EdBoard: Post-Gazette strike
Workers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have been striking since Thursday, Oct. 6. The striking unions include the Communications Workers of America Locals 14842 and 14827, Teamsters Local 205/211 and Pressmen’s Union Local 24M/9N. According to workers in those unions, they have been working without a collective bargaining agreement since March 2017, and have not gotten a pay raise in the past 16 years. They also believe that management has refused to bargain in good faith and made unilateral changes to members’ health care plan.
The Post-Gazette strike is backed by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which includes Post-Gazette reporters. The vote for newsroom workers to strike was close, reporting at 38 to 36. The union represents a total of 101 newsroom employees, but a number of employees have since resigned from the Guild and stayed working through the strike.
Workers at the Post-Gazette had their health insurance terminated Oct. 1; union officials stated that if BCI had paid an additional $19 per employee per week, this coverage could have been maintained. However, with the provided coverage, workers were paying more than eight percent of wages toward insurance premiums. A proposal from BCI to unions that was rejected included a nine percent wage increase and enrollment in their company health care plan.
A group that stated that they represented a large portion of the Post-Gazette employees who continue to work said the Guild “commenced with a strike with fewer than 40 percent of its members voting in favor of the move,” and, “[the strike vote] was taken under the pressure of the Communications Workers of America.” The Guild is part of NewsGuild, which is part of the Communications Workers of America. According to this group, Communications Workers of America “threatened to unilaterally impose a strike on the local and remove its leadership if the vote did not conform to its wishes.”
The journalists were not the first division of the Post-Gazette to go on strike — pressmen and drivers were on strike before journalists joined them.
As we did in 2019, The Tartan Editorial Board stands with the striking workers of the Post-Gazette. The paper’s management under the Block Brothers has been subpar at best, and this strike has been a long time coming. However, a strike like this should solely be due to the workers’ wants — not because a large entity pressured workers to strike.
Local journalism is important on all levels — from a college newspaper like The Tartan to a city paper like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Since the Block Communications, Inc., (BCI) taking ownership of the paper, it has turned from a daily publication into two physical newspapers a week with a daily digital edition. This is a common story for local newspapers; however, the job of journalism is still necessary and will continue to be. These striking workers are fighting for better working terms for a necessary publication.
Despite the strike, the Post-Gazette has still been printing through the Butler Eagle, who The Tartan also uses to print our weekly newspaper. The president and publisher of the Butler Eagle defended the company’s decision, stating his belief that the Post-Gazette would cease to exist if a third party was not printing the paper. The Tartan will continue to print with the Butler Eagle, but we do not agree with their decision to print the Post-Gazette. We believe that it should be BCI’s responsibility to reach a deal with the striking workers rather than outsource their work to a third party printer.
As we continue into an era where companies are seemingly monetizing everything, journalism is no exception. But without local journalism, we, as readers, will feel lost and unaware in our communities. From The Tartan to the Post-Gazette and everything bigger, smaller, and in-between, we must fight for journalism and local news. These workers deserve reasonable working conditions and compensation, and The Tartan supports their fight.