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Two Democratic attorney general candidates apologize for breaking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike

Jack Stollsteimer (left) and Keir Bradford-Grey apologized for crossing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike.
Courtesy campaigns
Jack Stollsteimer (left) and Keir Bradford-Grey apologized for crossing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike.

The race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in Pennsylvania has been a relatively staid affair, with few policy differences emerging between the five Democratic candidates.

But with the April primary less than a week away, two of the candidates were forced to apologize to their union supporters after giving interviews to a reporter at the striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Workers from four Post-Gazette unions have been on strike at the publication for more than 18 months. (A fifth union, representing Teamsters, settled their strike last week, agreeing to disband in exchange for severance pay.)

Democratic politicians and local leaders, including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, have pledged not to give interviews to the Post-Gazette until the strike is over.

Three of the five Democratic candidates for attorney general — Joe Khan, Eugene Depasquale and Jared Solomon — also honored that pledge this week. A Post-Gazette article about the attorney general race gave little information about them, while candidates Jack Stollsteimer and Keir Bradford-Gray, received lengthier profiles based on interviews.

That prompted Solomon’s campaign to attack Stollsteimer and Grey on the social media site X. “Jack Stollsteimer cannot claim to be a pro-labor AG candidate and then give interviews to the scab paper Post Gazette while @PGHGuild is on strike,” wrote Jake Sternberger, Solomon’s campaign manager.

Zack Tanner, the president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, called them out as well. “Politicians crossing the picket line are showing us exactly where their loyalties lie — with themselves,” Tanner said.

Bradford-Grey quickly apologized. She said the interview with the Post-Gazette was done in Harrisburg, and she didn’t realize the publication was being struck. She touted her labor support in the Philadelphia area. “I would never cross the picket line intentionally,” she said. “It is something we deeply regret doing.”

Bradford-Grey said she had visited the Pittsburgh area frequently, was a big fan of Pamela’s Diner's pancakes and said, despite this misstep, she was well enough informed about the area to represent it. “I've been talking to the people on the ground that are doing things like wanting to make sure that their families are safe, wanting to make sure that they too can have an opportunity to grow their wealth” she said.

Stollsteimer also apologized. “I'm a district attorney of Delaware County in the eastern part of Pennsylvania,” he said. “I was not as well aware as I should have been about the labor actions against the Post-Gazette. But now I have apologized to my supporters in the labor movement in Western Pennsylvania and I will not make that same mistake again.”

Stollsteimer has long highlighted his support of unions. During an interview with WESA in February, he said that he worked with now-Governor Josh Shapiro to prosecute four cases against contractors involved in wage theft. “That’s why I’ve gotten some significant support from labor unions all across Pennsylvania,” he said at the time.

Unions apparently responded to that message. The same day Stollsteimer spoke to WESA, he spoke with and then received the recommendation of the Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council to the state AFL-CIO. Had he spoken to the paper before that, he might have had a different outcome: AJ Olasz, a Democratic candidate for the state House, told WESA last yearthat he thought he lost his shot at the labor council’s support because he spoke to the Post-Gazette before the unions had made their decision.

In statewide contests, the local labor council makes a recommendation to the state AFL-CIO, which ultimately decides who to endorse. The statewide group didn’t end up endorsing anyone for attorney general.

Eugene DePasquale, the only candidate in the race who has roots in Western Pennsylvania, said that if elected he would try to help find a resolution to the Post-Gazette strike. “As attorney general, I would welcome the opportunity to help bring a resolution to the ongoing issue and would also steadfastly work to ensure striking workers are protected,” DePasquale said.

Two of the candidates who live in the Philadelphia area did know about the Post-Gazette strike: Solomon and Joe Khan. Khan said he learned about it from friends at SEIU when he first started campaigning in Pittsburgh. “They gave me three pieces of campaign advice,” he said. “Pay your workers a fair wage, use union labor to print your campaign materials, and don’t cross the picket line at the Post-Gazette.”

Stollsteimer’s campaign manager, Mark Nevins, called Solomon’s campaign hypocritical. He pointed to a Post-Gazette article on March 1, 2023 for which Solomon gave an interview. The article quotes Solomon praising newly elected Democratic speaker of the house Joanna McClinton.

“If Jared wants to make this an issue, then he needs to be solid on it as well,” Nevins said.

Solomon’s campaign said the article shared by Nevins was proof that Solomon was more in tune with the unions of Western Pennsylvania because he stopped talking with the Post-Gazette more than a year ago.

In his interview with WESA, Stollsteimer questioned why breaking the Post-Gazette strike warranted a news story. He declined to answer a follow-up question about whether the incident cast doubt on whether he knew the area enough to represent it.

“That’s a pretty stupid question,” he said. “I’m not going to answer that.”

Nevins later clarified that Stollsteimer doesn’t think a single interview says much about how Stollsteimer would represent Western Pennsylvania. Instead, Nevins said, voters should look at the whole body of Stollsteimer’s work in Delaware County as DA.

“His record speaks for itself,” Nevins said.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.