Judge rules Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bargained in bad faith, must release previous contract and undo unilateral changes



JAN. 26, 2023

In a major victory for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, an administrative law judge ruled overwhelmingly Thursday that Post-Gazette management and representatives have bargained in bad faith with the guild since 2017 and, in doing so, violated the National Labor Relations Act.

As a result, Judge Geoffrey Carter ordered the Post-Gazette to end the impasse that the company unilaterally declared in July 2020, to undo changes to working conditions that the company imposed in 2020, to restore the guild’s 2014-17 contract, and to begin bargaining within 15 days of the guild’s request to do so. 

Additionally, Judge Carter ordered the Post-Gazette to make whole workers who lost wages or benefits caused by the illegal imposition of conditions in 2020.

Judge Carter also ruled that security guards employed by the Post-Gazette illegally photographed workers in October 2020 while they were participating in protected union activities outside the home of PG publisher and co-owner John Robinson Block.

“Today is a monumental victory for Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh workers,” said Zack Tanner, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president. “This ruling undoes years of illegal behavior by the Post-Gazette and tells it loud and clear that when workers stand and fight together, they win.

“We’re still on strike against the Post-Gazette, and the PG’s owners, the Blocks, have to know that their time is running out,” Tanner added. “We implore the company to do the right thing and acknowledge the judge’s ruling, follow his orders immediately and stop treating its workforce with such animosity.”

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s contract with the Post-Gazette expired March 31, 2017 — nearly six years ago. Since the start of 2017, the two parties have met more than 20 times in fruitless negotiations — including four times since guild workers began an unfair labor practice strike in October 2022. At each of those sessions, the company was unwilling to move at all on any of its positions. 

Despite not awarding a general raise to their award-winning journalists in more than 15 years, the Post-Gazette’s previous contract proposals have all demanded additional concessions. 

In July 2020, the company decided to quit bargaining, declared an impasse in contract negotiations and unilaterally imposed working conditions that, among other things: forced members onto a more expensive health care plan that the company could change or eliminate at will, eliminated a guaranteed work week, gave managers free rein to do union work, removed the right to demand arbitration of disputes, and allowed the company to lay off workers without regard to seniority.

In October 2022, Block Communications Inc., which owns the PG, effectively removed production, distribution and advertising workers from their health care plan by refusing to pay a $19-a-week premium increase, as well as refusing to let workers deduct those increases from their own paychecks. Those workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), struck in early October. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh began its own unfair labor practice strike two weeks later.

“This victory should send shockwaves through every member of the Block family and show them that they have received terrible legal advice for years,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “Guild members in Pittsburgh have been so brave to hold the line — holding their own bosses to account and raising the standards for every local journalist on the continent.”

To mark 100 days on strike and to celebrate their massive victory in this case, striking Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh workers will host a rally at noon Saturday outside the City-County Building on Grant Street, where they will be joined by union members, community stakeholders, elected officials and other supporters. 

NLRB issues long-awaited complaint against Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The National Labor Relations Board’s Pittsburgh office has issued a long-awaited complaint against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its parent company, Block Communications, Inc., for bad-faith bargaining and other improper conduct in its contract talks with the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Continue reading “NLRB issues long-awaited complaint against Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”