The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is appealing a judge’s ruling that the company must follow the expired contract with union employees until a new one is agreed upon.
The decision from the National Labor Relations Board came after the newspaper refused to pay a 5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for union members this year.
“We negotiated that they pick up 5 percent increases and [the company] signed the contract,” said Michael Fuoco, President of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and a reporter at the paper. “We're working under the terms of that contract.”
Union employees at the paper have been working under a contract that expired in March of 2017 and will continue to do so until a new contract is agreed upon. In the old contract, the newspaper agreed to pay insurance premium increases of up to 5 percent. But the company refused to do so in 2018. So, union employees filed a complaint with the NLRB and in October, an NLRB judge sided with workers, saying the company needs to follow the expired contract too.
The Post-Gazette is appealing that decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. Further appeals would be heard by the Third Circuit court.
“If [the company] weren't paying these attorneys to fight this, they would easily have been able to pay for the increase in insurance premiums,” Fuoco said.
Fuoco estimated that the 2018 premium increases would cost the paper about $10,000 a month for Guild employees.
“It doesn't show any appreciation for employees, or for what we do,” he said. “I think on a daily basis we prove that what we do has value. What we do is important to democracy, and what we do is important to the fabric of the Pittsburgh community.”
Fuoco said that the company's decision is not surprising, but is frustrating and that they will keep fighting. He says union employees have had to decrease their healthcare benefits and raise deductibles by $500 or $1,000 in order to make up for the 2018 increases.
Fuoco said premiums will go up another 5 percent in 2019, and that the paper said it will not pay those increases.
“For the owners of this newspaper to deny the work, the talent, the commitment, the loyalty of its employees by nickel-and-diming us ... is not only frustrating, it's very demoralizing,” he said.
Fuoco said union members plan to be more public with their frustration as the fight continues.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had no comment.