ST. LOUIS — “In CWA we say, ‘one day longer, one day stronger,’” Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President Zack Tanner said Tuesday afternoon as he addressed the 79th Communications Workers of America Convention.
For members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh as well as four other unions that have been on strike against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since October, this “one day” was a big one, indeed.
Delegates of the convention unanimously approved a motion brought forward by Tanner to allow a $300,000 allocation from the CWA’s Member Relief Fund to be directed toward the strike relief supplemental funds of the guild and the two other CWA locals on strike against the PG. Two Teamster locals are also on strike against the newspaper.
The support comes at a critical time as the balance of the striker relief fund had waned in recent weeks despite constant fundraising efforts by the unions. Workers have raised more than $400,000 during the work stoppage, but much of that total had been drained from the fund over the course of the strike.
“Ten months into this strike against the Post-Gazette, the financial hardship striking CWA members’ experience has increased significantly as members burn through savings to meet routine expenses and manage unexpected emergencies,” Tanner said. “The current rate of inflation has accelerated the pain.”
The approval of the donation comes about 10 months into the Newspaper Guild’s unfair labor practice strike that began after the Post-Gazette illegally revoked health insurance from dozens of workers in the other unions at the newspaper. The PG, owned by Block Communications Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, was already mired in years of litigation over repeated violations of federal labor law.
A contingent of striking workers from the PG has spent several days in St. Louis to participate in the biennial CWA Convention and NewsGuild Sector Conference, where they were met with what some have referred to as an “overwhelming” amount of solidarity.
Even before Tuesday, CWA members from all over the United States and Canada gave the striking workers well over $20,000 in donations for the striker relief fund, which helps striking workers pay their rent, mortgages, car payments and other essentials.
After Tanner brought forward the motion on the floor of the convention, NewsGuild union siblings immediately lined up behind a microphone to show that they supported the motion. Members from nearly all CWA districts and sectors, including telecommunications workers, flight attendants, campus workers, nonprofit employees and others, also joined the line.
The motion was seconded by Madison Cassels, president of the Denver Newspaper Guild.
“We have folks here who have been on strike for nine months. Nine months. And that is a really long time to remain on strike against a terrible, terrible owner,” Cassels said. “But these workers are remaining in this fight, taking many escalating actions against these corporate owners.”
Susan DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York, then gave a rousing speech in support of the motion that prompted a standing ovation from nearly the entire convention.
“We are here today making this request because the Blocks, as you have heard, are bad people, they are bad bosses, and they want to make us pay for standing up for the right to work in a place with dignity and respect and health care and a fair wage and not be in fear of what will happen if we cross the boss and say the wrong thing,” DeCarava said. “That is what our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh are fighting for, that is why we must stand together in support of them, not just individually but collectively as CWA.
“Because let me tell you, the Blocks think they can wait us out. They are testing us. They think that they will just ignore us, and eventually we will get tired and go away, or fall down, or no longer have the energy to fight,” she continued. “And one of the things that I love about this union is that when one of us gets tired there’s always someone there to pick up the pieces. …
“And when we fight …” DeCarava said.
“We win!” responded the delegates and guests in the convention hall.
“When we fight …” she said.
“We win!” the hall responded.
“When we fight, goddamn it!”
The speech led to wild cheers and a long standing ovation, brought tears to the eyes of Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members and “brought the house down,” Tanner said.