The union representing employees in the circulation and delivery division at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked a federal judge on Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order to halt layoffs in the department. In court filings, Teamsters Local Union No. 211 says the publishing company is denying work and health benefits to dozens of laid-off union employees, which is a violation of the union contract.
While union leadership anticipated that more than 30 employees would be laid off after the Post-Gazette announced further reduction in its print circulation this fall, the company officially notified Teamsters leadership of the decision Sunday night.
“They kept everybody on until they found out how many they’re going to get rid of,” said attorney Joe Pass Sr., who represents unions at the newspaper. “[The company is] trying to operate on a shoestring at this point.”
According to the union contract, if the company reduces the number of delivery drivers, the company must provide those drivers 52 weeks of work as substitute drivers, as well as health benefits.
“The company is not honoring that provision,” Pass said. Pass also said the company is not following provisions for employees in circulation, who are entitled to six months of wages and health care.
Before the layoffs, there were approximately 93 people who belonged to the Teamsters union. But Pass said that many of the 60 employees who remain in the unit will also lose their health insurance. The company said it would no longer provide health care to employees who work less than 35 hours per week, a schedule which will apply to many Teamsters now that the paper only prints three days a week.
Pass said that the company takes eight percent out of employees' paychecks for health insurance, including employees who will no longer receive health care from the company.
On Thursday, Judge Nicholas Ranjan said he will make a decision before Thanksgiving.
A lawyer for the Post-Gazette did not immediately return a request for comment.