The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is undertaking a byline strike in order to protest what the union sees as unfair treatment from management and an unwillingness to come to the table to negotiate on the latest contract agreements. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette byline strike hits while management continues to remain firm on its position, going as far as to bring in notorious consulting firms known for being tough negotiators on the side of management.
In the face of mounting profits, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette employees protest comes as they’ve faced over a decade of raw deals, in their view. The Pennsylvania strike also involves a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette salary cut that hit workers.
“The situation is serious and volatile,” a news release issued by the Newspaper Guild of Pennsylvania read. “Unless the company comes to its senses and develops a sense of civic responsibility and economic justice for its loyal and talented employees, the very life of the 231-year-old PG is at risk.”
The byline strike includes “all reporters, photographers, videographers, graphic artists, columnists and others.”
The union filed an unfair labor complaint last week with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint said that Block Communications Inc.—the newspaper’s owner—violated labor laws by refusing to pay for a five-percent increase in health care premiums that would hit this year. The current contract expires on March 31.
“To my knowledge, there has only been one other byline strike at the PG, in the early 1980s, so this is an extraordinary action that we don’t take lightly,” Post-Gazette staff writer and guild President Michael A. Fuoco said in the release. “But these are extraordinary times in which Guild members struggle to support themselves and their families in 2018 on 2006 wages and benefits.”
The release also stated that union members have not received a raise since 2006.
“Also during that time, pensions have been frozen, benefits have been cut, health care coverage has decreased. Yet the cost of everything — including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — has increased dramatically,” the release read.
Further division came when Block hired King & Ballow, a Nashville-based law firm known for its long history in contract negotiations. The firm has a reputation for being especially tough on unions.
The Guild’s press release illustrated the most onerous demands coming from Block, which are the major drivers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette byline strike. They are:
- “Allowing the company the unilateral right to determine the number of hours in a Guild member’s work week, meaning it could be none (all members are currently guaranteed 40 hours a week).
- The unfettered right to use freelancers, managers and third-party vendors to perform work over which Guild members have had jurisdiction for more than 80 years.
- The ability to lay off anyone for any reason at any time and out of seniority (currently, there needs to be an economic reason; the company must meet with the Guild to try to find an alternative; and any layoffs must be by seniority in work categories).
- The ability to unilaterally change health-care benefits at any time (currently, any changes must be negotiated).”
A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette salary hike is among the major demands from the union.
BCI Rakes in Annual Profit of $100 Million While Employees See Wage Cuts
“[This] byline strike is solely focused on the unconscionable way we have been treated over the last 12 years as BCI has raked in annual profits north of $100 million and how over the last 10 months they have asked for even more absurd concessions,” Fuoco said in the release.
The Guild says that the newsroom hasn’t seen a pay raise in more than 12 years. Conversely, they argue that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wage cuts gutted salaries by 12% for nine years and 10% for the past three years.
With all these factors weighing on the newsroom, it’s no wonder that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette byline strike took place.
“Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers launch byline strike amid ‘volatile’ contract negotiations,” Trib Live, January 25, 2018.
“Pittsburgh Post-Gazette employees plan byline strike Thursday to protest stalled contract negotiations with management,” Pittsburgh City Paper, January 24, 2018.
“Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists are on a byline strike amid contract negotiations,” The Incline, January 25, 2018.
“Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh institutes byline strike to protest contentious contract negotiations after 12 years of economic givebacks,” The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, January 25, 2018.