With the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette once again finding itself in the national spotlight, this time for a recent New York Times story revealing new information about the allegations of sexual misconduct by this local’s former president, we feel it is important to be transparent, to correct the record and to emphasize our commitment to protecting our members.
It was difficult, distressing and painful to read the allegations in The New York Times. The report detailed allegations of unacceptable conduct in a union whose fundamental purpose is to protect its members. It now falls on us, the current iteration of the executive committee, to work internally and with our members to find a path forward and take corrective action.
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the members of the executive committee do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. This union is in place to guarantee a safe and fair work environment. The Guild has time and again been the first line of defense for Post-Gazette employees, including fighting for members’ overtime pay, short-term disability and FMLA rights, the right for a nursing room for mothers, and defending members in disputes with PG executives and intervening in situations with hostile supervisors. We are committed to upholding those values and to take the necessary steps to make sure members feel safe and protected.
When local leadership was first notified of allegations, we were very disturbed that this was the first we had heard of the claims and are scrutinizing why our systems – at the local and international level – were insufficient. Unions should always be a place where members can report such incidents and feel protected.
As we work to repair and restore your confidence in our union, it is also important to set the record straight. There is no cover-up here.
The local executive committee took action immediately the day we heard from TNG President Jon Schleuss that he had received credible allegations against Mike Fuoco and that CWA had opened an investigation.
On Sept. 25, 2020, TNG president Jon Schleuss received a call from a woman regarding allegations of misconduct by Fuoco against her. On Sept. 26, Schleuss contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. That evening, Fuoco resigned from the Guild and shortly after retired from the Post-Gazette.
The investigation was turned over to CWA Chief of Staff Jody Calemine, who, along with Schleuss, briefed the executive committee earlier on Sept. 26. Schleuss informed local leadership Saturday, Dec. 5 that CWA has closed its investigation into the matter. You can read the final report, which details the investigation and the events leading to it, on newsguild.org.
Leaders at the local and national level were outraged and disgusted when we learned of the allegations against Fuoco, yet Ben Smith’s New York Times article all but insinuates that we were part of a deliberate longtime cover-up. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To address a few specific areas of concern, none of the members of the current executive committee had previously been aware of allegations in the story that in 2011 Post-Gazette management had suspended Fuoco for a week due to allegations of misconduct. Local leadership at the time, and now, does not have any specific information of the allegations against Fuoco that led to this action and is not aware of any records indicating the company disclosed that information to Guild leadership at the time.
The current executive committee is, however, aware of a situation in 2000 involving an allegation against Fuoco that a third-party described at the time as sexual harassment but provided no details. The 20-year-old internal Guild file is incomplete for unknown reasons and leaves out crucial details about the incident.
The local plans to begin discussions with Human Resources at the Post-Gazette and Point Park University to consider steps all sides can take to create an open, welcoming environment for reporting any misconduct or improper behavior.
Additionally, interim president Ed Blazina has released this statement in regards to his own quotes in the story:
“I regret and apologize for my comment at the end of the New York Times story. I repeated a phrase the interviewer used in his question, and I recognize it was inappropriate. I have no tolerance for sexual harassment and my first move as acting president was to re-form a human rights committee empowered to address that issue.”
Moving forward, local leadership and Guild members are going to take part in training to learn how to identify and respond to accusations of harassment, discrimination or misconduct of any kind.
Long term, we will establish policies and create an environment so this never happens again. We are working to build a comprehensive framework that details how to respond to allegations of harassment or discrimination as well as establishing training opportunities to better understand how to prevent harassment and discriminiation in the union and the workplace.
The executive committee would like members from both the Post-Gazette and Point Park units to be a part of these conversations, whether on the record or anonymously. To start, we would like to plan small group sessions to discuss with members what they feel is needed to improve the environment at the Post-Gazette and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.
This is part of an ongoing effort to ensure members’ perspectives and insights are heard and incorporated. This is a team effort; the executive committee is prepared and is eager to hear from you and listen to your ideas as we continue navigating the path forward.
In the meantime, please know that each member of the executive committee, as well as the human rights committee, is available to talk about any concerns and answer any questions as best we can. Members can also contact Schleuss, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if they have allegations or information to report.
Once again, our movement has zero room for sexual harassment or discrimination. Union leaders should be held to a higher standard than the company; we are better than this. We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that victims of sexual harassment can safely come forward and to create a union and workplace where members feel heard, protected and safe.
The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh