For the second consecutive week, members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh—all of them newsroom employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette–distributed leaflets today, protesting 13 years without a raise and two straight years during which the company has defied federal law by refusing to pay health-care premium increases.
Guild members distributed leaflets outside of a Post-Gazette-sponsored “Health Forum” at the Champions Club in Heinz Field. The free forum was promoted as examining why a country of great wealth nonetheless has “great disparities in the health of our citizens and in access to health resources.” More info on the health-care forum can be found here:
In October, an administrative law judge agreed with the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that the Post-Gazette violated federal law by not paying a 5% increase in the 2018 health care premium for 400 unionized employees at the newspaper. The judge ordered the company to pay the premium increase and to reimburse those adversely affected by the company’s improper decision.
Instead, the PG appealed the ruling to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. Additionally, it told the unions it will not pay another 5 percent increase set for 2019. Another NLRB Unfair Labor Practice will be filed against the company, said Michael A. Fuoco, a PG enterprise reporter and president of the 150-member Newspaper Guild.
“We find it incredibly hypocritical that the Post-Gazette would sponsor a forum on health-care disparities when it has chosen to illegally slash the health-care benefits of about 400 members of the Guild and other PG unions,” Fuoco said. “The Post-Gazette has unilaterally created a health-care disparity for its workers in defiance of the rule of law.”
The reporters, photographers, copy editors and other newsroom employees who leafleted were also protesting a long-standing 8 percent cut in wages, 13 years without a raise, and working without a contract for 22 months with no end in sight. The PG has hired a union-busting law firm from Nashville to handle its negotiations..
“It’s time Block Communications Inc. Chairman Allan Block and his twin brother, PG Publisher John Robinson Block, start acting as ethical stewards of a 232-year-old newspaper and treat quality journalists with dignity, fairness and respect,” said Fuoco, a 34-year PG employee. “To deny us raises for 13 years and to cause our health-care benefits to be cut two years in a row is unconscionable.
“Our fight for economic justice will not end until the Blocks face the reality we are not going away until we get what we deserve–a fair and equitable contract.”
Last week, Guild members leafleted outside the Omni William Penn Hotel before Publisher John Robinson Block addressed a noon Rotary luncheon inside.
The Guild, and other unions at the Post-Gazette, have been separately negotiating for new individual contracts since the last ones expired in March 2017.