The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh has been locked in a tense labor stand-off with the Post-Gazette and its parent company Block Communications for several years. But if management does not meet their demands by noon today, 101 journalists say they will deny the company its vital stream of news content.
“The workers who produce the Post-Gazette are taking a stand against the hostile and illegal treatment at the hands of John and Allan Block,” says Zack Tanner, guild president. “We, the workers, are standing together today, ready to fight to win back our contract and work toward signing a new collective bargaining agreement that preserves the Post-Gazette for the Pittsburgh region.
Guild members say they have been without pay raises since 2006, and efforts to renegotiate their contract remain unsolved after first breaking down in 2017. The National Labor Relations Board recently held a hearing over the guild’s unfair labor claims, but a verdict is not expected for several more months.
Allison Latcheran, marketing director for the Post-Gazette, said the company will "continue to serve the Pittsburgh community, our readers and advertisers, despite any work stoppage," adding that the company feels confident the NLRB will ultimately rule in their favor.
"Over the past three years, Guild employees’ top wage scales have increased 8%," Latcheran said in a statement shared with City Paper. "For the workers from the production, distribution and advertising unions currently on strike over healthcare, the Post-Gazette has offered several proposals, one of which included a 9% wage increase and enrollment in the company’s healthcare plan, which currently covers 2,600 Block Communications employees, including several unions, company executives and staff at the PG. None of these solutions were accepted."
If the strike moves ahead, the content creators will join more than 60 workers in the paper’s design, printing, distributing, and advertising departments who first walked off Oct. 6 in response to lapsed health care coverage. Since then, the company has on several occasions failed to distribute its twice-weekly print editions, although reports arose on Sunday that a small number of papers were circulating for the first time since the strike began.
Tanner told Pittsburgh City Paper his guild is fighting for the demands of the other labor units alongside its own.
“We’re standing in solidarity with their requests, and we are using this point of Post-Gazette labor history as a leverage point to take action and restore our contract and get back to the bargaining table,” Tanner says.
All of the more than 160 strikers have called for advertisers and subscribers to boycott the newspaper.
The guild’s national sponsors have signed off on the strike and are also calling for management to meet their demands.
“These journalists are just trying to do their jobs in service of the people of Pittsburgh,” says NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “It’s despicable for the Blocks to fight their own workers and disrespect their rights to have a union. They need to bargain in good faith now.”Update: This story has been updated at 12.10 p.m. on Oct. 18 to incorporate a statement from Post-Gazette management.