Newsletter: A scab broke a striker’s jaw in Pittsburgh

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It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday night when five Guild members joined 10 Teamsters on the picket line at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette distribution center.

We held the line in front of the center where a dwindling number of carriers collected a dwindling number of paper bundles of the scab paper to deliver them to the few remaining subscribers in Pittsburgh.

Just a week prior a strike-breaking scab truck driver broke the jaw of one of the strikers, sending him to the hospital. He’s due for surgery any day now.

The striker in the hospital lost his negotiated health insurance when the owners canceled it in October by refusing to pay $19/week per worker. The owners and anyone working for the Post-Gazette should be ashamed. It’s absolutely disgusting behavior and a dark mark on the owners and every scab.

This is what this strike is about: affordable health insurance and compelling the owner to follow federal law. That’s it. It must be the lowest bar at any of our 430 bargaining tables.

Take a moment again, union family, and stand with me by donating to our strikers.

Last week our friends at the Steelworkers hosted a bake sale on 3/14 (Pi Day!) and helped raise more than $4,600 to our strike fund. Because of this solidarity more of our members can afford their rent, mortgage, groceries and emergencies popping up in the sixth month of the strike. Again, our strike fund is essential to take care of everyone.

Prior to getting to the picket line I spent Saturday making banana cream pies. I ended up getting sick for Pi Day, but had 80 eggs and 60 sticks of butter in our strike house. So, after recovering, I made seven pies and drove around town on Sunday, delivering pies to our members who were on the picket line the prior night.

My banana cream pie recipe slays and it’s easy to make, so I’m sharing it with you!

Also slaying: the Pittsburgh Labor Choir. Union Drip on Twitter gave them a shout over the weekend when we sang “Sign me up for the union!” in the style of “Take me out to the ballgame!”

We’ve launched a radio show and podcast covering the Pittsburgh strike. “Today in Pittsburgh Labor” interviewed a striker, Rep. Chris Deluzio, CWA District 2-13 VP Ed Mooney and me for the first episode.

I also just interviewed with America’s Work Force radio about recent news around the Guild. It’s a great show that highlights issues workers face all across the movement. Give it a listen here.

We had a major win at the end of February when the FCC Media Bureau agreed with us and referred hedge fund Standard General’s attempt to take over local news broadcaster TEGNA to a judge for review. I praised Chair Jessica Rosenworcel in Newsweek for taking a stand for local news. When a hedge fund comes for newspapers, there’s been very little government oversight. However, over at the FCC, mergers need approval. So, we took a stand almost a year ago to protect jobs and are continuing to win that fight.

Several states (and Canada!) have introduced legislation to shore up local news, including New York, California, Maryland, Wisconsin and Maryland.

As the largest union of media workers on the continent, we have a role to play. Please get engaged now to advocate so that the legislation actually helps us and our colleagues. I know it’s not typical for journalists to have an opinion on legislation, but hear me out:

We cannot be objective about our own demise.

Here’s an update of what’s happening around the continent:

Canada: Facebook has threatened to block news content over the country’s revenue-sharing bill. It’s similar to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which means it also potentially has the downsides of not supporting journalists directly. Post Media is owned by the same hedge fund that owns McClatchy and we don’t expect they’ll invest it all in local news out of the kindness of their hearts. CJR wrote about its imitation of the Australian law just last week.

California: After passing legislation that created a $25 million program to fund journalism, the state is now considering a bill modeled after the federal Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would give publishers collective bargaining rights to bargain for fees from large tech platforms like Google and Facebook. The California provision improves the bill and dedicates a percentage of money to journalism jobs and investment. Read more from the Media Guild of the West: Should California’s journalists support the California Journalism Preservation Act?

New York: A journalism jobs tax credit bill modeled after the federal Local Journalism Sustainability Act has a potential chance to be included in the state’s budget. The Albany Newspaper Guild has taken the lead and is working with leaders at the NewsGuild of New York to push it. It’s the best type of bill out there: a bill that supports journalism jobs directly. I co-authored an op-ed with the head of the New York Press Publishers Association in the Albany Times Union. Read the fact sheet here. And send a letter to your New York state legislator today.

Massachusetts: A subscription tax credit is working its way through the state’s house of representatives.

Colorado: An advertising tax credit expired in appropriations, but there’s interest to do something.

Wisconsin: A Republican-led effort to provide advertising tax credits is working its way through the state legislature.

Maryland: A bill co-sponsored by former NewsGuild President Linda Foley would provide advertising tax credits to local businesses advertising in local media. It’s faced criticism because of concerns it could benefit hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which owns the Baltimore Sun.

New Mexico: The state is working to scale its fellowship program and a bill would allocate some more money to the program.

Rebuild Local News, a coalition we’re part of, is keeping a good eye on what’s moving where with their state and local tracker. Be sure to follow them for more updates.

Kaley Johnson, one of our leaders at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, walked through the “24 days of hell” while they were on strike and McClatchy suspended health insurance for all the striking workers. She wrote in the Texas Observer about how they struck to push their minimum wages higher, ultimately winning thousands of dollars more for journalists in central Texas.

There are two job openings at the Idaho Statesman and they’d be part of the Idaho NewsGuild.

IAPE 1096 pointed out the continued pay gaps this Equal Pay Day at Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. The workers are calling for the company to end pay inequities and have been doing pay studies for years, leading the charge in the Guild.

The Milwaukee Newspaper Guild is asking for folks to send a letter to Gannett CEO Mike Reed, demanding they invest in journalism and adequately hire to make sure Milwaukee has a newspaper it deserves.

The Florida Times-Union staff is also collecting letters to send to Mike Reed, demanding the CEO start bargaining in good faith immediately.

Tonight we have the final module of our steward training, which focuses on building a union that actively fights harassment. It runs for two hours and starts at 7 p.m. ET. Register here.

In solidarity,
Jon Schleuss