The Block family might be adding its own conspicuous sign for employees on the Post-Gazette newsroom walls, thanks to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling on a Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh grievance related to the publisher’s February rant.
Back then, J.R. Block came into the newsroom late on a Saturday night to loudly vent about a sign the Guild hung on its bulletin board, which read: “Shame on the Blocks.” The union has been working for more than two years without a contract, and employees have not had raises in 13 years.
Last Friday, Guild President Michael Fuoco sent an email to members letting them know that the union has won an Unfair Labor Practice grievance related to Block’s meltdown. Fuoco noted the ruling has not been signed, and the family could still appeal it.
If the Block family doesn’t appeal the decision, it must “post a conspicuous sign in the newsroom saying they violated federal labor law, enumerating how it was done and vowing never to do so again,” Fuoco wrote.
He declined to elaborate on his message to Guild employees. A Post-Gazette spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
The consequences of appealing the ruling could mean that the publisher and some of the newsroom employees could be called to testify at a hearing.
“Can you imagine the hearing when all of our members who were here that night would testify?” Fuoco wrote.
The ruling on the sign came at the same time as another NLRB decision against the Guild’s complaint that employees had to pay more for health insurance in 2018 (and they continue to do so), after their contract lapsed. The union has been arguing that the company should not be raising premiums for employees above levels allowed under the expired contract.
The Post-Gazette ran an article on the ruling, saying a three-member panel unanimously agreed to dismiss the unfair labor practice complaint filed by the Guild and five other unions representing employees.
“The panel said the Post-Gazette did not violate any contractual or statutory duty by deciding not to increase annual health care insurance payments past 2017 levels as demanded by a health fund and the unions,” the newspaper wrote.
In his email to union members, Fuoco included a photo of Block posing for a photograph with President Trump, and noted that the NLRB panel members were appointed by the president.
“The Trump Administration’s anti-union posture,” Fuoco wrote, “gave us no realistic hope of winning at that level.”
The union may appeal the NLRB ruling to a federal appeals court, and it has an October arbitration hearing set to discuss the issue.
Comings & goings
- The Post-Gazette has lost some familiar bylines and behind-the-scenes newsroom employees to retirement and job changes. These include Rebecca Droke, who ran the photo department; editorial writer Joe Smydo, who left to work for the United Steelworkers; sportswriter Sarah Spencer, who left for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; health and aging writer Gary Rotstein; and L.A. Johnson, an arts and entertainment editor, who went to the Minneapolis Star Tribune; as well as several people on the copy desk, including Michael Bodura, Patrice Giancola, Trevor Lenzmeier and Dave Bennett.
- KDKA-TV reporter Ralph Iannotti retired this summer after 52 years in the business. His departure followed that of general manager Jay Howell, who is now working for KCBS-KCAL in Los Angeles.
Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You may find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.