workers for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette represented by three separate unions announced they would strike at midnight to protest the ongoing labor disputes which recently came to a head.
According to a press release by the Communications Workers of America, the strike was prompted by the termination of a health insurance plan on October 1, but also reflects union claims that the newspaper’s owner, Block Communications, endured bad faith negotiations.
“It is outrageous that Block Communications, a billion-dollar company, is refusing to pay a small fee to maintain proper health insurance coverage for these hard-working employees,” said CWA Vice President Ed Mooney. District 2-13, in the press release. “They only showed our members a lack of respect. Enough is enough. We will remain on strike until Post-Gazette recognize our value to the newspaper and stop violating our rights.
According to the statement, the workers have been without a collective agreement since March 2017 and have not had a pay rise for 16 years.
The three unions collectively represent staff in the design, printing, distribution, advertising sales and accounts receivable divisions of the newspaper. 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 enquiries, management 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 those proposals included a 9% pay raise and enrollment in the company’s health care plan, which currently covers 2,600 Block Communications employees, including multiple unions, company executives and staff. from the PG,” Allison Latcheran, chief marketing officer, wrote in an email. . “It is unclear why this proposal, or any of the others, is unsatisfactory for unions and their members.”
The CWA statement said the new proposal could “cost a family up to $14,400 or more per year.”
Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a union representing journalists, photographers and editorial designers in the Post-Gazette, say they support the strike and will call a secondary strike as a sign of solidarity. Zack Tanner, president of the guild, tells city paper his union will not call a general strike but encourages all workers to avoid crossing physical picket lines.
The guild has also challenged the direction on labor disputes, which are currently being worked out through a formal hearing process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.
“Newspaper Guild workers stand with unionized workers in production, distribution and advertising in Post-Gazette as they fight for a fair and just health care system,” says Tanner. “The Block family has shown time and time again that they would rather pay exorbitant fees to their lawyers than give a single benefit to the workers who make the product.”
UPDATE: This story was updated at 11:55 p.m. Oct. 5 to include a statement from Post-Gazette management.