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Post-Gazette journalists begin strike, as contract impasse continues

Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists started a strike at noon on Tuesday, following unmet demands from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh that the company "end its illegally declared impasse to contract negotiations" and return to the bargaining table with the union.

As the strike began, workers gathered outside the Post-Gazette offices on the North Side to picket. “We want to be doing strong journalism, we want to be reporting for the Pittsburgh region, we don’t want to be out here on the streets doing this," said Zach Tanner, the president of the local guild. "But we’re doing this to secure a fair contract for the journalists at the Post-Gazette, which will keep the Post-Gazette strong for the region for years to come.”

On Oct. 6, Post-Gazette employees in the Communication Workers of America — which represents workers responsible for printing, designing, distributing and advertising sales — went on strike over changes to their health insurance coverage.

The newsroom union's last contract expired in 2017; subsequent negotiations have been acrimonious. In July 2020, Post-Gazette management declared an impasse to negotiations. In May of this year, the National Labor Relations Board stepped into the dispute.

Post-Gazette management said in a statement that they will "continue to serve the Pittsburgh community, our readers and advertisers, despite any work stoppage. We currently await the ruling by the National Labor Relations Board regarding the Newspaper Guild’s claim of unfair labor practices by the Post-Gazette and are confident that the company will prevail."

The company added: "We welcome our employees back at any time."

Guild president Tanner said he didn't know whether the Post-Gazette will continue to publish a paper during the strike. "That’s up to the Post-Gazette to decide. What we prefer is to put our contract back in place and us go back to work and we publish the paper. We don’t take going on strike lightly. We want to go back to work. We want to be publishing the paper. And I hope that the company comes to their senses and lets that happen.”

Shortly after news broke Tuesday morning of the newsroom’s planned strike, local labor leaders began issuing statements of solidarity with union workers.

“It is a sad day in Pittsburgh when the people who write, produce and distribute what was once a great newspaper are forced to walk off the job, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has left their employees no other choice,” said Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council.

Kelly said the labor group will stand by Post-Gazette workers until management resumes bargaining. He also urged customers to support workers by canceling their subscriptions to the paper.

The city’s last major newspaper strike happened 30 years ago. In 1992, about 600 members of a Teamsters local representing truck drivers and circulation route managers went on strike against the Pittsburgh Press after working without a contract for five months.

The strike also affected the Post-Gazette, which at the time was separately owned but shared distribution operations and facilities.

Scripps-Howard, which owned the Pittsburgh Press, eventually decided tosell the paper rather than continue negotiations with the Teamsters. The Block family, which owns the Post-Gazette, bought the Press and merged the two papers.

Patrick Doyle oversees WESA's digital news. Previously, he served as WESA's news director. Email: pdoyle@wesa.fm.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.