After a failed special election in December, Lacretia Wimbley, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter, has been declared President of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.
The special election was required after former guild president Michael Fuoco resigned in September following reports of sexual harassment allegations against him. Guild first vice-president Ed Blazina filled the role of interim president, per the local’s bylaws.
In an initial election on Nov. 17, Wimbley defeated second vice-president Melissa Tkach by a 55-52 vote and was seated as president for six days before the election committee discovered two irregularities in the conduct of the mail-in ballot election and sought insight on how to proceed. Blazina then returned to the role as interim president. After consulting with NewsGuild-CWA officials, the election committee decided to hold a new election.
Procedural missteps included a violation of the U.S. Department of Labor rules that require ballots for local union officer elections to be sent to a secure post office box. Secondly, 33 of 107 total votes arrived in outer envelopes that lacked a voter’s name, signature or a return address. U.S. DOL rules require that such votes cannot be counted.
Wimbley was once again declared guild president, uncontested, after the two other nominees — Tkach and Post-Gazette reporter and guild member Andrew Goldstein — had declined their nominations.
Wimbley will fill out the remainder of the 2020-21 term, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021.
A native of Jackson, Miss., and graduate of Mississippi State University, Wimbley has been with the Post-Gazette since 2016. In that time, she edited local and national stories and designed print pages as an intern on the copy desk, before eventually becoming a full-time reporter where she currently works in breaking news.
“During my time here in Pittsburgh, I’ve observed from several angles the heroic efforts made by our TNG-CWA Local 38061 leaders as they have advocated for and fought to protect members in contract negotiations, on discrimination fronts and in other disputes,” Wimbley said.
“It has been nearly four years since our members had a contract. This is ridiculous, because there’s no reason the company shouldn’t be willing to negotiate in good faith with us. The legacy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is truly hanging in the balance.”
The election to fill the vacant seat came at a time of labor unrest at the Post-Gazette, and as the unionized full-time faculty members at Point Park University enter the last semester under their existing collective bargaining agreement.
“We are in such a critical time in our history,” Wimbley said. “I am relieved to put election woes behind us so we can all move forward. As journalists dedicated to our community, we must maintain our dignity and do so with grace in this battle, although not without a fire that signifies our worth.”
In August, Guild members authorized a strike against the Post-Gazette with 74% approval after the Post-Gazette and its out-of-town, union-busting law firm, King & Ballow, illegally and unilaterally imposed working conditions onto the Newspaper Guild that eliminated major parts of the previous contract. The strike authorization vote was tied to unfair labor practice charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board based on bad-faith bargaining, unlawful declaration of an impasse and the unilateral imposition of working conditions.
Since then, Guild members have taken part in several mobilizing actions to build support as they fight to get back to the negotiating table and reach the goal of a fair and equitable contract with the company.
This fight centers around three major pillars: Respecting union journalists, strengthening local news in our region, and creating an inclusive newsroom that reflects that community that Guild journalists represent.
Full-time faculty at Point Park University started working under their first collective bargaining agreement in 2017 after years of court battles and negotiations in their initial organizing, and will be looking to begin bargaining with the university for their next contract in the coming months.