post-Gazette. When the newspaper objected, a hearing was held, and an administrative law judge upheld the decision. The Post-Gazette still was not satisfied and appealed to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. On Aug. 22, 2019, a three-member panel of the board, all appointees of President Donald J. Trump, found in favor of the Post-Gazette and dismissed the complaint.

“Once again, our position regarding healthcare has been upheld, “ said Guild President Michael A. Fuoco, a PG reporter for 36 years. “If only the Blocks and their carpetbagging attorney believed in the rule of law. They would rather spitefully appeal than doing what is right and just. Their actions are ethically and morally bankrupt.”

Despite Nadelbach’s award, the Post-Gazette on Sept. 1 unilaterally forced Guild members onto a different, far more costly health plan as part of its imposition of working conditions after declaring an impasse in bargaining.

The Guild rejects the notion that any impasse exists and continues to seek a diplomatic and amicable resolution to its labor dispute with the Post-Gazette in order to avert a strike.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh represents 122 journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

CONTACT:

Michael A. Fuoco
Newspaper Guild President
412-576-4665
mfuoco138@gmail.com

Jonathan D. Silver
Post-Gazette Unit Chairman
412-886-4585
bigdelillofan@gmail.com

Joseph J. Pass, Jubelirer, Pass & Intrier
Attorney for the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
412-281-3850
jjp@jpilaw.com

NewsGuild leadership unanimously approves Pittsburgh strike; New editor starts today, faces immediate challenge

Standard

For immediate release: Sept. 14, 2020

Contact: Sally Davidow
sdavidow@cwa-union.org
202-368-3324

Citing an unrelenting course of bad faith and surface bargaining, untenable and abusive working conditions unlawfully imposed upon NewsGuild members at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a despicable pattern of hostile treatment of workers by the company’s owners, The NewsGuild-CWA Executive Council unanimously endorsed Guild members’ request to strike.

“A decision to strike is never made lightly,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “This one comes amid a worldwide pandemic and resulting economic crisis. It underscores the attack on more than 120 award-winning journalists, whose repeated attempts to engage the company in good faith bargaining have yielded no results.”

The 10-member Executive Council unanimously approved the strike vote last week and announced it during an online membership meeting in Pittsburgh Friday. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh will continue strike preparations and present a plan to the Communications Workers of America Executive Board for approval.

Employees have filed numerous unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, seeking intervention from the federal government to correct the employer’s unlawful intransigence that has led to this precarious moment. The union calls on the NLRB to step up, enforce federal labor law and order the employer to engage in meaningful, good faith bargaining needed to reach an amicable resolution.

“The staff of the Post-Gazette was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s top honor, in 2019 for its coverage of the Tree of Life massacre,” said NewsGuild Executive Vice President Marian Needham. “And what’s their reward? An unrelenting assault on the bargaining process, their contract and their careers by Post-Gazette management.”

The assault has been led by King and Ballow, a law firm hired by twin brothers John Robinson and Allan Block. The brothers control half of Block Communications Inc., the parent company that owns the Post-Gazette, Toledo Blade, local TV stations, Buckeye Broadband and MaxxSouth Broadband. 

Bargaining proceeded over more than three years as the employer pushed to reduce benefits and place them under its total discretionary control, making access to health care more expensive – even as the coronavirus death toll nears 200,000 in the U.S. Throughout the bargaining, the employer maintained an arbitrary and inflexible stance aimed at undermining any chance of agreement. The company has refused for 14 years to give its hard-working, talented and loyal employees an across-the-board raise, and its imposed conditions actually continue to maintain significant pay cuts that have been in effect for that time.

Post-Gazette journalists were Pulitzer Prize finalists this year, in addition to winning the breaking news Pulitzer in 2019, and the paper was named 2020 Newspaper of the Year by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Meanwhile, John Robinson Block, who serves as publisher, promoted Keith Burris, the writer of widely ridiculed editorial “Reason as Racism,” to executive editor last year. NewsGuild leaders called on Burris to resign after he sidelined and disciplined Black journalists who reported on protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Guild members first responded with votes of no confidence in the publisher, of Burris, Block Communications and, most recently, with an overwhelming strike authorization vote on Aug. 10. That followed the Post-Gazette’s July 27 declaration of a bargaining impasse and unlawful imposition of economic concessions and other onerous conditions.

The NewsGuild-CWA Executive Council cannot tolerate such reprehensible abuses of the bargaining process, designed to eviscerate a collective bargaining agreement built up over eight decades of good faith negotiations. The company and the Block family are robbing the city of Pittsburgh of the vigilant, expert journalism that communities throughout the country are depending on in these fraught times.

“We call on the Block family to immediately change its destructive, unlawful and demoralizing playbook and recognize its employees for the essential workers they are,” Schleuss said.

“If any members of the Block family are left who care, they need to get engaged, jettison King and Ballow and start bargaining in good faith,” Schleuss said.

Is the Post-Gazette’s new executive editor, Stan Wischnowski, a sign of a positive change? Wischnowski’s first day is Monday after resigning from the Philadelphia Inquirer in June.

“Stan has a track record of working with the Guild rather than punishing it,” said Diane Mastrull, an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, president of the Philadelphia NewsGuild and regional vice president of The NewsGuild. “Stan used to express disgust over what was happening in the Post-Gazette newsroom. Now’s his chance to do something about it.”

“These unfair and deplorable tactics being used by the Block family and their union busting law firm King and Ballow are not only an assault on the dedicated union members of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette but is an attack on organized labor,” said NewsGuild Regional Vice President Bill Baker.

The NewsGuild calls on the community to join us in condemning the mistreatment of the journalists whose work you rely on.

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The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 24,000 journalists and other communications professionals in the United States and Canada, including approximately 3,000 who have joined in the last two years. NewsGuild members work at hundreds of news outlets—including big publications like the New York Times, small papers like the Pottstown Mercury and digital-only sites like Buzzfeed News. The Guild is a sector of the 600,000-member Communications Workers of America.