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Post-Gazette union members "energized" by NLRB ruling; paper plans to appeal

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Judge Geoffrey Carter ordered the Post-Gazette to resume contract talks with members and restore the union’s previous contract, which expired in 2017.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh is celebrating a Thursday ruling from the National Labor Relations Board. The decision found the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal labor law by failing to bargain in good faith with the newsroom’s union.

“The Post-Gazette acted in bad faith at the bargaining table, and now they're gonna have to answer for it, and that's really energizing,” said guild president Zack Tanner.

Administrative law judge Geoffrey Carter ordered the Post-Gazette to resume contract talks with members and restore the union’s contract that expired in 2017, as well as rescind “unlawful, unilateral changes” to the work agreement imposed on union members in 2020.

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The ruling requires the paper to submit written bargaining progress reports every 30 days to an NLRB compliance officer. Carter also ordered the paper to “make its employees whole” for loss of earnings and benefits that resulted from those alterations, including changes to union members’ health insurance benefits.

“I further recommend that Respondent be ordered to make all contributions to any fund established by the expired collective-bargaining agreement, which contributions the Respondent would have 40 made but for the unlawful unilateral changes,” Carter wrote.

According to newspaper guild attorney Joseph Pass, union members may be eligible for roughly $4 million in compensation, between unilaterally-implemented changes to the unit’s health insurance compensation, diversion of raises and cuts to vacation and sick time.

In a statement Friday, a spokesperson for the paper said its management strongly disagrees with the ruling and will appeal the decision to the NLRB’s board in Washington D.C. and “if necessary, to the Court of Appeals.”

If upon appeal, the board upholds the administrative law judge’s decision, then the union could then ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to enforce the decision.

Forty three union members were still on a strike that began in October as of Friday. Tanner said the union will try to use that ongoing effort to its advantage.

“We want to be able to use our leverage of being on strike right now to limit that process and get this order in effect right away,” he said.

According to the decision, the paper must begin bargaining with the union within 15 days of its request. Tanner said the guild last filed for a new bargaining date last week and had yet to hear back.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.