Newspaper Guild Wins Victory In Federal Court Over Healthcare Arbitration

Standard

A federal magistrate judge Monday rejected the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s attempt to overturn an arbitration award for its journalists union, handing the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh a significant victory in a long-running dispute with its employer over healthcare costs.

The Post-Gazette’s millionaire owners, twin brothers John Robinson and Allan Block, and their Tennessee lawyers have refused to abide by the December award upholding a grievance filed by the Guild. The Blocks’ actions have forced their own employees, who have not had an across-the-board raise in 14 years, to pay more than $70,000 out of their own pockets for healthcare since 2017 — expenditures that they never should have incurred.

In her 34-page report, Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania concluded that the Post-Gazette’s complaint to vacate the arbitration award should be dismissed, the award should be enforced and the Guild’s counterclaim to enforce the order — including reimbursing members of the unionized newsroom — should be granted.

Lenihan’s recommendation comes three days after the executive council of the Guild’s parent union, NewsGuild-CWA, announced that it had unanimously endorsed Guild members’ request to strike in light of bad-faith and surface bargaining by the Post-Gazette, a declaration of a bargaining impasse and unlawful imposition of economic concessions and other onerous conditions on July 27.

“Overturning arbitration awards is very rare, and most practitioners recognize that principle. Unfortunately the Post-Gazette has more money than brains and chooses to spend its millions on trying to destroy a system that has worked for decades simply to  try and beat down their hard-working journalists who have suffered for 14 years without a wage increase and who are now subject to an inferior health care plan during the worst pandemic in 100 years,” Joseph J. Pass, the Guild’s attorney said. “Unconscionable!”  

“The Blocks’ attempt to destroy their employees and families is reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” Pass continued. “In reality, they use the justice system to thwart justice by appealing and appealing, leaving their employees and families with health care bills that they can no longer afford.”

Arbitrator Jay Nadelbach found on Dec. 30, 2019 that the Post-Gazette had violated its contract with the union by unilaterally refusing to pay health insurance premium increases during negotiations for a new contract, leading to dramatic hikes in Guild members’ deductibles.

The Post-Gazette refused to make the additional premium payments in 2018, 2019 and 2020, leading to deductibles rocketing to $2,000 for single coverage and $4,000 for family coverage, up from $850 and $1,700, the levels that existed when the Guild’s contract expired March 31, 2017.

Nadelbach ordered the Post-Gazette to not only pay the amount needed to maintain the healthcare benefits spelled out in the contract, but to make Guild members whole “for any out-of-pocket monies paid as a result of the Employer’s failure to maintain the contractual level of benefits.”

On Feb. 14, the Post-Gazette appealed Nadelbach’s award, which he declared was “final and binding,” to federal court.

“There is no reason why Arbitrator Nadelbach’s December 30, 2019 Award — on a matter of contract interpretation within his core competence, submitted for expedited determination by the parties — should not now be enforced,” Lenihan wrote.

Lenihan determined that the Post-Gazette did not file its appeal within the 30-day statute of limitations. But even if it had, she wrote, the company’s arguments would have failed on the merits.

The Post-Gazette has 14 days to file objections.

Previously, the Guild and five other unions at the Post-Gazette battled against the company’s refusal to pay healthcare premium increases during contract negotiations by filing Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. 

The board’s regional office in Pittsburgh issued a complaint against the Post-Gazette. When the newspaper objected, a hearing was held, and an administrative law judge upheld the decision. The Post-Gazette still was not satisfied and appealed to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. On Aug. 22, 2019, a three-member panel of the board, all appointees of President Donald J. Trump, found in favor of the Post-Gazette and dismissed the complaint.

“Once again, our position regarding healthcare has been upheld, “ said Guild President Michael A. Fuoco, a PG reporter for 36 years. “If only the Blocks and their carpetbagging attorney believed in the rule of law. They would rather spitefully appeal than doing what is right and just. Their actions are ethically and morally bankrupt.”

Despite Nadelbach’s award, the Post-Gazette on Sept. 1 unilaterally forced Guild members onto a different, far more costly health plan as part of its imposition of working conditions after declaring an impasse in bargaining.

The Guild rejects the notion that any impasse exists and continues to seek a diplomatic and amicable resolution to its labor dispute with the Post-Gazette in order to avert a strike.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh represents 122 journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

CONTACT:

Michael A. Fuoco
Newspaper Guild President
412-576-4665
mfuoco138@gmail.com

Jonathan D. Silver
Post-Gazette Unit Chairman
412-886-4585
bigdelillofan@gmail.com

Joseph J. Pass, Jubelirer, Pass & Intrier
Attorney for the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
412-281-3850
jjp@jpilaw.com

Standard

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

Newspaper Guild Members Overwhelmingly Vote To Strike the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Standard

The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly voted 88-31 to authorize union leaders to call a strike at the newspaper. A three-member balloting committee this afternoon tallied the secret ballots that had been returned by members over the last week. Members were immediately informed by email of the result.

Authorization for a strike at the Post-Gazette must now be approved by the Executive Council of the local’s union, the NewsGuild. Approval there would then proceed to Communications Workers of America President Christopher M. Shelton, who has the final say for strike authorization. Two other CWA unions at the newspaper, Pittsburgh Typographical Union #7 and Mailers Local M-22, representing about 40 office and production employees, have both unanimously authorized a strike.

The Guild local, representing 123 journalists, has been attempting to negotiate a new contract with the Post-Gazette for 3 ½ years during which time the newspaper’s anti-union attorney from Tennessee has bargained in bad faith. The company’s attorney, Richard Lowe, unlawfully declared a negotiations impasse. The Guild informed him the sides were nowhere near an impasse and would meet at any time.

Despite that, Lowe on July 27 unilaterally imposed working conditions, based on parts of the company’s final contract offer, illegally eliminating major tenets of the expired contract under which union members had been working. Subsequently, the Guild filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board based on bad faith bargaining, unlawful declaration of an impasse and unilateral imposition of working conditions. At the same time, the local’s 10-member Executive Committee unanimously recommended that members vote by secret ballot to authorize a strike based on those violations of federal labor law.

Guild members have shown their professionalism, talent and loyalty to the iconic newspaper despite the demeaning treatment they have endured from owner Block Communications Inc., a Toledo-based media corporation privately owned by the Block family. The staff won a Pulitzer Prize last year, members were Pulitzer finalists and recipients of numerous other journalism honors this year, and the Post-Gazette was named the 2020 Newspaper of the Year in the state by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

“The newsroom staff has rightfully earned journalistic accolades even as BCI despicably treats its journalists as chattel,” said Guild President Michael A. Fuoco, a reporter at the paper for 36 years. “We are committed to journalism, the Post-Gazette and the community we are humbled to serve and are doing everything we can to avoid a strike.

“We want nothing more than to negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement. Should the company refuse to rescind the illegal changes to our working conditions, return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract for both sides, we are prepared to withhold our talent from the Post-Gazette, to effectively remove the newspaper’s heart and soul.

“The path we take is up to the company – revoke the unilateral changes and return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith or face the consequences. Clearly, the 234-year legacy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is at a crossroads.”

“Today’s vote clearly shows that our members are fed up with the Post-Gazette’s long-standing refusal to bargain in good faith,” said Guild Unit Chairman Jonathan D. Silver, a 23-year reporter and editor at the paper and a contract negotiator. “Our members fully understand the egregious nature of the company’s wrongheaded decision to unlawfully declare an impasse and impose work conditions without bargaining, and now they have sent a loud and clear message to the Blocks.”

The Guild calls upon readers, advertisers, and political, religious, business, labor and social justice leaders to impress upon the Post-Gazette that they support the union’s desire to have the Post-Gazette revoke its unilateral implemented changes and return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal for their employees in order to avoid a strike.

CONTACT:
Michael A. Fuoco
Newspaper Guild President
412-576-4665
mfuoco@post-gazette.com

mfuoco138@gmail.com

Jonathan D. Silver
Newspaper Guild Unit Chairman

412-512-0879
bigdelillofan@gmail.com

Newspaper Guild demands Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management cease discrimination and retaliation

Standard

Join our email writing campaign to support Post-Gazette Black journalists

One week ago today, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette management banned Black reporter Alexis Johnson from protest-related coverage because they claimed she showed “bias:” in a clever and benign tweet. Subsequently, members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh put that tweet on their own Twitter accounts to show support for their colleague. The Post-Gazette responded by pulling two published stories from its website written by reporters who had shown Alexis support and two stories scheduled the next day by other reporters were killed.

Without explanation, the PG then pulled Black photographer Michael Santiago off a previously scheduled assignment to cover protests on Saturday and didn’t staff them with a photographer. On Sunday, no photographers were assigned to protests happening that day. On Monday, a photographer who does not have a Twitter account and therefore could not tweet support for his colleagues, was assigned to shoot an early morning protest.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh finds these discriminatory, retaliatory actions to be unconscionable and morally and ethically bankrupt. Management’s actions have nationally embarrassed and demeaned a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper. Statements of condemnation have been issued by the local’s parent unions, the Communication Workers of America and the NewsGuild and the National Association of Black Journalists, among others. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and other prominent individuals have publicly supported the Newspaper Guild. And the public has expressed its ire at the actions — as of early today, more than 2,500 letters of complaint have been written to the Post-Gazette on an ActionNetwork app.

The letters to management support the Guild’s demands:

  • Rescind your ban and allow these Black journalists to cover the most monumental civil rights movement in more than 50 years.
  • Stop retaliating against their supporters.
  • Fulfill your mission by adequately and ethically covering the protests and related issues.

Additionally, we call upon advertisers large and small to contact the Post-Gazette to express their support of the Guild’s position and ethical journalism.

Only in this way can management resolve a crisis of its own making and can the Post-Gazette go back to truly reporting the news rather than sadly making it.

Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh to end successful byline strike

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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 January 2020, we’re in the 35th 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 14 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.

Continue reading

Guild fighting for a fair contract

Standard

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!

Standard

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.