The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union that represents P-G employees, stated earlier in the week that Block "went berserk" over the weekend. Block allegedly threatened and shouted at employees at the P-G, apparently upset over a sign the guild put up in the office reading "Shame on the Blocks." The guild has been trying since 2017 to negotiate a contract with Block and management, to no avail.
The complaint, filed with the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) today, claims Block "restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights" that are protected by the NLRB Act "by threatening employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity."
The complaint also alleges Block "threatened employees with discharge in retaliation of engaging in union or other protected concerted activity, and to discouraged such activities."
According to sections 7 and 8 of the NLRB Act, "It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights. For example, employers may not respond to a union organizing drive by threatening, interrogating, or spying on pro-union employees, or by promising benefits if they forget about the union."
The complaint was filed by the guild's lawyer Joseph Pass.
Pass questioned Block's ability to handle working with a news staff, considering his treatment of his daughter. According to an eyewitness account from P-G web editor Marianne Mizera, Block "shouted that he wanted a picture of himself and his daughter taken in front of the Guild sign and demanded it run on the 'front page of tomorrow’s paper'.”
"It is basically unbelievable that he mistreated his own child to use as a pawn," says Pass. "Anyone who would treat a child like that, how is he going to treat his employees who he hates?"
Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications which owns the P-G, and John Block's twin brother, said in a statement to NEXTPittsburgh that the events were misconstrued.
“The frustration over financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry led to an unfortunate exchange with employees of which I have been made aware,” said Allan Block. “We want the entire staff to know that we will continue to value all of our employees and their contributions to the P-G.”
Pass said he expects the NLRB to take a couple of weeks to make a decision regarding the complaint.
The full complaint can be read below.