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.”
- 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:
- Publisher John Block (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“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.”