An update on the strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by Jon Schleuss
President, The NewsGuild

If you’re a NewsGuild member, you’ve probably gotten a text from a striker (or maybe me!) in the last few days asking you to support our striking members here in Pittsburgh. We’ve been working out of Strike HQ (generously donated by the United Steelworkers) and have been using Hustle to text people en masse. They’re real texts coming from strikers and we’ve sent about 20,000 messages to Guild and CWA members. I encourage you to engage with folks! And please give if you can. We will win this strike together.

After 100 days, the company still refuses to do two things that would end the strike: 1) pay for health insurance premiums and 2) follow federal law and bargain in good faith. That’s it! The company could end the strike and return to normal by writing one small check. I don’t understand why the Blocks and their law firm think it’s wiser to break the law and deny single mothers health insurance, but I am not an evil millionaire disconnected from regular people.

This week we’re holding strikebreakers to account. Crossing a picket line hurts everyone and prolongs the strike. Stephen Karlinchak, the striking librarian at the Post-Gazette, summed up why he’s on strike in a column that just published yesterday.

“Being on strike: If not for me, for whom? It is for young journalists named Andrew and Alex, Natalie and Becca, Tyler and John. It is about seasoned and veteran journalists named Pam and Bob, Karen and Nate. It is about talented copy editors named Rob and Joe. It is about a lot of people who need to be recognized and compensated for what they do seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“One thing I have learned is that journalism and the community at large are dependent upon talented and dedicated women and men who are committed to their craft. These are the people with whom I stand”
Will you stand with Stephen and the 110 other strikers in Pittsburgh?

Take two minutes to add your name to this letter urging scabs to join the strike.

Also of note, I just sent a letter to the Department of Justice, asking them to investigate the attempted takeover of the Pittsburgh City Paper by the Block family. I wrote that the takeover “is a continuation of the Post-Gazette’s decades long quest to consolidate and dominate the Pittsburgh news market.” Read the full letter here.

The Toledo Blade NewsGuild filed an unfair labor practice over the mistreatment of workers. The Blade is also owned by the Block family. A Blade reporter was recently forced to perform work for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — a Block-owned newspaper where workers are on strike. That explicitly violates the contract, which says Guild members cannot be required to do the work of other union members who are on strike.

What’s more disgusting is that the work was to write an obituary for Robert Ballow, a founder of the notorious anti-union and anti-journalist law firm King & Ballow. I will not link to the article, but a quote from Block Communications Inc. Chairman and CEO Allan Block said these lawyers taught the Blocks to play “the long game” against “entrenched and powerful newspaper unions.”

The funny thing to me is that the Blocks and their lawyers think that “the union” is some third-party entity. They fail to see that “the union” is 26,000 members strong and growing. Thousands of workers from more than 170 workplaces have joined our movement in the last few years. We’re one of the fastest-growing unions on the continent.

The union is you, and the actions you and your colleagues take to improve your lives and raise the standards for every worker. We are an unbeatable force.