The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA 38061, today began a byline strike in protest of the mistreatment of union members and managers by PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and his twin Allan Block,chairman of Toledo-based PG owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI).
All 139 members of the Guild have signed pledges to withhold their bylines or credit lines on stories, photographs and graphics during the byline strike that will continue indefinitely. Those who do not have bylines — including assigning, web and copy editors, page designers, librarians and clerks — have pledged to wear buttons in the newsroom reading “I Support the Byline Strike.”
While there is no print edition today, a total of 27 stories and 14 photographs produced by Newspaper Guild members ran without bylines in today’s PGe, the Post-Gazette’s digital newspaper. Innumerably more Guild produced stories, photographs and graphics are appearing on the Post-Gazette’s website, PG mobile app and PG NewsSlide without bylines and credit lines.
The protest shows that Guild members stand together and will not abide the unconscionable atmosphere of fear, hostility and intimidation that Burris and the Blocks have created in the North Shore newsroom. Before these attacks, the newsroom had a collegial, creative, efficient, enjoyable and safe workplace culture.
“This byline strike shows that we journalists who love our profession are the Post-Gazette, not Burris, who has been executive editor for only nine months, and the multimillionaire Blocks. There is no Post-Gazette without us,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president. “We are fighting for the soul of an iconic 233-year-old newspaper we dearly love but which the Blocks and Burris are trying to destroy. “Our solidarity in our battle against workplace oppression and in defense of journalism and the Post-Gazette is unyielding,”
Stringers who are neither PG employees nor Guild members have indicated to their PG editors that they will withhold their bylines in support of the Guild. Guild-represented columnists — including Brian O’Neill, Tony Norman, Gene Collier, Ron Cook and Joe Starkey — have been told by PG management that their columns will not appear without their bylines.
NOTE: At 2:34 p.m. today, management changed course and sent the following email to staff:
During the byline strike we’ll be continuing to publish PG columnists’ articles with a “Commentary:” prefix in the headlines and the following graph in italics at the top of the article:
The commentary below contains opinion. The author’s name has been withheld at the writer’s request. In addition, we will use NO author bylines on any wire service material, but continue to identify the wire service or newspaper source in the byline field (EX: The Associated Press).
“We are encouraged by the support of the stringers, PG readers and from people across the country,” Fuoco said. “It goes without saying that the unprecedented attacks on newsroom employees by Burris and the Blocks are linked to BCI’s refusal to bargain fairly in three years of fruitless negotiations with PG unions for new contracts. We have gone nearly 14 years without a raise, they have refused to pay health-care premium increases for two years and they have proposed taking away even more benefits. They have no shame.
“We ask those who support our taking a stand for dignity in the workplace to contact Burris and the Blocks and let them know that their anti-union actions are not welcome in Pittsburgh, the birthplace of unionism.”
Guild members also are wearing “No Confidence” buttons in the newsroom in reference to an overwhelmingly approved no-confidence vote taken Monday to additionally show the union’s opposition to the hostile workplace that the Blocks and Burris have created (please see attached release from Monday).
Their transgressions include:
• The firing or forcing out of three beloved newsroom managers with combined service of nearly 100 years to the PG because they stood up to Burris’ dictatorial actions. Four other managers have left this year and one departure is pending.
• Cultivating hurt and bewilderment among the staff through Burris’ 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.
• Retaliating 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.
• Abusing and refusing to work cooperatively with or even speak to Guild leadership.
• Triggering an unprecedented number of grievances and Unfair Labor Practice charges filed by the Guild never before seen in the union’s 85 years at the PG. “We will not quit fighting until this disgraceful treatment ends. No employee anywhere deserves to work in a hostile environment like this,” Fuoco said.