As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike passes its 100th day, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh celebrates a favorable decision from the National Labor Relations Board. The group has also pressed the Department of Justice to investigate Post-Gazette owners’ purchase of Pittsburgh City Paper.
A statement from the Guild says an administrative judge ruled in favor of the union on Jan. 26, when he determined that the P-G negotiated in bad faith, unlawfully imposed working conditions, and illegally surveilled workers engaged in union activities.
Geoffrey Carter, a National Labor Relations Board judge who heard the union’s case against the P-G last fall, ordered management to resume bargaining with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, rescind the working conditions it unlawfully imposed in 2020, and restore the union’s most recent contract, which expired in 2017.
In a 50-page decision that includes a summary of contract negotiations since 2017, Carter also orders P-G management to “make its employees whole” for any loss of earnings or benefits due to the unlawfully imposed working conditions. The back pay will include interest compounded daily in accordance with previous NLRB decisions.
A post on the Guild's Pittsburgh Union Progress website estimates that the back pay could amount to as much as $4 million.
Guild president Zack Tanner called the decision a "monumental victory for Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh workers."
"This ruling undoes years of illegal behavior by the Post-Gazette and tells it loud and clear that when workers stand and fight together, they win," he adds.
P-G workers went on strike on Oct. 18, 2022, demanding better healthcare and wages, as well as a new union contract. The move came after Block Communications Inc., the Ohio-based media company that owns the P-G, "effectively removed" production, distribution, and advertising workers from their healthcare plan by "refusing to pay a $19-a-week premium increase, as well as refusing to let workers deduct those increases from their own paychecks," according to a Guild statement.
The company has until Feb. 23 to appeal Carter’s decision.
A P-G spokesperson has already indicated in a statement that they intend to appeal, saying the paper “strongly disagree[s] with the administrative law judge’s decision and will appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington and, if necessary, to the Court of Appeals.”
Tanner says the Guild implores P-G and the Blocks to "do the right thing and acknowledge the judge’s ruling, follow his orders immediately and stop treating its workforce with such animosity."
In addition to the ruling, John Schleuss of the NewsGuild-CWA, which represents the striking P-G workers and thousands of other journalists in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, asked the Department of Justice to investigate Cars Holding Inc.’s purchase of Pittsburgh City Paper. Cars Holding is a subsidiary of Block Communications.
In a letter to the head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, Schleuss writes that the sale, completed on Jan. 4, will "harm the community by reducing points of view on key issues. It will also distort the local labor market for news workers by restricting the mobility of news employees.”Schleuss cites the recent CP purchase and the P-G’s past acquisition, as well as the subsequent closure of the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in 1960 and the Pittsburgh Press in 1992 as examples of the Block family’s “decades-long quest to consolidate and dominate the Pittsburgh news market."