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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Press releases

On the ground: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members leaflet outside of a Post-Gazette sponsored health care forum

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See the Guild press release:


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Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet for second straight week in protest of illegally slashes health-care benefits, 13 years without a raise

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For the second consecutive week, 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 during which the company has defied federal law by refusing to pay health-care premium increases.

Guild members distributed leaflets outside of a Post-Gazette-sponsored “Health Forum” at the Champions Club in Heinz Field. The free forum was promoted as examining why a country of great wealth nonetheless has “great disparities in the health of our citizens and in access to health resources.” More info on the health-care forum can be found here:

In October, an administrative law judge agreed with the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that the Post-Gazette violated federal law by not paying a 5% increase in the 2018 health care premium for 400 unionized employees at the newspaper. The judge ordered the company to pay the premium increase and to reimburse those adversely affected by the company’s improper decision.

Instead, the PG appealed the ruling to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. Additionally, it told the unions it will not pay another 5 percent increase set for 2019. Another NLRB Unfair Labor Practice will be filed against the company, said Michael A. Fuoco, a PG enterprise reporter and president of the 150-member Newspaper Guild.

“We find it incredibly hypocritical that the Post-Gazette would sponsor a forum on health-care disparities when it has chosen to illegally slash the health-care benefits of about 400 members of the Guild and other PG unions,” Fuoco said. “The Post-Gazette has unilaterally created a health-care disparity for its workers in defiance of the rule of law.”

The reporters, photographers, copy editors and other newsroom employees who leafleted were also protesting a long-standing 8 percent cut in wages, 13 years without a raise, and working without a contract for 22 months with no end in sight. The PG has hired a union-busting law firm from Nashville to handle its negotiations..

“It’s time Block Communications Inc. Chairman Allan Block and his twin brother, PG Publisher John Robinson Block, start acting as ethical stewards of a 232-year-old newspaper and treat quality journalists with dignity, fairness and respect,” said Fuoco, a 34-year PG employee. “To deny us raises for 13 years and to cause our health-care benefits to be cut two years in a row is unconscionable.

“Our fight for economic justice will not end until the Blocks face the reality we are not going away until we get what we deserve–a fair and equitable contract.”

Last week, Guild members leafleted 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.

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.

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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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