For the second week in a row, union employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette protested their employer’s handling of contract negotiations, focusing their efforts on health care cuts.
The protest was held outside of a scheduled Pittsburgh Post-Gazette public forum on disparities in access to health care at Heinz Field. The newspaper’s union employees protested the company's refusal to pay for health care increases, as required in their old contract.
“We find it incredibly hypocritical that the Post-Gazette would sponsor a forum on health-care disparities when it has chosen to illegally slash the health-care benefits of about 400 members of the Guild and other PG unions,” said Michael Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, in a statement. “The Post-Gazette has unilaterally created a health-care disparity for its workers in defiance of the rule of law.”
The newspaper company agreed to pay health-care premium increases of up to 5 percent per year in the contract that expired in 2017. Federal labor law requires companies to maintain current pay and benefits during contract negotiations, which have been ongoing at the Post-Gazette for the last 21 months.
Health-care costs went up 5 percent in 2018, which the company did not pay, and told unions that it has no plans to pay the additional 5 percent increase in 2019.
Post-Gazette assignment editor Jonathan Silver said his deductible went up $500, which he had to pay out of pocket because his family incurred medical expenses in 2018.
“That’s a lot of money for someone with no raise in 13 years,” he said. “The company has told us flat out that they are also refusing to pay the pending premium increase for 2019, which will mean our health care will get even worse because of the Post-Gazette’s illegal unilateral actions.”
Courtney Linder has been a tech reporter at the Post-Gazette since January 2017. Negotiations have been going on for almost as long as she’s been employed at the paper. She is 24, and decided to stay on her parents’ health insurance after other union members warned her about the impending premium increases.
“I don’t have to worry about [premium increases] right now, but I know that as long as I’m with the company and they continue to act like this in negotiations, that will be my future.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did not immediately return a request for comment.
*This story was updated at 8:08 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2018 to correct that Jonathan Silver is an assignment editor at the newspaper, not a reporter.