A federal judge assigned a mediator to work with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Teamsters union Thursday, with the intent to resolve a months-long legal battle. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan named Jed Melnick to mediate the dispute, though past mediators have not been successful in resolving issues between the newspaper company and unions.
“You’ve brought your business to my court now,” Ranjan said in a status conference Thursday, and ordered the parties to conduct mediation by the end of February.
“I don’t care [what mediator] they get, I know what [the company’s] attitude has been,” said lawyer Joe Pass Sr., who represents the unions at the Post-Gazette. “They’re not willing to move.”
This dispute began after the Post-Gazette announced it would reduce its print circulation to just three days a week, the company announced it would layoff employees in the circulation and delivery departments and eliminate health care for remaining employees who have been reduced to part-time work.
“There’s nothing in the [union] contract that says [the company] can do that,” Pass said.
More than two dozen people in the department were laid off and the majority of the remaining employees work less than 35 hours a week.
According to the union contract, the Post-Gazette must provide one year’s worth of work as a substitute driver to laid-off employees. The company also must provide six months of health care and wages to employees in circulation who have been laid off.
In November, the Teamsters asked the court to block the company’s actions and Ranjan ordered the Post-Gazette to halt the cuts, but the company did not comply. To that end, Ranjan scheduled a hearing for March 6, to determine whether the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette should be held in contempt of court. Pass said he will ask to move the date up.
Representation for the Post-Gazette did not comment.