Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staffers strike over unfair working conditions
The newspapers management, Block Communications, has reportedly ceased to pay worker's insurance which amounts to a weekly payment of $19 per worker.
Over 100 unionized staffers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are striking due to unfair labor practices, including production, distribution, advertising, and accounts receivable staff.
The workers, represented by five different unions, began their strikes on October 1 after the management Block Communications, which is owned by the Block family, ceased to fund workers' health insurance.
Block Communications has reportedly ceased to pay workers' insurance, which amounts to a weekly payment of $19 per worker.
"Having health insurance is one of the most important parts of the middle class. It was the final straw for us – we were able to say this was an unfair labor practice and we walked off the job," said Kitsy Higgins, an advertising representative who’s been at the Post-Gazette for one year, adding that the management tried to convince staggers to accept a healthcare plan with a $14,000 deductible.
"It’s a shame that Block Communications, a multimillion-dollar company, isn’t putting their money into the people creating this prize-winning newspaper. They’re putting money into attorneys who are greatly affecting the outcome of that. If they would have invested their money into workers, we wouldn’t be having this strike and I’d be at work," added Higgins.
"This is unfair and we will continue being on strike until we get a fair agreement."
In the Pittsburgh newspaper strike, the Post-Gazette has terminated health care coverage for striking newsroom workers weeks after the journalists joined the picket line to protest unfair labor practices. Our @LauraLegere and @Ashley__Murray report: https://t.co/92ZW8ohRiJ— Pittsburgh Union Progress 📰 (@ThePUPNews) November 10, 2022
The strike is taking place at a time when the US media industry is witnessing widespread layoffs and workers complain that they haven't had a raise in the past 16 years.
"We had no alternative but to strike,” said James VanLandingham, a mailer at the Post-Gazette for 28 years.
"Over the years, they’ve always paid for our healthcare. Once Block senior passed away, the two nephews took over and everything went downhill. They’ve totally disregarded all of their employees."
Unions and locals have supported the strikers by removing advertisements from the newspaper and calling for a general boycott until workers' demands are met.
A new website has been set up for strikers to publish news as an alternative to publishing in the Post-Gazette.
Announcing the creation of our strike publication: The Pittsburgh Union Progress.— Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh 🗞 (@PGHGuild) October 21, 2022
Check out https://t.co/qLEMhGimAi, and follow @ThePUPNews on Twitter and @ pghunionprogress on Instagram for more! pic.twitter.com/MB0Vb6Ybny
The newspaper’s bureau chief in Washington DC, Ashley Murray, led a picket protest with dozens of supporters at the US Capitol on October 25.
.@SpotlightPA @PhillyNewsGuild even joined me outside the state Capitol today in solidarity! Thank you @AngelasInk @StephenJ_Caruso @KateHuangpu13 and all of the @PhillyNewsGuild! https://t.co/Ry3eVINGui pic.twitter.com/398hXIacnD— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) October 19, 2022
"I would much rather be in the halls of Congress today covering our lawmakers or working on stories about the midterm elections that are in two weeks," Murray told the crowd of supporters.
"Instead of reporting or taking photographs or designing the pages of our daily newspaper, my colleagues are out on the picket line in Pittsburgh because the owner of our news outlet refuses to come to the bargaining table and work out a deal."
On October 20, the CEO of Butler Eagle's daily defended his company's decision to print the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette while workers continued to strike in the face of calls from union members to extend their pickets to its Butler County office.
The newspapers recently won an injunction to limit the number of picketers outside of workplaces.
"The Blocks haven’t responded to anything. Our unions have reached out to them numerous times since the strike began," said one of the strikers.
"We just want the public to know how disrespectful the Blocks are. In my family, I’m a third generation employee, my family has over 100 years of combined loyal employment to this newspaper. We enjoy putting out the newspaper, but the Blocks don’t care."
On November 1, a spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said in an emailed statement, "The Post-Gazette contacted a federal mediator yesterday in an effort to move forward with negotiations with the union."