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.”

Why is it taking so long to get a contract?
The Blocks and Lowe gave us an absurd initial proposal that essentially sought to rewrite our entire 85-year labor history by eliminating all Guild protections and benefits and creating a new model management-rights contract.

What does that mean?
That means if it’s good for the Blocks, they want it. If it’s good for the Guild, they don’t.

For instance?
Among many other things, the company wants to:

  • Eliminate a guaranteed work week
  • Be able to replace Guild members at any time by using freelancers, managers and outside vendors
  • Maintain an 8 percent pay cut
  • Modify our health care benefits at any time without our consent

In one of the company’s most egregious and heartless proposals — since withdrawn — the Blocks and Lowe actually wanted to take away from Guild members a day of paid funeral leave for the death of a spouse.

What should we know about King & Ballow?
The law firm is notorious among unionized newspapers in the U.S. This is the same firm that led the Blocks to lock out union workers in 2006 at the PG’s sister paper, the Toledo Blade. The Blocks ended up agreeing to pay the locked-out unions $3.5 million in back pay as part of a settlement. The unions, according to a 2007 Communications Worker of America bulletin, “will settle the unfair labor practice charges that the National Labor Relations Board brought against the company alleging an illegal lockout and bad-faith bargaining.”

Why aren’t the Blocks and Lowe being more reasonable?
We can only speculate that the Blocks wants to break our union and Lowe wants to make more money for his law firm.

Is the Post-Gazette making money?
Company officials regularly tell us how much money the PG is losing. That well may be true. But what is also true is that BCI, the Post-Gazette’s parent company, is highly profitable, became wealthy off the newspaper industry’s excellent profit margins in past years, subsidizes the PG’s operations, is privately held and has owners and top managers who are exceedingly wealthy and well-paid.

What’s happening with the health care situation?
The PG refused to pay a contractually mandated 5 percent health insurance premium increase in 2018. Even though our contract expired, specific language it contains as well as federal labor law obligate the company to maintain the contract’s status quo. The PG’s refusal triggered the Guild to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board in Pittsburgh. The board ruled in our favor, and the company appealed. Then an administrative law judge also ruled in our favor and ordered the company to pay the premium. Again, the PG refused. They have a pending appeal before the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC.


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News articles

Press releases

Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet Downtown as PG publisher speaks at noon luncheon

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About 30 members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh—all of them newsroom employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette–distributed leaflets today protesting 13 years without a raise and two straight years in which the company is defying federal law in not paying health care premium increases.

Nearly 500 leaflets (please see attached) were distributed in 45 minutes outside the Omni William Penn Hotel before Publisher John Robinson Block addressed a noon Rotary luncheon inside. The Guild, and other unions at the Post-Gazette, have been separately negotiating for new individual contracts since the last ones expired in March 2017. The Post-Gazette, owned by BCI, has been using a union-busting law firm from Tennessee in negotiations with all the unions.

“This is but the first of many planned mobilization efforts to more visibly express our displeasure with the way John Block and his twin brother, Allan Block, chairman of  Toledo,Ohio-based Block Communications Inc., have treated us for 13 years,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year reporter at the paper and president of the Newspaper Guild, which represents 150 newsroom employees.

“All we are asking is to be treated with the dignity and respect we’ve earned with our talent, loyalty and dedication. To deny us raises for 13 years and to cause our health care benefits to be cut two years in a row is unconscionable. They need to change and fast.

“Today we put the Blocks on notice we are not going away. There will be no deaths by a thousand cuts. More and escalated protests will follow unless and until they finally do the right thing and negotiate fair and equitable contracts with loyal employees,” Fuoco said.

“Yes, the Post-Gazette loses money, but BCI is a profitable communications corporation built upon the one-time profits of the Post-Gazette. Moreover, there is a social compact for owning a 232-year-old Pittsburgh institution. They should be fair employers of journalists upon whose work democracy depends.”

Guild fighting for a fair contract

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Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh are handing out flyers in Downtown Pittsburgh this morning outside the Omni William Penn where publisher John Robinson Block is speaking.

PG Guild Flyer color.jpg

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](1)

Guild President Mike Fuoco is being interviewed by @905wesa about @PittsburghPG’s labor situation.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](2)

Here @KDKA is interviewing Guild President Mike Fuoco about our labor situation.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](3)

Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fair contract with @PittsburghPG.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](4)Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](5)

PG Guild Flyer color

 

Thank you!

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A thank you video from the Post-Gazette and The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

A month ago, a man walked into the Tree of Life synagogue and began
shooting. He took 11 precious lives and left Pittsburgh reeling.

Pittsburgh is a small city, so the reporters, editors,
photojournalists and paginators here at the Post-Gazette felt deep
pain while covering this international story. Our colleagues at
several news organizations stepped forward to support us during this difficult time, and we are deeply appreciative.

The video was produced by Guild member and photojournalist Steve Mellon.

 

 

 

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh sends thanks to the South Florida Sun Sentinel

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Thank you, from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh thanks with utmost gratitude former PG staffer Jane Elizabeth and her staff at the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, and the Toledo Newspaper Guild and its president, Nolan Rosenkrans, for their thoughtful donations to our staff of lunch and dinner on Sunday and Monday.

In the midst of our dedicated members’ round-the-clock work covering the atrocity visited Saturday upon the Tree of Life synagogue, the gift of food arrived in our newsroom as a balm for both stomachs and souls. We salute our colleagues in Raleigh and Toledo for carrying us in their hearts, showing a generosity of spirit and reminding us that we all stand together.

Jonathan D. Silver
Unit Chairman
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Administrative Law Judges Sustains the Unfair Labor Practice Charge that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Violated Federal Law

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An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal law
by not paying a 5% increase in the 2018 health care premium for 400 unionized employees at the
newspaper.

In a 38-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge David I. Goldman ordered the
company to pay the premium increase and to reimburse those adversely affected by the
company’s improper decision. The Company has the right to appeal.

“We hope the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will do the right thing and pay what it is legally required
by federal law and morally required as an employer,” said Michael A. Fuoco, Newspaper Guild
president. “We’ll just have to wait and see if they follow the law and have a moral compass.”
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents 150 newsroom employees at the PG,
initially filed the Unfair Labor Practice in January, charging that the PG and its owner, Block
Communications, Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, violated federal law by unilaterally deciding not to pay
an increase in health care during collective bargaining for a new contract. Other unions,
representing another 250 members representing the Teamsters, operating engineers, pressmen,
mailers, advertising and finance, joined in the ULP filing. All of the unions have been involved
in bargaining with BCI for 20 months over contracts that expired March 31, 2017.

Companies involved in bargaining are required by federal law to “continue the status quo in the
terms and conditions of employment while the parties negotiate for a new labor agreement,”
according to Judge Goldman’s decision. The PG’s unilateral refusal to pay the 5 percent
premium increase resulted in diminished health-care benefits for the 400 union members as of
April 1.

In response to the Unfair Labor Practice charge, the National Labor Relations Board regional
director of the Pittsburgh office ruled in the unions’ favor. BCI, under advice of union-busting
Nashville, Tenn., law firm King & Ballow, which is in charge of its negotiations with the unions,
advised the company to appeal. That resulted in a hearing before Judge Goldman on Aug. 21
which led to his decision.

Michael A. Fuoco
President, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh