Forced strike at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette draws D.C. support
CWA members in Washington DC back the workers forced to strike at the Pittsburg Gazette. Courtesy

WASHINGTON —The forced Pittsburgh News Guild strike over labor law-breaking by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s rulers drew D.C. support from the Communications Workers and other unionists at a Capitol Hill demonstration October 25.

Waving signs denouncing publisher John Block’s union-busting and chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, John Block has got to go,” among other things, almost 50 people paraded at the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol.

They demanded Block and his management team bargain in good faith over a new contract. Block’s refusal has forced the Guild local into an unfair labor practices strike.

The Blocks also forced other unions at the paper, including two Teamsters locals and two Communications Workers locals, into a corner, too. The Pittsburgh Guild members’ last contract was negotiated in 2017. The Pittsburgh Guild, like the News Guild, is a CWA sector.

“Thank you for coming,” Post-Gazette Washington Bureau Chief Ashley Murray told the crowd. “I’d rather be in the halls of Congress or covering the midterms, because I believe a free press and an informed electorate are vital for a healthy democracy.”

Instead, Murray and former Post-Gazette colleague Alyssa Brown marched in solidarity with the forced strikers in Pittsburgh, whom the ruling Block family forced to walk on October 18. Brown left the paper for a D.C. non-profit because of the paper’s bad health insurance.

Some of the paper’s workers now go without insurance. None have had raises in years. And the Pittsburgh Guild reports management terminated everyone’s health insurance on October 1 “rather than pay $19 more per employee per week to maintain existing coverage.”

Before being forced to strike, the Pittsburgh Guild sent a notice to management to demand the company “end its illegally declared impasse to contract negotiations, lift unilaterally imposed working conditions and reinstate the terms” of the prior contract until a new one is reached. The contract covers 101 Post-Gazette journalists.

“The workers who produce the Post-Gazette are taking a stand against the hostile and illegal treatment at the hands of John and Allan Block,” said Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild President Zack Tanner when they were forced to strike, starting October 18. “We, the workers, are standing together, ready to fight to win back our contract and work toward signing a new collective bargaining agreement that preserves the Post-Gazette for the Pittsburgh region.”

The paper’s union-busting attorneys bargained in bad faith for 3½ years, the Guild explained. On July 27, 2020, the paper unlawfully declared an impasse. The Guild’s bargaining committee noted negotiations “were not even close to an impasse.” It declared the Pittsburgh Guild “was willing to continue discussions to reach an agreement.”

Instead, the Blocks—who have a bad history with the Guild, having denied a contract to journalists at the Toledo Blade for 17 years before finally yielding—unilaterally cut Pittsburgh workers’ pay, yanked vacation time from veterans, farmed out stories to non-Guild workers and first cut, then cut out, health insurance.

That all led the Pittsburgh Guild to fill labor law-breaking—formally called unfair labor practices—complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against the paper. Hearings were held and a decision is up to the board’s judge.

“We stand with the strikers and we won’t cross picket lines,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, a News Guild member and former leader of its San Jose, Calif., local, told the D.C. crowd. “We won’t subscribe and we won’t advertise” in the paper until the Blocks bargain in good faith and reach a new contract with the Pittsburgh Guild.

The marchers demonstrated peacefully for half an hour before being warned off the premises by U.S. Capitol Police. Officers said they could be arrested for protesting without a permit, after giving them a warning. So the group ended with coffee and doughnuts.

Further information about the forced strike, including where to donate to help the strikers, can be found at the Pittsburgh Guild’s strike paper, and at


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.