The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh stands firmly against the latest attempt by Block Communications Inc. (BCI) to further shrink the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PG) newsroom.
In its latest attempt to slash newsroom numbers, BCI recently introduced its “Voluntary Separation Agreement”, also known as a buyout package, with a stated goal of reducing the number of Guild positions in the newsroom by 19. The reason, according to the company, isn’t economic or financial, but merely because the company feels it “can operate with fewer” workers.
Although buyouts are voluntary, and the Guild does not oppose voluntary separation, this decision and reasoning provided by the company appears counterintuitive during a time when at least a third of union members have left the PG in the last two years, and those who remain are already stretched thin due to the loss in manpower, according to Guild President Lacretia Wimbley.
In spring 2020, BCI offered an identical buyout package with a stated goal of eliminating 24 Guild positions from the PG newsroom, and ultimately accepted the 14 individuals who applied for the buyout package. An additional 19 workers exiting the newsroom would be devastating to the newspaper that readers in the Pittsburgh area rely on to stay informed.
“Buyouts in general are one thing, but to offer a second round of buyouts less than one year after the last round was offered is very concerning,” Ms. Wimbley said. “The fact that the company said it has made this decision, essentially, just because they can, is absolutely outrageous.
“Our community deserves so much better than this. Pittsburgh deserves quality journalism, but that is being hindered by such decisions being made by BCI.”
The Guild does not view this buyout package in a vacuum. On July 27, 2020, after bargaining in bad faith for over three years, BCI illegally declared an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposing working conditions on the Guild. These illegally imposed terms destroyed years of bargained for protections designed to protect Guild members in the event of layoffs.
In addition the company has:
- Denied collective raises for 15 years
- Illegally slashed health care benefits and astronomically driven up insurance costs
- Created a hostile work environment, forcing members to leave the PG for other jobs
- Consistently shown intolerance on race issues, including blocking the coverage by a Black reporter of stories related to Black Lives Matter protests
- Paid millions of dollars to the Nashville, Tenn. union-busting law firm King & Ballow and now wants to reduce those employees that form the backbone of the enterprise
- Eliminated seniority benefits
While BCI hasn’t moved to layoffs, in their own buyout package language distributed to Guild members they state: “In the event enough eligible employees do not choose to voluntarily resign their employment, additional staff reductions may be necessary.”
The Post-Gazette is a community asset, and the Newspaper Guild wants to preserve it. The Guild believes that BCI needs to rescind the illegally imposed working conditions and come to an agreement on a fair contract that respects the union workers who make the Post-Gazette. We all deserve a local newspaper that invests in our community and empowers inclusive journalism that reflects our region.
CONTACT: LACRETIA WIMBLEY