Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh to end successful byline strike

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, representing journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has decided to end its successful byline strike at the end of the day Tuesday, Dec. 17, one month after the protest of economic injustice and a hostile workplace began.

Through Sunday, 1,406 bylines were withheld from stories, columns, photographs and graphic illustrations, a daily average of 54 bylines. The final figure will include bylines withheld from Monday and Tuesday’s editions, likely another 100 or so. Bylines will return to new work by the journalists published on Wednesday. The number of bylines withheld were from the Post-Gazette‘s print and digital newspapers. Even more bylines were withheld from breaking news stories and photos on the PG’s website and mobile app, but those numbers were not included in the total.

There was 100% participation in the protest that began Nov. 20 by writers,
photographers, columnists and artists. Guild members whose work is not credited with bylines – such as page designers, web and copy editors, librarians and clerks – joined in the protest by wearing buttons reading “I Support the Byline Strike” in the newsroom.

“A month was the right time to end it because our message of mistreatment at the Post-Gazette is now known locally and throughout the country,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year employee and Guild president. “We never thought that our byline strike would cause owners Block Communication Inc. to end their despicable tactics of denying talented journalists a raise for 14 years, slashing our health care during three years of bad-faith bargaining and creating a toxic environment of fear, intimidation and retribution in the newsroom.

“What the byline strike showed in vivid detail is that we 140 journalists in the Guild are the heart and soul of this 233-year-old newspaper and without us there is no Post-Gazette. The sheer volume of stories, graphics, photographs and columns without bylines has exposed that to the public and the owners noticed as well.”

Jon Schleuss, newly elected international president of the NewsGuild, the Pittsburgh local’s parent union, said the solidarity and commitment shown by Guild members at the Post-Gazette to fight for a fair contract, a non-hostile work environment and the newspaper’s survival is inspiring to journalists throughout the country.

“Total participation in the recent byline strike shows just how dedicated the workers of the Post-Gazette are to its long-term success,” Schleuss said. “It’s time for the Blocks to come to the table and work with the Guild to forge a path forward.

“Our entire membership is dedicated to the success of the Post—Gazette because it’s an essential part of the community and a pillar of our democracy. The leadership of the NewsGuild stands with everyone at the Post-Gazette.”

Among the Guild’s grievances are:

  • 14 years without a raise.
  • Nearly three years of stalled contract talks designed to break the union.
  • Relentless slashing of health benefits
  • Mounting federal unfair labor practices and contract grievances.
  • Millions spent on union—busting lawyers.
  • The punitive reassigning of reporters, including Guild officers.
  • The firing of dedicated editors.

On Nov. 18, Guild members overwhelmingly took the unprecedented act of voting “no confidence” in PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and his twin Allan Block, chairman of newspaper owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI), for their escalating unconscionable treatment of employees — union members and managers alike. At the same meeting, Guild members voted for the byline strike.

The Guild, which has been a fixture at the Post-Gazette for 85 years, continues to seek support for the kind of journalism that earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize this year, and is calling upon the public to express its outrage at the repulsive actions of the PG’s owners and top editor by emailing:

  • Publisher John Block – jrblock@post-gazette.com
  • BCl Chairman Allan Block – ablock©blockcommunications.com and ablock@accesstoledo.com
  • Executive Editor Keith Burris – kburris@post-gazette.com and kburris@theblade.com

“The end of the byline strike in no way signals an end to our battle to save our jobs and a newspaper we love and to be treated with dignity,” Fuoco said. “The byline strike has only motivated us to redouble our efforts in fighting back against their oppression. Only when they cease will we cease.”

Newspaper Guild Marks Seven Days of Byline Strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with 100% Participation

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The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today marked seven days of its indefinite byline strike in protest of the severe mistreatment of union members and managers by PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and his twin Allan Block, chairman of Toledo-based PG owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI).

Since Nov. 20, reporters, columnists, photographers and graphic artists represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh have withheld a total of 313 bylines and credit lines from the print and PGe digital editions of the newspaper — 100 percent participation. Countless more bylines have been absent from the PG’s website, mobile app and PGNewsSlide.

Page designers, web and copy desk personnel, librarians and clerks who do not have bylines are wearing “I Support the Byline Strike” buttons in the newsroom. Moreover, PG journalists are wearing “No Confidence” buttons and have placards reading the same on their desks to illustrate their unanimous vote last week of “no confidence” in Burris and the Blocks.

PG freelancers, who are not union members, have withheld their bylines in support. Additional backing has come from readers and unions from across the United States who likewise decry and are appalled by the hostile work environment created by the Blocks and Burris and the economic oppression of nearly 14 years without a raise and unilateral cuts to their health care. The Guild and other PG unions have been mired for nearly three years in fruitless negotiations for new contracts with BCl’s carpetbagging, anti-union attorney from Tennessee who is seeking additional cutbacks in wages and benefits from newspaper workers.

“We are unified and resolute in protest of the unprecedented, unconscionable atmosphere of fear, hostility and intimidation that Burris and the Blocks have created in the North Shore newsroom. And we stand united in our quest for economic justice,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president.

“In stark relief, this byline strike shows that we journalists are truly the Post-Gazette – not Burris, executive editor for only nine months, and the multimillionaire Blocks. There is no Post-Gazette without us. There will be no Post-Gazette without us.

“We will continue this fight for a non-hostile workplace and economic justice, even to the point of the most extreme measures.”

The last byline strike at the Post-Gazette was in January 2018 when the Guild prosecuted a four-day protest of what was then two years without a contract and the company’s decision for the second year to defy contracts and not pay premium increases for health-care coverage. Union presidents recently received letters indicating the company will not pay for increases in 2020, decreasing health-care benefits for the third straight year. Before January 2018, there had not previously been a byline strike at the paper since the 19803.

“The Blocks and Burris have no moral compass and a total lack of appreciation for the legacy of the Post-Gazette and the loyalty of talented journalists,” Fuoco said. “Their actions are shameful and despicable.”

They include:

  • The firing or forcing out of three beloved newsroom managers with combined service of nearly 100 years to the PG because they stood up to Burris’ dictatorial actions. Four other managers have left this year and one departure is pending.
  • Cultivating hurt and bewilderment among the staff through Burris’ belittling behavior toward individual Guild members. This has led to turmoil and uncertainty among the remaining staff and has contributed to a desperate exodus of 16 talented journalists from the 2019 Pulitzer Prize—winning newspaper over the last six months.
  • Retaliating against certain Guild members and leaders by reassigning those who have challenged him in any way to positions that adversely affect their lives and/or their work on behalf of the union.
  • Abusing and refusing to work cooperatively with or even speak to Guild leadership.
  • Triggering an unprecedented number of grievances and Unfair Labor Practice charges filed by the Guild never before seen in the union’s 85 years at the PG.

The Guild is calling upon the public to express its outrage at the repulsive actions by emailing:

“We will continue to serve our community, even as the Blocks and Burris attempt to stand in the way of our commitment to our calling as journalists,” Fuoco said. “We hope and pray that the Blocks and Burris come to their senses before they permanently destroy an iconic newspaper whose roots go back to reporting on passage of the US. Constitution.”

Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council Labor Day Parade 2019

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Frequently Asked Questions, Press Releases, Media Coverage | Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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FAQs

How is the contract situation at the PG?
Not good. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s contract expired March 31, 2017. Since then, we’ve been negotiating with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its highly profitable Toledo-based parent company, BCI. As of December 2018, we’re in the 22nd month of negotiations.

That sounds like a long time.
It is! BCI and its owner, Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block and his twin brother, BCI Chairman Allan Block, have sicced on the Guild the pricey, union-busting Nashville, Tenn. law firm King & Ballow. Their representative at the bargaining table is firm partner Richard Lowe.

What does the Guild want?
A fair and equitable contract. The dedicated journalists who put out the news around the clock every single day for the greater Pittsburgh community have not had a raise in 13 years. Meanwhile our members have given back millions of dollars in concessions — part of the tens of millions of dollars the Blocks have received from all of the PG’S unions — as part of years-long pay cuts to help keep the Post-Gazette afloat.

To add insult to injury, the Blocks have violated federal labor law by refusing to properly fund our health insurance in 2018 despite an administrative law judge’s order to do so — and the PG has said it won’t comply with the judge’s order in 2019 either. That means our health insurance benefits, which already got worse this year thanks to the Blocks, will suffer again next year. Asked whether the company couldn’t afford the premium increase, Lowe said recently at the bargaining table that the PG “is not claiming an inability to pay.”

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Guild fighting for a fair contract

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Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh are handing out flyers in Downtown Pittsburgh this morning outside the Omni William Penn where publisher John Robinson Block is speaking.

PG Guild Flyer color.jpg

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](1)

Guild President Mike Fuoco is being interviewed by @905wesa about @PittsburghPG’s labor situation.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](2)

Here @KDKA is interviewing Guild President Mike Fuoco about our labor situation.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](3)

Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fair contract with @PittsburghPG.

Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](4)Screenshot_2018-12-05 Jonathan Silver on Twitter Guild members are hard af work leafleting this morning in pursuit of a fai[...](5)

PG Guild Flyer color

 

Thank you!

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A thank you video from the Post-Gazette and The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

A month ago, a man walked into the Tree of Life synagogue and began
shooting. He took 11 precious lives and left Pittsburgh reeling.

Pittsburgh is a small city, so the reporters, editors,
photojournalists and paginators here at the Post-Gazette felt deep
pain while covering this international story. Our colleagues at
several news organizations stepped forward to support us during this difficult time, and we are deeply appreciative.

The video was produced by Guild member and photojournalist Steve Mellon.

 

 

 

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