The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly voted 88-31 to authorize union leaders to call a strike at the newspaper. A three-member balloting committee this afternoon tallied the secret ballots that had been returned by members over the last week. Members were immediately informed by email of the result.
Authorization for a strike at the Post-Gazette must now be approved by the Executive Council of the local’s union, the NewsGuild. Approval there would then proceed to Communications Workers of America President Christopher M. Shelton, who has the final say for strike authorization. Two other CWA unions at the newspaper, Pittsburgh Typographical Union #7 and Mailers Local M-22, representing about 40 office and production employees, have both unanimously authorized a strike.
The Guild local, representing 123 journalists, has been attempting to negotiate a new contract with the Post-Gazette for 3 ½ years during which time the newspaper’s anti-union attorney from Tennessee has bargained in bad faith. The company’s attorney, Richard Lowe, unlawfully declared a negotiations impasse. The Guild informed him the sides were nowhere near an impasse and would meet at any time.
Despite that, Lowe on July 27 unilaterally imposed working conditions, based on parts of the company’s final contract offer, illegally eliminating major tenets of the expired contract under which union members had been working. Subsequently, the Guild filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board based on bad faith bargaining, unlawful declaration of an impasse and unilateral imposition of working conditions. At the same time, the local’s 10-member Executive Committee unanimously recommended that members vote by secret ballot to authorize a strike based on those violations of federal labor law.
Guild members have shown their professionalism, talent and loyalty to the iconic newspaper despite the demeaning treatment they have endured from owner Block Communications Inc., a Toledo-based media corporation privately owned by the Block family. The staff won a Pulitzer Prize last year, members were Pulitzer finalists and recipients of numerous other journalism honors this year, and the Post-Gazette was named the 2020 Newspaper of the Year in the state by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
“The newsroom staff has rightfully earned journalistic accolades even as BCI despicably treats its journalists as chattel,” said Guild President Michael A. Fuoco, a reporter at the paper for 36 years. “We are committed to journalism, the Post-Gazette and the community we are humbled to serve and are doing everything we can to avoid a strike.
“We want nothing more than to negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement. Should the company refuse to rescind the illegal changes to our working conditions, return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract for both sides, we are prepared to withhold our talent from the Post-Gazette, to effectively remove the newspaper’s heart and soul.
“The path we take is up to the company – revoke the unilateral changes and return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith or face the consequences. Clearly, the 234-year legacy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is at a crossroads.”
“Today’s vote clearly shows that our members are fed up with the Post-Gazette’s long-standing refusal to bargain in good faith,” said Guild Unit Chairman Jonathan D. Silver, a 23-year reporter and editor at the paper and a contract negotiator. “Our members fully understand the egregious nature of the company’s wrongheaded decision to unlawfully declare an impasse and impose work conditions without bargaining, and now they have sent a loud and clear message to the Blocks.”
The Guild calls upon readers, advertisers, and political, religious, business, labor and social justice leaders to impress upon the Post-Gazette that they support the union’s desire to have the Post-Gazette revoke its unilateral implemented changes and return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal for their employees in order to avoid a strike.
Jonathan D. Silver
Newspaper Guild Unit Chairman