PITTSBURGH — Pressmen, typographers, mailers and delivery drivers struck the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Oct. 6. Reporters and other newsroom employees joined them 12 days later.
“We’re striking about our health care,” Keith Wytiaz, a 25-year Post-Gazette pressman, told the Militant. “The premium rate went up $19 a month on the plan we were covered under and Post-Gazette management refused to pay it. There’s only 80 of us and the Block family,” which owns the paper and Toledo Blade, “is worth millions.”
“Then the company stopped our medical plan and is demanding that we pay into another one with higher maximum costs, larger copays,” he said. “That’s why we walked out.”
Teamsters and Communications Workers of America locals represent the production workers.
“We work weekends, holidays. We understand the current conditions, the nature of the newspaper industry today,” Wytiaz said. “We’re not asking for more money. But, no one here has gotten a raise in 16 years!”
The Post-Gazette is now being printed by the Butler Eagle, a non-union paper. Teamster members picket there on the nights they print.
“The company is refusing to bargain,” Andrew Goldstein, a reporter and unit chair of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a CWA affiliate, told the Militant. “Veteran reporters lost a week’s vacation. There is no longer a guarantee of a five-day week, and the new health care plan took a significant amount of money out of many workers’ weekly pay. The company’s much advertised 9% wage increase offer is a fraud that would amount to closer to a 1% increase in our paychecks.”
Much has been made in the media that a number of reporters and other staff crossed the picket line to help the company get out the paper. Goldstein told the Militant that out of the 40 who crossed the first day, at least 10 have since joined the strike. Tanisha Thomas, 25, was one of them. “I only have a month in the job,” she said. “Yesterday I came out. Now I can sleep at night.”
Union members put out an online newspaper, Union Progress, to explain the strike and build up their strike fund.
Goldstein said they’ve gotten a lot of support. The Laborers’ union brought pizza, the bricklayers brought sandwiches and News Guild locals from around the country are paying for lunches.
Strikers say: Join our picket lines! Build solidarity in your unions! And drop your subscription for the duration of the strike.