Post-Gazette newsroom employees leaflet Downtown as PG publisher speaks at noon luncheon

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About 30 members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh—all of them newsroom employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette–distributed leaflets today protesting 13 years without a raise and two straight years in which the company is defying federal law in not paying health care premium increases.

Nearly 500 leaflets (please see attached) were distributed in 45 minutes outside the Omni William Penn Hotel before Publisher John Robinson Block addressed a noon Rotary luncheon inside. The Guild, and other unions at the Post-Gazette, have been separately negotiating for new individual contracts since the last ones expired in March 2017. The Post-Gazette, owned by BCI, has been using a union-busting law firm from Tennessee in negotiations with all the unions.

“This is but the first of many planned mobilization efforts to more visibly express our displeasure with the way John Block and his twin brother, Allan Block, chairman of  Toledo,Ohio-based Block Communications Inc., have treated us for 13 years,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year reporter at the paper and president of the Newspaper Guild, which represents 150 newsroom employees.

“All we are asking is to be treated with the dignity and respect we’ve earned with our talent, loyalty and dedication. To deny us raises for 13 years and to cause our health care benefits to be cut two years in a row is unconscionable. They need to change and fast.

“Today we put the Blocks on notice we are not going away. There will be no deaths by a thousand cuts. More and escalated protests will follow unless and until they finally do the right thing and negotiate fair and equitable contracts with loyal employees,” Fuoco said.

“Yes, the Post-Gazette loses money, but BCI is a profitable communications corporation built upon the one-time profits of the Post-Gazette. Moreover, there is a social compact for owning a 232-year-old Pittsburgh institution. They should be fair employers of journalists upon whose work democracy depends.”

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh sends thanks to the South Florida Sun Sentinel

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Thank you, from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh thanks with utmost gratitude former PG staffer Jane Elizabeth and her staff at the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, and the Toledo Newspaper Guild and its president, Nolan Rosenkrans, for their thoughtful donations to our staff of lunch and dinner on Sunday and Monday.

In the midst of our dedicated members’ round-the-clock work covering the atrocity visited Saturday upon the Tree of Life synagogue, the gift of food arrived in our newsroom as a balm for both stomachs and souls. We salute our colleagues in Raleigh and Toledo for carrying us in their hearts, showing a generosity of spirit and reminding us that we all stand together.

Jonathan D. Silver
Unit Chairman
Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Administrative Law Judges Sustains the Unfair Labor Practice Charge that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Violated Federal Law

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An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal law
by not paying a 5% increase in the 2018 health care premium for 400 unionized employees at the
newspaper.

In a 38-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge David I. Goldman ordered the
company to pay the premium increase and to reimburse those adversely affected by the
company’s improper decision. The Company has the right to appeal.

“We hope the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will do the right thing and pay what it is legally required
by federal law and morally required as an employer,” said Michael A. Fuoco, Newspaper Guild
president. “We’ll just have to wait and see if they follow the law and have a moral compass.”
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents 150 newsroom employees at the PG,
initially filed the Unfair Labor Practice in January, charging that the PG and its owner, Block
Communications, Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, violated federal law by unilaterally deciding not to pay
an increase in health care during collective bargaining for a new contract. Other unions,
representing another 250 members representing the Teamsters, operating engineers, pressmen,
mailers, advertising and finance, joined in the ULP filing. All of the unions have been involved
in bargaining with BCI for 20 months over contracts that expired March 31, 2017.

Companies involved in bargaining are required by federal law to “continue the status quo in the
terms and conditions of employment while the parties negotiate for a new labor agreement,”
according to Judge Goldman’s decision. The PG’s unilateral refusal to pay the 5 percent
premium increase resulted in diminished health-care benefits for the 400 union members as of
April 1.

In response to the Unfair Labor Practice charge, the National Labor Relations Board regional
director of the Pittsburgh office ruled in the unions’ favor. BCI, under advice of union-busting
Nashville, Tenn., law firm King & Ballow, which is in charge of its negotiations with the unions,
advised the company to appeal. That resulted in a hearing before Judge Goldman on Aug. 21
which led to his decision.

Michael A. Fuoco
President, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh statement on Rob Rogers

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The members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh were saddened today to learn from a tweet by Rob Rogers that he had been fired as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist. There is much we still do not know. Given the recent killing of a number of Rob’s cartoons critical of President Trump and conservative positions, favorites of the publisher and the editorial director, it perhaps is not surprising that this sad day for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh community and journalism has arrived.

A Pulitzer Prize finalist and recipient of numerous national awards, Rob worked with verve and aplomb at both the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He is a true talent we were honored to know as a colleague and friend. He deserved much better treatment. It appears Rob’s only transgression was doing his job—providing satirical comment based on his political views of the world. There never was a problem before but with the new order of the Post-Gazette editorial pages, it seems that those who do not follow the pro-Trump, pro-conservative orthodoxy of the publisher and editorial director are of no use.

The public should be assured that PG newsroom employees–150 reporters, photographers, copy editors, artists and others represented by the Guild–will continue to produce award-winning, unbiased journalism. Democracy depends upon it. As we do so, we mourn the fact that the PG editorial pages apparently are no longer the free marketplace of ideas.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Appeal NLRB Regional Director’s Finding it Violated Federal Law

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This morning, Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, and Jonathan D. Silver, Unit Chairman, were apprised by Richard Lowe, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s attorney from the union-busting Nashville, Tenn., law firm King & Ballow, that the PG will appeal the NLRB regional director’s finding this week that found in favor of the Guild’s Unfair Labor Practice [ULP] filing. The regional director found that the company violated federal law by unilaterally deciding not to pay an increase in health care. Companies involved in bargaining are required by federal law to maintain the same level of wages and benefits of expired contracts. The PG’s refusal to pay the 5 percent increase will decrease health-care benefits for 150 Guild members and another 250 members of other PG unions as of April 1.

It should be noted that Lowe’s advice to appeal the finding to an administrative law judge—he gleefully said he’s willing to appeal all the way to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.–has no downside for him. In fact, it serves to continue to line his pockets and fleece Block Communications Inc., the PG’s parent company based in Toledo, Ohio. Lowe is also negotiating with the Guild local at The (Toledo) Blade, another holding of BCI, owned by the Block family, which includes BCI chairman Allan Block and his twin John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Post-Gazette and The Blade.

The decision is the latest by BCI that denies its workers economic justice. The Guild and other unions at the PG have been involved in contract negotiations with the paper for more than a year. The Guild’s contract, and those of other unions at the paper, expired March 31, 2017.

Because of extensive wage cuts over the last dozen years, Guild members are earning 10 percent less than they did in 2006, the last time there was a raise. Also during that time, pensions have been frozen, benefits have been cut, health-care coverage has decreased. Yet the cost of everything — including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette itself — has increased dramatically.

The Post-Gazette and The Blade, like most newspapers in the country, lose money but BCI itself regularly earns more than $100 million in profits annually from its cable, TV and other holdings. Still, over the last year, in some of the most contentious contract talks at the paper in history, the company is demanding even more givebacks.

“BCI’s decision to appeal the regional director’s finding is not surprising given its decision to violate federal law in the first place,” Fuoco said. “This only serves to strengthen our resolve to battle BCI’s greed and its declaration of war on prize-winning, dedicated, talented journalists.”

Fuoco said BCI’s decision to appeal will have consequences but he declined to be specific. In late January, all Guild members withheld their bylines from their stories, photographs, columns and graphics for four days in protest of the ULP, the lack of progress in negotiations and the wage, benefit and staff cuts over the last 12 years.

“We have drawn a line in the sand in these contract negotiations. This paper cannot function without its reporters, photographers, graphic artists, web editors, page designers, copy editors and other Guild members.

“It’s time BCI realizes we are not backing down and there will be no concessionary contract this time. We will fight with everything we have against BCI whose actions devalue our talent and professionalism.

“We will prevail in this battle for economic justice. We are in the right. And right is might.”

-Michael A. Fuoco
President, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Violated Federal Labor Law, NLRB Regional Director Determines

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PITTSBURGH — The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has determined that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal law by refusing to pay a 2018 increase in the health care costs of 150 members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh while the two parties are involved in contract negotiations. Approximately another 250 unionized employees at the PG are similarly affected.

The Guild filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the company on Jan. 12 because, through its union-busting law firm King & Ballow of Nashville, Tenn., it refused to pay a 5 percent increase in the health care premium for 2018, thereby unilaterally cutting health care benefits. Companies involved in bargaining are required by federal law to maintain the same level of wages and benefits of expired contracts. It is believed to be the first ULP the Guild has ever filed against the PG.

“Knowing this law firm and its history in labor relations, their actions aren’t surprising,” said Joseph J. Pass, the Guild’s attorney. “We’re thankful the regional director is willing to issue a complaint as a result of the unfair labor practice.”

The company can either comply with the regional director’s findings or can continue to pay outlandish fees to its Tennessee lawyers by requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Guild and other unions at the PG have been involved in contract negotiations with the paper for more than a year. Its contract, and those of other unions at the paper, expired March 31, 2017.

Because of extensive wage cuts, Guild members are earning 10 percent less than they did in 2006, the last time there was a raise. Also during that time, pensions have been frozen, benefits have been cut, health-care coverage has decreased. Yet the cost of everything — including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette itself — has increased dramatically.

The Post-Gazette, like most newspapers in the country, loses money but its highly profitable parent company, the family-owned Block Communications Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, is able to write off those losses and regularly earns more than $100 million in profits annually. Still, over the last year, in some of the most contentious contract talks at the paper in history, the company is demanding even more givebacks.

“Our hope is that the NLRB’s decision is a wakeup call to BCI that it should stop listening to King & Ballow and cease wasting money trying to defend its violation of federal law,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a PG veteran reporter and Guild president. “It is time for BCI to negotiate fairly and equitably with the Guild and all unions and to quit wasting money on a law firm that apparently is not interested in negotiating in a substantive way but only in lining its coffers.”

In late January, all Guild members withheld their bylines from their stories, photographs, columns and graphics for four days in protest of the ULP and the more than 12 years of pay cuts and other concessions demanded by BCI. Those who work behind the scenes–copy editors, page designers, web editors and others –wore stickers reading “I Support the Byline Strike.” Participation among the 150 members was 100 percent.

Additional Guild actions are possible should BCI refuse to remedy its current unfair labor practice and to bargain in a fair and equitable manner.

Michael A. Fuoco,
President, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh