Workers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette represented by three separate unions have announced they will strike at midnight to protest ongoing labor disputes that have recently come to a head.
According to a press release issued by the Communications Workers of America, the strike was triggered by the termination of a health insurance plan on Oct. 1, but also reflects the union's claims of enduring bad faith bargaining from the newspaper's ownership, Block Communications.
“It is outrageous that Block Communications, a billion dollar corporation, refuses to pay a small sum to maintain appropriate health insurance coverage for these hard working employees,” Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13, says in the release. “They have shown our members nothing but disrespect. Enough is enough. We will stay on strike until the Post-Gazette recognizes our value to the paper and stops violating our rights.”
According to the release, workers have been without a collective bargaining agreement since March 2017, and have not had a pay raise in 16 years.
The three unions collectively represent staff in the paper's designing, printing, distributing, advertising sales, and accounts receivables divisions. In addition to the CWA, these workers are also represented by Teamsters Local 205/211 and Pressmen’s Union GCC/IBT Local 24M/9N.
Responding to Pittsburgh City Paper inquiries, management at the Post-Gazette say the newspaper will continue to publish "seven days a week" and add that employees have been offered options to continue their health care coverage.
"One of these proposals 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," Allison Latcheran, marketing director, wrote in an email. "It is not clear why this proposal, nor any of the others, is unsatisfactory to the unions and their membership."
The CWA release states the new proposal could "cost a family as much as $14,400 or more per year."
Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a union representing reporters, photographers, and editorial designers at the Post-Gazette, say they support the strike and will enact a byline strike in a show of solidarity. Zack Tanner, guild president, tells City Paper his union will not call a general strike but is encouraging all workers to avoid crossing physical picket lines.
The guild has also challenged management over labor disputes, which are currently being worked out through a formal hearing process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.
“The workers of the Newspaper Guild stand with the production, distribution, and advertising unionized workers at the Post-Gazette as they fight for a fair and just health care plan,” says Tanner. “The Block family has shown time and time again that they would rather pay their attorneys outrageous fees than give the workers who produce the product one benefit at all.”
UPDATE: This story was updated at 11.55 p.m. on Oct. 5 to include a statement from Post-Gazette management.