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.
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.
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In one of the company’s most egregious and heartless proposals — since withdrawn — the Blocks and Lowe actually wanted to take away from Guild members a day of paid funeral leave for the death of a spouse.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 both 2018 and 2019. 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. On appeal, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC ruled in the Post-Gazette’s favor.
However, in December 2019, a federal arbitrator ruled that the Post-Gazette did violate the language of our collective bargaining agreement, and awarded that the PG must “pay the amount necessary” to restore health insurance levels to their March 2017 levels, as well as repay any member any out-of-pocket monies paid due to the cut in benefits.
- The union representing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom employees files first unfair labor complaint against ownership in decades
The Incline | Jan. 17, 2018
- Post-Gazette management violated labor law, NLRB rules
Pittsburgh Business Times | Mar 21, 2018
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated labor law, judge rules
Tribune- Review | Oct. 17, 2018
- Ruling from administrative law judge sustaining the unfair labor practice charge
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh | Oct. 18, 2018
- Guild statement on judge’s ruling
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh | Oct. 18, 2018
- Judge: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated labor law
Pittsburgh Business Times | Oct 18, 2018
- Judge Says Post-Gazette Must Adhere To Expired Union Contract. The Company Is Appealing
WESA 90.5 | Nov. 15, 2018
- Post-Gazette Drama Continues
Thomas Merton Center – The New People Newspaper | Feb. 5, 2019
- ‘Shame On The Blocks’: Protesters Condemn Post-Gazette Publisher’s Treatment Of Employees
WESA 90.5 | March 25, 2019
- The Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff deserves a raise
Postindustrial | April 16, 2019
- The Brutal Labor Battle Consuming Pittsburgh’s Biggest Paper
Splinter | May 23, 2019
- ‘What is wrong with you?’ Lt. Gov. John Fetterman calls out Post-Gazette owners at Pittsburgh labor rally
WTAE | June 7, 2019
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Unions Asking For Fair Contract This Labor Day
KDKA | September 2, 2019
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists union issues ‘no confidence’ vote to management
Pittsburgh CityPaper | November 18, 2019
- Editorial: We support the Post-Gazette’s byline strike
The Pitt News | November 20, 2019
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists enter second week of byline strike
Pittsburgh CityPaper | November 26, 2019
- Post-Gazette Guild members withhold bylines to draw attention to working conditions
NextPittsburgh | December 2, 2019
- Recent moves by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management have led to a shrinking and increasingly chaotic newsroom. Can the P-G survive?
Pittsburgh CityPaper | December 11, 2019
- Newspaper Guild Distributes Flyers About Byline Strike Outside Convention Center
KDKA | December 14, 2019
- As Pittsburgh Guild ends byline strike, union vows to keep up pressure
NewsGuild.org | December 16, 2019
- Pittsburgh’s storied newspaper has become a chaotic circus — or worse
Washington Post | December 19, 2019
- Arbitrator rules that Blocks must pay increased Post-Gazette employee healthcare premiums; includes retroactive reimbursement
Pittsburgh Current | December 30, 2019
- Guild Letter to the editor
January 16, 2018
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Appeal NLRB Regional Director’s Finding it Violated Federal Law
March 23, 2018
- Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh institutes byline strike at the Post-Gazette in protest of contentious negotiations after 12 years of economic givebacks
- Guild Statement on Rob Rogers
- Post-Gazette newsroom pays for full-page ad in the Post-Gazette to promote its committment to independent, quality journalism
June 19, 2018
- Administrative Law Judges Sustains the Unfair Labor Practice Charge that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Violated Federal Law
October 17, 2018
- Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet Downtown as PG publisher speaks at noon luncheon
December 5, 2018
- Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet for second straight week in protest of illegally slashes health-care benefits, 13 years without a raise
December 12, 2018
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Refuses to Publish Letter to the Editor From Newsroom Employees Decrying Recent Misogynistic Editorial Cartoons
January 22, 2019
- Newspaper Guild members wear black in mourning decline in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette print days
September 30, 2019
- Newspaper Guild Votes “No Confidence” in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and owner Block Communications Inc.
November 18, 2019
- Newspaper Guild begins byline strike today at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with 100% participation by members
November 20, 2019
- Newspaper Guild Marks Seven Days of Byline Strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with 100% Participation
November 26, 2019
- Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh to end successful byline strike
December 16, 2019
- Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh wins health care arbitration
December 30, 2019
- Full Award and Opinion in Newspaper Guild’s health care arbitration against the Post-Gazette
January 21, 2020