Pittsburgh Mailers Local M-22 and Pittsburgh Typographical Local 7 have had a long and storied history of contentious bargaining at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Now, with the company investing more than $16 million in a new facility and printing press, the workers are once again struggling to win a fair contract with the paper’s owner, Ohio-based Block Communications, Inc. This time around, the company is asking its nine unions, nearly 800 members, for more than $22 million in contract concessions. This request comes on the heels of the last two contracts in which the nine-union Unity Council gave the company almost $50 million in concessions.
In 2010, members of the Unity Council ratified a 27-month contract with the publisher that contained an estimated $18 million in concessions. Three years before that, the Council accepted some $28 million in concessions. In a statement last May, the Unity Council criticized the company’s attempt to “use us [the workers] to invest in the future of the Post Gazette without any sacrifice from the Post Gazette, its parent company, BCI, or the Blocks.”
In April 2013, the Post-Gazette announced plans to invest in a new printing press and move their operations to a new facility. That announcement came just days before contracts with its nine unions were set to expire. The planned upgrade and expansion meant uncertainty for union negotiations. Until February, the company didn’t have an exact location chosen for the new facility. The newly leased 245,000-square-foot building in Clinton, PA, is located about 40 miles from the Post Gazette’s current location and is virtually inaccessible by public transportation, a problem the unions say is particularly difficult for its members as some 75 percent of Post Gazette’s employees rely on public transportation.
Since June, each of the unions have been in separate negotiations for non-economic components of their contracts. It is unclear when negotiations will begin on the economics side of bargaining. “There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency on the company’s part to begin negotiating economics,” said Don McConnell, president, Pittsburgh Typographical 7. “These workers have worked since 2006 without a raise. The last two contracts were concessionary, my members and the Unity Council as a whole, do not want to give up anything this time around.”
"Our members in Pittsburgh remain vigilant, and their respective bargaining committees continue to do an extraordinary job at the table. Collectively, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of all members and fighting for a fair contract in all areas at the Post, and this will not change," said Dan Wasser, president, PPMWS.
This time around, the company is asking the unions for concessions that include:
Increase in health care contributions
Elimination of personal days
Elimination of company paid dental and vision insurance
Pension plan changes; including dropping the NPP
Elimination of the cap on the 10 percent wage diversion
Imposition of 60 percent sick pay