After being sidelined for midterms, striking PGH journalists ‘just want to get back to work’
Journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette voted to walk off the job on Oct. 18
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., right, talks with Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council President Darrin Kelly and striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers in front of the Post-Gazette newsroom on Pittsburgh’s North Shore on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Union Progress)
[Disclosure: The writer is a former Post-Gazette employee and former Guild member.]
PITTSBURGH – During one of the most consequential midterm elections in years, a large chunk of the journalists in Pennsylvania’s second-largest city were on strike.
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents newsroom employees at the paper, narrowly voted to strike on Oct. 18. And in staunchly pro-labor Allegheny County, politicians have overwhelmingly sided with the newsroom workers.
The Guild joined three other Post-Gazette unions, representing workers in the paper’s printing, designing, distribution, and ad departments, who began a strike on Oct. 6. The workers have been without a contract since 2017.
The Guild voted 38- 36 to strike on Oct. 18, after its parent union, the Communications Workers of America, told the Guild if its members didn’t join the other unions on strike, the Guild would lose its charter. Some Guild members resigned in protest and have continued to work.
The support from local political leaders has gone beyond refusing to cross the physical picket line of workers outside the PG’s North Shore office. U.S. Rep.-elect Chris Deluzio refused to grant an interview to non-union reporters at the PG after his election day victory, according to a story on the Post-Gazette’s website.
Deluizo’s spokesperson Matt Koos confirmed to the Capital-Star that he “declined to provide comment to the Post-Gazette after we won to support the CWA, Teamsters, and Guild members who are on the strike line still.”
U.S. Sen.-elect John Fetterman declined to meet with the newspaper’s editorial board to try to secure its endorsement. The Post-Gazette endorsed GOP candidate Mehmet Oz.
“John was never gonna cross the picket line while they were on strike. We didn’t even consider it. It was just a no-go for us,” Fetterman’s Communications Director Joe Calvello told the Capital-Star.
Calvello said the campaign was not overly concerned about missing out on coverage by the Post-Gazette because there are other ways to reach its readers.
“There are other papers in Pittsburgh that don’t have labor issues, TV stations that don’t have labor issues. Our biggest concern is making sure that the owners come to the table and take care of these workers who are busting their asses,” Calvello said.
The Post-Gazette did not respond to a request for comment.
“The support and solidarity shown by the politicians who have stood with us has been — frankly — it’s been overwhelming,” Guild Secretary Alex McCann, a digital news editor at the Post-Gazette, told the Capital-Star.
“We feel really grateful that so many politicians have stood up for us in our fight, which we of course believe is a righteous fight for fair treatment of workers, which is something that hopefully everybody can get behind,” McCann said.
McCann said Deluzio visited the striking workers’ picket line and wasn’t the only politician who refused to take questions from non-union reporters at the newspaper during the strike.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who brought pizza to the picket line, outgoing U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District; state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia; Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam, and Fetterman all came to show their support in person.
Pittsburgh City Councilors Bruce Kraus and Bobby Wilson both stopped by, with Kraus delivering a Will of Council, a kind of proclamation expressing support.
McCann said the support of political leaders would not affect future news coverage when the Guild members are back at work in the Post-Gazette’s offices.
“I don’t think we’d be worth our salt as journalists if we let something like a senator stopping by with pizzas from Pizza Hut affect our reporting,” he said. “I think — I’m not a mind reader — but I think that all of these politicians understand that’s the case. They support us not only because they’re pro-labor politicians who believe in the importance of strong unions. They also support us because they understand that a fair and free press is critical to democracy.”
The union and management are scheduled to meet at the bargaining table on Nov. 14 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh — the first time the two sides have met in person since September of 2020 — McCann said.
He said he wasn’t sure how much the show of support from politicians had affected management’s request to meet, but that it had only strengthened the Guild’s resolve.
“We’re prepared to continue to do things to make it very difficult for the company to continue without us,” McCann said. “We all want to get back to work. it’s up to them to meet us and to do what the company can to get us back to work.”
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