Newspaper Guild begins byline strike today at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with 100% participation by members

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The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA 38061, today began a byline strike in protest of the 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). 

All 139 members of the Guild have signed pledges to withhold their bylines or credit lines on stories, photographs and graphics during the byline strike that will continue indefinitely. Those who do not have bylines — including assigning, web and copy editors, page designers, librarians and clerks — have pledged to wear buttons in the newsroom reading “I Support the Byline Strike.” 

While there is no print edition today, a total of 27 stories and 14 photographs produced by Newspaper Guild members ran without bylines in today’s PGe, the Post-Gazette’s digital newspaper. Innumerably more Guild produced stories, photographs and graphics are appearing on the Post-Gazette’s website, PG mobile app and PG NewsSlide without bylines and credit lines. 

The protest shows that Guild members stand together and will not abide the unconscionable atmosphere of fear, hostility and intimidation that Burris and the Blocks have created in the North Shore newsroom. Before these attacks, the newsroom had a collegial, creative, efficient, enjoyable and safe workplace culture. 

“This byline strike shows that we journalists who love our profession are the Post-Gazette, not Burris, who has been executive editor for only nine months, and the multimillionaire Blocks. There is no Post-Gazette without us,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president. “We are fighting for the soul of an iconic 233-year-old newspaper we dearly love but which the Blocks and Burris are trying to destroy. “Our solidarity in our battle against workplace oppression and in defense of journalism and the Post-Gazette is unyielding,” 

Stringers who are neither PG employees nor Guild members have indicated to their PG editors that they will withhold their bylines in support of the Guild. Guild-represented columnists — including Brian O’Neill, Tony Norman, Gene Collier, Ron Cook and Joe Starkey — have been told by PG management that their columns will not appear without their bylines. 

NOTE: At 2:34 p.m. today, management changed course and sent the following email to staff: 

During the byline strike we’ll be continuing to publish PG columnists’ articles with a “Commentary:” prefix in the headlines and the following graph in italics at the top of the article: 

The commentary below contains opinion. The author’s name has been withheld at the writer’s request. In addition, we will use NO author bylines on any wire service material, but continue to identify the wire service or newspaper source in the byline field (EX: The Associated Press).

“We are encouraged by the support of the stringers, PG readers and from people across the country,” Fuoco said. “It goes without saying that the unprecedented attacks on newsroom employees by Burris and the Blocks are linked to BCI’s refusal to bargain fairly in three years of fruitless negotiations with PG unions for new contracts. We have gone nearly 14 years without a raise, they have refused to pay health-care premium increases for two years and they have proposed taking away even more benefits. They have no shame. 

“We ask those who support our taking a stand for dignity in the workplace to contact Burris and the Blocks and let them know that their anti-union actions are not welcome in Pittsburgh, the birthplace of unionism.” 

Guild members also are wearing “No Confidence” buttons in the newsroom in reference to an overwhelmingly approved no-confidence vote taken Monday to additionally show the union’s opposition to the hostile workplace that the Blocks and Burris have created (please see attached release from Monday). 

Their transgressions 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 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. “We will not quit fighting until this disgraceful treatment ends. No employee anywhere deserves to work in a hostile environment like this,” Fuoco said.

Newspaper Guild Votes “No Confidence” in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and owner Block Communications Inc.

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The newsroom staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA 38061, today took the unprecedented act of voting “no confidence” in PG Executive Editor Keith Burris, Publisher John Robinson Block and newspaper owner Block Communications Inc. (BCI) for their escalating unconscionable treatment of employees, union members and managers alike.

In further protest of this hostile work environment, PG journalists will withhold their bylines from stories, photographs and graphics beginning Wednesday and continuing indefinitely. Members who work on the copy and web desks and therefore who do not have bylines will wear buttons reading “I support the byline strike.”

Additionally, all members will wear “No Confidence” buttons in the newsroom as well as stickers supporting mistreated managers and decrying BCI’s cruelty.

Both the no-confidence vote and byline strike were overwhelmingly approved by Guild members at an emergency membership meeting today.

“Keith Burris, John Robinson Block and his twin brother Allan, BCI chairman, have declared an unprecedented scorched-earth war on their employees and the culture of the PG newsroom,” said Michael A. Fuoco, a 35-year PG reporter and Guild president of the local representing 140 journalists.

“They have created a culture of fear, hostility and intimidation in the newsroom. They have transformed a previously collegial, pleasant and enjoyable workplace — one conducive to Guild members fulfilling our journalistic calling — into a tense, toxic environment, bereft of joy and respect.

“We must take a stand against this orchestrated attack on the very soul of the newspaper we love. We find it hypocritical of Burris to opine in his columns about the need for civility in society when his treatment of employees is so outrageously uncivil.”

Burris, whose controversial appointment as executive editor occurred nine months ago, has:

  • Fired or forced out three beloved newsroom managers with combined service of nearly 100 years to the PG because they stood up to his dictatorial actions. Four other managers have left this year and one departure is pending.
  • Cultivated hurt and bewilderment among his staff through his 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.
  • Retaliated against certain Guild members and leaders by reassigning those who have challenged him in any way to positions that adversely affect their lives or their work on behalf of the union.
  • Abused and refused to work cooperatively with or even speak to Guild leadership.
  • Triggered 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.
  • Has deliberately set about to destroy a collegial, creative, efficient, enjoyable and safe workplace culture.

These anti-union, anti-employee actions are not happening in a vacuum. The Guild and other unions at the PG for three years have been embroiled in contentious negotiations for new contracts with King & Ballow, BCI’s union-busting Tennessee law firm. A pending labor action by the Guild accuses the law firm of bargaining in bad faith.

The unions have not had a raise in 14 years. Union employees have lost more than 27% of the buying power they had in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And because the unions, in an effort to aid the company and to help pay for health insurance, have voted to give back 8-10% of their salaries over that period, their purchasing power has actually declined more than 35% from 2006 levels. Additionally, pensions have been frozen and the company has for two years and counting refused to pay for increases in health care premiums as required by union contracts.

While the Post-Gazette, like most newspapers in the country, is losing money, Toledo-based BCI is making tens upon tens of millions of dollars in profits annually on its reported 2018 revenue of $564 million from cable systems, TV stations and other media holdings.

Burris and the Block twins are no strangers to controversial actions that have garnered unflattering national headlines. Over the past two years:

  • Burris, at the time the editorial director at the PG’s sister paper The (Toledo) Blade, also embroiled in contentious negotiations with King & Ballow, penned the notorious editorial, “Reason as Racism,” that defended Trump’s comments about “shithole” African nations. Block published it in the PG on Martin Luther King Day 2018. It was immediately condemned as racist by civil rights groups, foundations, politicians, the public, journalists including the Guild and even members of the extended Block family.
  • John Block reacted to the national controversy by naming Burris head of both the PG and Blade editorial departments.
  • Months later, Rob Rogers, the paper’s most prominent personality, was fired for his anti-Trump political cartoons.
  • David Shribman, the PG executive editor for 15 years — he won a Pulitzer Prize with the Boston Globe and steered the Post-Gazette to a Pulitzer this year for its coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting — was unexpectedly removed in December 2018.
  • John Block manhandled his 12-year-old daughter late on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in front of more than a dozen journalists in the PG newsroom. During his tirade, Block tried to demean his employees by calling them “working class;” ranted about firing Shribman and threatened to do so to other managers and top Guild officers; and said he would shut down the paper unless the Guild removed a federally protected sign reading “Shame on the Blocks” that was hung in response to the PG’s refusal to abide by the contract and pay health care premium increases. To date, there have been no consequences for Block’s threatening actions despite the Guild’s attempts to hold him accountable. A Guild ULP charge is pending.
  • Nine days later, Burris was named PG executive editor.

“This reign of terror continues but we stand united in staunch opposition to this unprecedented mistreatment. We will not quit fighting until these horrific actions end,” Fuoco said.

“We will fight for our right to work in an environment free from hostility. And we vow to continue to produce journalism worthy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our readers, even as we are daily under siege by Burris and the Blocks.”

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

Newspaper Guild members wear black in mourning decline in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette print days

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Today, Sept. 30, marks the first Monday without a print edition under the Post-Gazette’s new production schedule, with no clear vision for moving forward as a mostly digital operation.

All of us in the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh mourn the loss of print days for an award-winning newspaper and are equally concerned about the future.

To mark this sad occasion, Guild members at the PG today will be wearing black clothing and a black ribbon as reminders of what we and our community have lost.

We do this because we worry about our readers not receiving the information they need. Many are not inclined or equipped to switch to digital platforms. We worry about the effect on democracy because of that. We worry about where the Post-Gazette, and our community, go from here.

Even as the Guild has been struggling for 2 1/2 years to gain a fair contract with PG owners Block Communications Inc., what hasn’t been lost is the vigilance and professionalism of the 140 journalists of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council Labor Day Parade 2019

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Post-Gazette notifies unions that it will be eliminating two additional days of print, starting in September 2019.

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The Post-Gazette informed Guild president Michael Fuoco today that beginning on Sept. 30 it will eliminate two more days of print, meaning the P-G will print for home delivery only three days a week. This is yet another bad decision from a company that continues to show zero respect to employees or readers.

Coverage of the elimination of two more days of print:

Laura Bassett Statement Regarding the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Print Publication Cuts
SaveJournalism.org
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Only Print Three Days A Week
90.5 WESA
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is cutting more print days in transition to “digital-only newspaper”
The Incline
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper cutting down to 3 days a week for print edition
WTAE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to “Phase Out” all Print operations to become fully digital
Pittsburgh Current
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to cut two more print days, print only 3 days a week
Pittsburgh City Paper

Community rally during Newspaper Guild contract negotiations

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Labor unions, activists, politicians, and supporters take to North Shore Drive in support of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh

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On Friday, June 7, politicians, labor unions, activists, and supporters of all kinds rallied on N. Shore Drive in front of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offices to demand that Block Communications negotiate a fair and equitable contract with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

A huge thank you goes out to all of the organizations that showed up in support.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit
ATM 85
Battle of Homestead Foundation
Teamsters 249 and 211
American Association of African Americans Labor History
SEIU Healthcare PA
UE
PG Mailers Local 22
Pittsburgh DSA
United Food and Commercial Workers
Keystone State
aIBEW
Thomas Merton Center
Pittsburgh United
Mon Valley Unemployed Committee
SAG-AFTRA
CWA 13,000

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