Why Did the Bylines Disappear for Four Days in the Post-Gazette?
Writers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have ended their byline strike to protest 12 years without raises and other cuts from the newspaper’s ownership. Whether the action will get them a new contract remains to be seen.
This photo of @penguins' Sidney Crosby was taken in April 2006 when he was 18. He had just become the youngest NHL player to get 100 points in a season. This was also the last year we received a raise from @PittsburghPG. #PGGuildStrong pic.twitter.com/vjY6P1kVM6— Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh 🗞 (@PGNewsGuild) January 25, 2018
In early 2006, Sidney Crosby was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Franco Harris was among those who took part in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the August Wilson Center for African American Culture Downtown. Then-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum faced off against Sen. Bob Casey in the midterm elections. “Crash” won Best Picture over “Brokeback Mountain.”
It seems so long ago.
Which is the point the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh tried to make with a four-day byline strike — 2006 was the last time union members received a raise at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, owned by Block Communications Inc., headquartered in Toledo, Ohio.
“When the bylines are on there, you take it for granted, but when you remove them it really does show how much we contribute every day, 365 days a year,” says Michael A. Fuoco, an enterprise reporter at the PG and president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh. He noted every member of the guild has professed their support, and reporters as well as photographers, videographers, graphic artists and columnists have all removed their names from their work, in print as well as online.
“Unlike other industries, we create something brand new every day, and that’s an incredible thing when you stop and think about that. That’s why we’re asking that our talents, our dedication, our loyalty and our work be given dignity and not be de-valued the way it’s been de-valued for 12 years,” he says.
Not only was 2006 the last year for the staff to receive raises, but their salaries were also cut 10 percent that year. “We actually were making 10 percent more in 2006 than we are in 2018,” Fuoco says. “Not having a raise in 12 years is ridiculous, but living on 10 percent less than we were in 2006 is the height of absurdity.”
Union employees have been working without a contract since theirs expired in March. Last week, they filed an Unfair Labor Practice suit against Block Communications. Under federal law, employers are required to maintain wages and benefits at the same level as the expired contract, but health insurance for Post-Gazette workers increased by 5 percent this month.
Block Communications did not return a call requesting comment and have yet to comment publicly on the byline strike which Fuoco says ended at midnight Sunday.
“We always planned for it to last only as long was necessary for us to get the word out that the company’s concessionary proposal is completely unacceptable after 12 years and counting of pay, benefit and staffing cuts. In 2018, Guild members earn 10 percent less than they did in 2006. Any reasonable person can see that this cannot continue.
“With the massive national and regional publicity, we are confident that most people now know the fate of the Post-Gazette lies in the hands of parent company Block Communications Inc. of Toledo, Ohio.”