Newspaper Guild Says Its President's Resignation Won't Affect Labor Dispute

Sep 30, 2020

The longtime president of the union that represents newsroom staffers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has resigned amidst allegations of workplace sexual misconduct. However, both the interim head of the union and a nationally known media-business analyst said the move won’t have a major impact on the long-running labor dispute at the paper.

Michael Fuoco, who headed the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, resigned his union role on Saturday. That was hours after the group’s parent union, the Communication Workers of America, announced it was investigating the alleged violations by Fuoco of its “mutual respect policy.” Allegations of Fuoco's misconduct were first reported by Pittsburgh-based labor-news site Payday Report.

WESA spoke with two female former Post-Gazette staffers, one of whom said she had witnessed inappropriate behavior by Fuoco, while the other said the veteran reporter had inappropriately touched her on at least two occasions. Both former staffers requested anonymity.

Under Fuoco’s leadership, the union had voted overwhelmingly to strike in August, after more than three years of stalled contract negotiations and complaints of labor-law violations by the paper’s owner, Block Communications Inc.

The Guild continues to prepare for a potential strike, just as when Fuoco was at the helm, said interim Guild president Ed Blazina, also a long-time P0st-Gazette reporter.

“The situation’s timing is unfortunate. But our goals remain the same,” said Blazina. “We have to continue the fight, and we will continue the fight.”

Guild members have been working under an expired contract since March 2017. Newsroom staffers have also suffered cuts to health-care benefits and several rounds of buyouts. The labor dispute escalated in July, when Block Communications, claiming negotiations had reached an impasse, unilaterally implemented portions of a new contract. A lawyer for union members said the Guild remained willing to negotiate.

Rick Edmonds, a media-business analyst with the Poynter Institute, also said Fuoco’s resignation shouldn’t affect the labor negotiations.

“It’s an issue for the Guild chapter to deal with internally,” he said. “I don’t know that it changes the dynamics all that much. The set of issues are still there.”

Edmonds noted that just weeks after the Guild voted to strike, the Post-Gazette hired a new executive editor, Stan J. Wischnowksi, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Edmonds said that could be evidence the threat of a strike is exerting pressure on Block Communications.

But Blazina said that while relations between newsroom management and staff were “not good … that is separate and apart from the contract.” He said issues like health-care benefits loom larger in labor talks.