Editorial | We support the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Editor’s Note: After lots of conversation last week between editorial, business and professional staff, The Pitt News has decided to stop printing at the Butler Eagle. 

Prior to the printing and distribution staff at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette going on strike earlier this month, TPN printed our weekly edition at the Post-Gazette’s printing facility in Clinton. When the strike began, TPN reached a short-term contract with the Butler Eagle to print our weekly edition. TPN printed two editions at the Butler Eagle this month.

We will begin printing at the Tribune-Review facilities starting this week with our Wednesday edition.  

Journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went on strike last Tuesday, demanding a fair contract, fair pay and fair health benefits. They joined fellow Post-Gazette employees, including production, distribution and advertising workers, who went on strike earlier this month. They’ve been working without a collective bargaining agreement since 2017 and have not had a salary raise in 16 years. 

As the editorial staff of a newspaper that works in close contact with the Post-Gazette, we stand in solidarity with the strikers. No one should have to worry about their financial situation or health benefits being taken away while doing one of the most important jobs to keep our democracy afloat. Local journalists and other staff members who keep the Post-Gazette running are extremely important, and they deserve living wages and fair contracts. 

Union officials from the Communications Workers of America, which represents staff responsible for printing, designing, distributing and advertising sales, said its members’ health insurance coverage was canceled on Oct. 1 because Block Communications, the owners of the Post-Gazette, refused to pay an additional $19 per employee per week. Officials said workers were already paying more than 8% of their wages toward insurance premiums with deductibles that ran as high as $14,400 per year. While this plan wasn’t sufficient to begin with, fully eliminating health care coverage while we are still in a pandemic is extremely unfair to hardworking employees. 

Block Communications said in a statement that they proposed a 9% wage increase and entrance to the Block Communications healthcare plan, which four Post-Gazette unions rejected. However, the unions said a 9% wage increase is unsatisfactory since 8% of their wages already go toward health care coverage. It’s also important to note that Block Communications is estimated to bring in $100 million to $500 million annually in revenue.  

The owners of the Post-Gazette have also been notorious for dragging their feet in regards to coming to the negotiation table. In fact, The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh is currently awaiting the results from a National Labor Relations Board hearing. NLRB Regional Director Nancy Wilson said in the complaint, filed in April, that Block Communications “bargained with no intention of reaching agreement” by “insisting upon proposals that are predictably unacceptable to the union.”

We were also saddened to read last week of Lisa Cunningham’s resignation from the Pittsburgh City Paper. In a letter posted to Twitter, Cunningham, the former editor-in-chief at the City Paper, said she quit following a dispute with the paper’s parent company, the Butler Eagle, over disclosing that the Butler Eagle was printing the Post-Gazette while its workers were on strike.

The president of the Butler Eagle later defended the company’s decision to print the Post-Gazette, saying it’s helping keep the Post-Gazette alive in the long-term. However, we would argue that negotiating with the strikers would be a far better way to keep it running. 

We wish we could say we are surprised by this behavior from the Post-Gazette’s ownership. The Pitt News Editorial Board has criticized the paper management’s decision to bar prominent Black journalists from protest coverage, their decision to platform Ben Shapiro’s xenophobia and more. Like we said in a 2020 editorial, “It’s disappointing when a local newspaper like the Post-Gazette is a model of what not to be, instead of what to strive to be.”

If you can, we encourage you to support the amazing journalists at the Post-Gazette by donating to their striker fund or reading Pittsburgh Union Progress. 

Local journalists are this country’s lifeline. As many local newspapers have unfortunately had to close their doors, we need to support the ones that are still here and still producing great news that informs communities. Block Communications needs to grant the Post-Gazette workers fair wages and healthcare before Pittsburgh loses a premiere local newspaper.