Newspaper Guild speaks out against Post-Gazette’s latest attempt to shrink newsroom

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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
PRESIDENT
CRETIA483@GMAIL.COM

Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh launches interview series to assess internal culture

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The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, along with our parent union The NewsGuild-CWA, is launching an interview series to assess and evaluate the culture of our local’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette unit and identify areas of improvement inside the newsroom. 

The assessment is in response to an investigation by the Communications Workers of America that was prompted by allegations last September that former local president Michael Fuoco violated an internal policy of respect. The CWA’s mutual respect policy, which every member is expected to adhere, prohibits harassment and discrimination. 

The situation brought attention to areas of concern within the Guild at the local and national level, including concerns that people did not feel comfortable reporting harassment or misconduct, did not feel there were proper procedures in place to respond to and act on these types of reports and did not feel protected by the very body put in place to protect them.

The Guild does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind and leadership at all levels is committed to making the necessary changes needed to address these concerns.

Guild leadership was stunned by the allegations against Fuoco that gave rise to the internal CWA investigation as well as those which spurred a Dec. 6, 2020, article in The New York Times. In light of the CWA investigation, Guild leaders at the local level felt it was imperative to assess the culture of our own local, especially since none of these allegations were brought to our executive committee.

National leaders and our local’s Human Rights Committee have spent the last several months setting up an assessment process that will help us create a path forward. It aims to both look back at what happened and look forward at what we can and should do differently to cultivate an atmosphere of safety.

Rebecca Feaster, a former journalist who has experience developing and delivering bias, cultural awareness and anti-sexual harassment training programs will conduct the assessment over the next several weeks. 

She has more than 25 years of experience in executive coaching, curriculum development, facilitation and consulting services. Feaster has worked as a journalist covering issues of bias, inequality and sexual harassment and has delivered diversity and inclusion-based training and consulting with the Virgina State Police, the City of Rockville, Maryland and The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

TNG lawyer Barbara Camens recommended Feaster for this role. 

Feaster will interview former and current members with a pre-set list of questions that will prompt interviewees to share their experiences and shed light on the types of processes they feel should be put in place.

All the interviews will be anonymous.

Following the interviews, Feaster will release a public report that details what she has learned while keeping the identities of all interviewees anonymous. Based on members’ feedback, she will make a set of suggestions for how the Guild should improve its culture and its procedures moving forward. Those suggestions will be tailored to the Pittsburgh local but can act as a framework for other parts of the Guild looking to update their own policies and procedures.

This has been a monthslong process and Guild leadership is happy to see it coming to fruition.

“I strongly urge all Guild members to participate in this assessment,” said Guild President Lacretia Wimbley. “This is such a necessary step, and with the help of TNG, your Guild leaders decided to hire a third-party consultant to hear your accounts and concerns regarding the culture of our Guild. The only way we gain clarity and begin to heal is by being open and honest in this process. I implore everyone to participate and share.”

“This has been a learning process for all of us and we still have a lot of work to do,” NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss said. “Every one of us must be dedicated to creating a safe union for all of our members. I encourage folks to participate so we can improve our culture and make sure our union is safe for every member.” 

Schleuss first heard credible allegations against Fuoco last September when he received a call from a woman regarding misconduct by Fuoco. The next day, he contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. Fuoco resigned from the Guild that evening and later retired from the Post-Gazette.

This assessment will build off the initial investigation from CWA, which was opened in September and closed in December, and have a forward-looking approach that focuses on what the Guild can do differently to better protect members.

In the end, we hope it results in new policies, procedures and systems that will enable members to come forward with concerns about harassment and misconduct and enable the Guild to take action immediately. We hope it fosters a culture where members know how to identify and prevent harassment, where survivors feel protected and where leadership is held accountable.

The assessment should conclude sometime this summer. Armed with feedback and suggestions, the Pittsburgh local is committed to creating an environment where members feel safe and protected. We are the first line of defense for our members not only when it comes to management and contract negotiations; we are ready to make the necessary changes to act as a more effective line of defense for protection against harassment, discrimination and misconduct against any members.

We are eager to get started. 

In solidarity,
The executive committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh
Alyssa Brown, Lauren Rosenblatt, Lacretia Wimbley, Zack Tanner, Jonathan Silver, Ed Blazina, Melissa Tkach, Ashley Murray, Patti Sabatini, Tyler Dague and Dan Gigler  

For questions or media requests, please email pghguild@gmail.com with a subject line “Listening Series”.

No place for harassment in our union: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh responds to New York Times report

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With the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette once again finding itself in the national spotlight, this time for a recent New York Times story revealing new information about the allegations of sexual misconduct by this local’s former president, we feel it is important to be transparent, to correct the record and to emphasize our commitment to protecting our members. 

It was difficult, distressing and painful to read the allegations in The New York Times. The report detailed allegations of unacceptable conduct in a union whose fundamental purpose is to protect its members. It now falls on us, the current iteration of the executive committee, to work internally and with our members to find a path forward and take corrective action.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and the members of the executive committee do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. This union is in place to guarantee a safe and fair work environment. The Guild has time and again been the first line of defense for Post-Gazette employees, including fighting for members’ overtime pay, short-term disability and FMLA rights, the right for a nursing room for mothers, and defending members in disputes with PG executives and intervening in situations with hostile supervisors. We are committed to upholding those values and to take the necessary steps to make sure members feel safe and protected.

When local leadership was first notified of allegations, we were very disturbed that this was the first we had heard of the claims and are scrutinizing why our systems – at the local and international level – were insufficient. Unions should always be a place where members can report such incidents and feel protected. 

As we work to repair and restore your confidence in our union, it is also important to set the record straight. There is no cover-up here.

The local executive committee took action immediately the day we heard from TNG President Jon Schleuss that he had received credible allegations against Mike Fuoco and that CWA had opened an investigation. 

On Sept. 25, 2020, TNG president Jon Schleuss received a call from a woman regarding allegations of misconduct by Fuoco against her. On Sept. 26, Schleuss contacted local Guild leadership and briefed members on the nature and gravity of the allegations. That evening, Fuoco resigned from the Guild and shortly after retired from the Post-Gazette. 

The investigation was turned over to CWA Chief of Staff Jody Calemine, who, along with Schleuss, briefed the executive committee earlier on Sept. 26. Schleuss informed local leadership Saturday, Dec. 5 that CWA has closed its investigation into the matter. You can read the final report, which details the investigation and the events leading to it, on newsguild.org.

Leaders at the local and national level were outraged and disgusted when we learned of the allegations against Fuoco, yet Ben Smith’s New York Times article all but insinuates that we were part of a deliberate longtime cover-up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To address a few specific areas of concern, none of the members of the current executive committee had previously been aware of allegations in the story that in 2011 Post-Gazette management had suspended Fuoco for a week due to allegations of misconduct. Local leadership at the time, and now, does not have any specific information of the allegations against Fuoco that led to this action and is not aware of any records indicating the company disclosed that information to Guild leadership at the time. 

The current executive committee is, however, aware of a situation in 2000 involving an allegation against Fuoco that a third-party described at the time as sexual harassment but provided no details. The 20-year-old internal Guild file is incomplete for unknown reasons and leaves out crucial details about the incident.

The local plans to begin discussions with Human Resources at the Post-Gazette and Point Park University to consider steps all sides can take to create an open, welcoming environment for reporting any misconduct or improper behavior.

Additionally, interim president Ed Blazina has released this statement in regards to his own quotes in the story:

“I regret and apologize for my comment at the end of the New York Times story. I repeated a phrase the interviewer used in his question, and I recognize it was inappropriate. I have no tolerance for sexual harassment and my first move as acting president was to re-form a human rights committee empowered to address that issue.”

Moving forward, local leadership and Guild members are going to take part in training to learn how to identify and respond to accusations of harassment, discrimination or misconduct of any kind.

Long term, we will establish policies and create an environment so this never happens again. We are working to build a comprehensive framework that details how to respond to allegations of harassment or discrimination as well as establishing training opportunities to better understand how to prevent harassment and discriminiation in the union and the workplace. 

The executive committee would like members from both the Post-Gazette and Point Park units to be a part of these conversations, whether on the record or anonymously. To start, we would like to plan small group sessions to discuss with members what they feel is needed to improve the environment at the Post-Gazette and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

This is part of an ongoing effort to ensure members’ perspectives and insights are heard and incorporated. This is a team effort; the executive committee is prepared and is eager to hear from you and listen to your ideas as we continue navigating the path forward.

In the meantime, please know that each member of the executive committee, as well as the human rights committee, is available to talk about any concerns and answer any questions as best we can. Members can also contact Schleuss, at guild@cwa-union.org, if they have allegations or information to report.

Once again, our movement has zero room for sexual harassment or discrimination. Union leaders should be held to a higher standard than the company; we are better than this. We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that victims of sexual harassment can safely come forward and to create a union and workplace where members feel heard, protected and safe.

In solidarity,

The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH DEFEATS PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE AGAIN IN FEDERAL HEALTH CARE CASE

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A federal judge ruled overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh in its disputwith the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette over the company refusing to pay increases in health care premiums during ongoing contract negotiations.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. Horan’s ruling rejected all seven points the Post-Gazette raised when it appealed an arbitrator’s Dec. 30, 2019, ruling in favor of the Newspaper Guild. She ordered enforcement of the arbitrator’s order, which requires the Post-Gazette to reimburse about 140 members of the Newspaper Guild for higher deductible payments they incurred because the company’s refusal to pay insurance increases reduced the level of coverage for union members. The Newspaper Guild estimates members are owed more than $70,000 in extra costs they were forced to pay since the company refused to pay increases for three years beginning in 2018.

“This is a tremendous victory, but it is one the Newspaper Guild expected because we have been successful at every level,” said Ed Blazina, acting president of Local 38061. “We hope this decision brings the Post-Gazette to its senses and causes it to pay legitimate costs to provide health care for the unionized members of its Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom staff rather than pay millions to a union-busting Tennessee law firm on a losing legal issue.

“So far, they have been more willing to pay an out-of-town lawyer only interested in padding his firm’s pockets rather than investing in the union members who make the Post-Gazette.”

Judge Horan upheld U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan’s recommendation rejecting all seven of the Post-Gazette’s issues challenging an arbitrator’s award in favor of the Newspaper Guild on all issues. That included technical points such as missing the deadline to file an appeal and having no grounds to appeal an arbitrator’s decision as well as the legal merits of the case because the Post-Gazette violated its contract with the Newspaper Guild by refusing to pay for health care increases during contract talks. 

“This is a fruitless effort by the Post-Gazette to hurt its dedicated employees,” Blazina said. “Our unionized newsroom continues to produce awarding-winning journalism despite regular mistreatment by the company. This ruling is another indication of the Post-Gazette’s bad decisions in how it treats union employees.”

The Newspaper Guild’s contract with the Post-Gazette expired March 31, 2017 — more than 3 1/2 years ago — and the two parties met more than 20 times in fruitless negotiations where the company has been unwilling to move at all on any of its positions. Despite not awarding a general raise to union members in 14 years, the Post-Gazette’s contract proposals demanded additional concessions. In July, the company decided to quit bargaining, declared an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposed onerous working conditions that, among other things, forced members onto a more expensive healthcare plan partway through the year, eliminated a guaranteed work week, gave managers free rein to do union work, rejected daily overtime, removed the right to demand arbitration of disputes, and allowed the company to lay off employees without regard to seniority.

The Newspaper Guild has filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the company acted illegally by declaring an impasse and unlawfully imposed conditions. In August, Newspaper Guild members overwhelmingly authorized a strike that was approved by the national NewsGuild. The Newspaper Guild is pushing the Post-Gazette to return to the bargaining table, but the union also is continuing preparations for a strike if that is unsuccessful.

“We don’t want to strike because Pittsburgh deserves quality local news coverage that only Newspaper Guild staff can provide, especially during this national health emergency,” Blazina said. “But unless the Post-Gazette changes its position, that’s where this situation is heading.”

CONTACTS: ED BLAZINA
ACTING PRESIDENT
412-559-2092

JOSEPH J. PASS
ATTORNEY
412-281-385

Human Rights Committee Letter to Post-Gazette Executive Editor Stan Wischnowski

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Today the Newspaper Guild’s Human Rights Committee sent a letter to Post-Gazette executive editor, Stan Wischnowski, urging him to hire a person of an underrepresented population in the PG’s national search for a managing editor.

Discrimination and racism by the PG’s previous leadership directly resulted in the loss of talented Black reporters and others from across our newsroom who stood in solidarity with them.

Loss of reporters doesn’t only cause a gap in coverage of our community. Remaining staff members have experienced firsthand a lack of trust and confidence in the PG. We are urging Stan to do his part in helping us #ChangeTheReputation and restore our credibility.

Our hope is that with managers who appropriately represent our newsroom and community, our publication can better cover the issues that matter to our readers and to Pittsburgh. Now is the time for change. Diversity is not a talking point or an accessory. It is a necessity.

Stan,

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on behalf of the newly formed Human Rights Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a group of Guild members working to make sure every individual in this newsroom feels safe, protected and represented. This group, and the members of this newsroom, are committed to creating a workplace that does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.

As a way of introduction, this letter urges you to consider a diverse pool of candidates to fill the open managing editor position, and to continue to intentionally seek out diverse candidates to staff the newsroom. We urge you to increase the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Our newsroom has been woefully deficient in Black employees and other people of color for decades,and we have lost many of those employees in recent years due to unfair treatment and lack of respect.

Our newspaper has developed a reputation of being hostile to minorities and bypassing important stories on the current racial justice movement. Those actions have led to, among other things, the harassment of reporters and photographers at public events, sources pulling out of stories, and advertisers and retailers shunning the paper.

As the new executive editor, you have the opportunity to change that reputation, to begin repairing years of damage and to create a diverse, inclusive newsroom. The Post-Gazette must take the important step in hiring a managing editor who can provide new perspectives based on race, gender, sexuality and class. Considering candidates from a diverse background and improving racial diversity in our newsroom are matters of urgency.

In addition, the next managing editor should be someone to lead Post-Gazette staff to expand the PG’s coverage of the diverse neighborhoods and residents of our city, and to ensure that a variety of perspectives and voices are heard and included in our news coverage.

You have a powerful chance to make an impact at this paper — from increasing equity and inclusion, to resolving the ongoing labor dispute and fighting for fair working conditions.

The Human Rights Committee and Guild members hope you recognize the importance of bringing diverse candidates into the newsroom – starting from the top. Can we count on you to provide a clear statement that you are committed to finding a candidate with a diverse background and to reinvesting in reporters of color already working at the Post-Gazette?

Sincerely,

The Human Rights Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH MEMBERS PICKET OUTSIDE JOHN BLOCK’S SHADYSIDE HOME

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Around 50 Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members picketed Saturday morning outside Post-Gazette Publisher John Block’s Shadyside home as part of an escalating pressure campaign to convince the company to resolve its ongoing labor dispute.

The Guild took this dramatic step in response to the Post-Gazette bargaining for years in bad faith, illegally declaring an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposing working conditions on the Guild. Members picketed on Devonshire Street in Shadyside to send a message to John Block that they are fighting to preserve the Post-Gazette, defend their union rights and obtain a fair contract.

In addition to illegally declaring an impasse and unilaterally imposing working conditions, the Post-Gazette has:

  • Bargained in bad faith since 2017
  • Denied raises for 14 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

These imposed working conditions have destroyed the fundamental union rights of Guild members and prompted them to authorize a strike by an overwhelming margin.

Last Friday, local leaders and politicians, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, as well as representatives from various unions, religious groups and social justice communities, joined the Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council and its president, Darrin Kelly, in leading a labor rally on North Shore Drive to put added pressure on the Blocks to get fair contracts for every Post-Gazette union worker.

In the wake of last Friday’s rally, today’s picket on Devonshire Street is intended to be the first of many Guild-led actions that will be taking place around the area until the company shows a willingness to reach a fair contract.

Ultimately, the goal of today’s action is to show John Block, his twin brother Allan Block, chairman of Toledo, Ohio-based Block Communications Inc., which owns the Post-Gazette, and their family, which controls the rest of BCI’s voting stock, that it is not too late to come together and avoid a strike, an event that no one wants to see come to fruition. 

The Post-Gazette is a community asset, and the Newspaper Guild wants to preserve that, but reaching a fair agreement that benefits the award-winning journalists is paramount to maintaining quality journalism in Pittsburgh.

CONTACTS: MELISSA TKACH
2nd VICE PRESIDENT
412-760-9177
MELISSATKACH@GMAIL.COM

ZACK TANNER
UNIT DELEGATE
412-475-8417
ZACK@ZACKTANNER.COM

Newspaper Guild Wins Victory In Federal Court Over Healthcare Arbitration

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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

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

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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:

Jonathan D. Silver
Newspaper Guild Unit Chairman

412-512-0879
bigdelillofan@gmail.com

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

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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.