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Judge denies Pittsburgh Post-Gazette request to bar workers from picketing on company property

 The exterior of a gray building that says "Gateway View Plaza."
Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA
The Post-Gazette distribution facility on Pittsburgh's South Side.

An Allegheny County judge has denied the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's request for an injunction against its unionized employees, who’ve been on strike for the past 10 months.

The paper sought an order to keep striking workers from picketing at its South Side distribution facility, where lawyers for the Post-Gazette said union members repeatedly trespassed, blocked the building’s sole entrance and exit and made verbal threats.

But Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary McGinley wrote in her decision Monday that — while video evidence included “plenty of colorful language” — there weren’t any specific threats made, nor conduct that breaks the law.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to see the Post-Gazette waste time and money trying to prove that the workers are in the wrong, only for, yet again, the workers to be proven right,” Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh President Zack Tanner told WESA. “All of this effort could have gotten us ten contracts by now and I hope that John and Allan Block, and the rest of the Block family, realize that they’re tarnishing their legacy for nothing.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Arguments in the case rested on whether or not the Court of Common Pleas had the jurisdiction to rule on the matter of peaceful picketing, an action protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In her decision, McGinley ruled that matters of picketing fall under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board unless a company could prove that a) unlawful acts have been threatened or committed, b) there has been irreparable injury to company property, and, c) no adequate police protection is available.

McGinley said the paper failed to meet those criteria, and therefore its claims that picketers damaged company property did not rise to a level that warranted court intervention.

A parallel NLRB investigation into the paper’s attempts to limit picketing at Gateway View Plaza has yet to yield a ruling. Located in Station Square, it’s the same distribution facility where a March altercation between striking employees and a company contractor led to one hospitalization.

McGinley said although some incidents have occurred, witness testimony at a hearing in June confirmed that the company had received adequate police protection, despite having alleged otherwise.

The Post-Gazette filed a civil complaint against Mayor Ed Gainey, acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Thomas Stangrecki and others in February claiming that the city’s police failed to protect the company by refusing to prevent “mass trespassing” at Gateway View Plaza.

All matters of that case — also overseen by Judge McGinley — were stayed as the injunction request was played out, and no motions have been made since April. In Monday’s ruling, however, McGinley wrote that adequate police protection has been available to the Post-Gazette given that police officers have been on-site at the facility on several nights during picketing.

She noted police have also called for backup “when there was a need to remove people from the property.” Although some officers refused to enforce trespassing laws, McGinley wrote that did not necessarily equate to inadequate protection.

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.