2/3rd of Post-Gazette Union Crossed Picket Line or Quit – VA Bus Drivers to Picket French Embassy – French Ski Instructors Strike

An analysis done by Payday Report shows that 2/3rd of Post-Gazette union has crossed picket line or quit (WESA)

Greetings from the Burgh, where the Pittsburgh NewsGuild, which has been on strike since October, held a rally today at the City-County building to celebrate an NLRB ruling against Post-Gazette, which illegally imposed a contract on the union in 2020. 

2/3rd of Post-Gazette Union Crossed Picket Line or Quit 

Recently, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike has received national attention, with the Neiman Lab writing this week that “the strike may be inspiring others.”

However, as the strike stretches into its fourth month with no end-in-sight, the union has struggled to prevent reporters from crossing the picket line. According to an analysis done by Payday Report of bylines and interviews with Post-Gazette reporters, nearly ⅔ of the union has crossed the picket line (with almost half of all reporters doing so). Many reporters, particularly younger reporters, have found jobs at other publications as the strike’s likelihood of success looks small and moved away from Pittsburgh./ 

Currently, the union can only maintain pickets for 2 hours a day as approximately two dozen reporters remain on strike from about 85 reporters who were members of the union at the beginning of the strike. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette union chair Andrew Goldstein has privately acknowledged to local labor supporters that the strike is a “disaster.” 

Sexual Misconduct & “A Frat House” Union Culture 

Problems within the union have been longstanding. A 2020 expose by Payday Report, which was followed up on and independently verified by the New York Times, showed that the union’s leaders had covered up knowledge of sexual misconduct by its former Pittsburgh NewsGuild Michael Fuoco for decades, creating a culture within the union that one person described as a “frat house.” 

In June 2020, when two Black reporters were removed from covering Black Lives Matter protests, many Pittsburgh journalists called on Post-Gazette reporters to strike as Philadelphia Inquirer reporters had done earlier that week over racist coverage of their paper. 

However, Fuoco and current Pittsburgh NewsGuild President Zach Tanner publicly resisted calls to strike in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Many at that time speculated that Fuoco’s well-known reputation as the “Harvey Weinstein of Pittsburgh” led to him being unable to rally the support needed for the strike. 

(Full Disclosure; Payday Report is currently suing Tanner for his sending emails depicting violent rape fantasies and physically attacking me during my coverage of Fuoco). 

At the beginning of the strike in October, the Post-Gazette union narrowly voted to approve the strike by a margin of 38-36. 

The strike vote came after members of five other unions at the Post-Gazette that work in production, advertising, and delivery decided to strike. However, members of the Post-Gazette union continued to work for nearly a week and a half until pressure from the other unions led them to strike in early October.

According to a statement released by a group of workers, who crossed the picket line, they felt that the CWA unfairly pressured them into striking with the other unions, two of which are also members of the CWA. 

“This vote was taken under the pressure of the Communications Workers of America, which threatened to unilaterally impose a strike on the local and remove its leadership if the vote did not conform to its wishes,” the group said in a statement in October. 

So far, the Blocks have resisted bargaining despite numerous citations and fines from the National Labor Relations Board. With the strike unlikely to be resolved any time soon, many reporters say that they crossed the picket line to save their careers in journalism. 

“Given the toxic nature of the union and how this strike was imposed on us by the international, a lot of people feel its not really crossing a picket line,” said one reporter, who crossed the picket line and wished to remain anonymous in an interview with Payday Report. “This is a small media market and a lot of folks are scared that if they go on stirke then they will never work in journalism again. Who wants to risk their careers to go on a futile strike with no chance of winning”. 

Unable to stop the scabs from crossing the picket line, the Post-Gazette union has begun publicly blasting those who have crossed the picket line. 

“We were beyond disappointed to see people pocketing raises, bonuses and promotions off crossing our picket line,” wrote the Pittsburgh NewsGuild in a recent email. “You do deserve to know who exactly decided to personally cash in on crossing our picket line. It was Mark Belko, Andrew Destin, Anya Litvak, Abby Mackey, Jason Mackey, Mike White and Anya Sostek.” 

For more background on the Post-Gazette strike, check out Neiman Lab’s long look.

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French Ski Workers Strike 

Across French, massive strikes continue to grow as French port workers went on strike this week. Now, even french ski instructors are going on strike.

“We decided to call a strike during the February holidays because the claims will be better heard during this period,” Eric Becker, general secretary of the ski lifts in Force Ouvrière, told Connexion France.

For more, check out Connexion France.

 Virginia Bus Drivers to Picket French Embassy 

In Loudon County, Virginia, transit workers employed by the French contractor Keolis have been on strike as they seek their first union contract. On Tuesday at 1 PM, they plan to picket the French embassy in nearby DC. 

“Keolis’ parent company, SNCF Rail, is controlled by the French government,” ATU Local 689 said in a statement. “Therefore, the Union will urge the French Government to stop Keolis from further breaking labor law, bargaining in bad faith, and refusing to give its employees a fair and dignified contract.” 

For more on the latest on strike, check out the Loudon Times. 

 ‘Living in shipping containers’: Half Moon Bay shooting reveals poor conditions on California farms.

Finally, the San Francisco Chronicle looks at the Half Moon Bay shooting, where seven immigrant farmworkers were killed, and has drawn attention to the exploitation of farmworkers in California. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

 Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a former state lawmaker who now leads the California Labor Federation, said the Legislature and governor have worked to ensure that state labor laws prohibit farmworkers from being paid below the state minimum wage of $15.50, including one she wrote to require that farmworkers be paid overtime. Last year, Newsom signed a law making it easier for farmworkers to unionize. Gonzalez Fletcher said Newsom’s comments show the state needs to do more to enforce those laws.

“If he’s hearing firsthand that these workers are being paid subminimum wage … why is that not being investigated?” she said. “There is a crime going on right in front of the governor.”

After The Chronicle published an initial version of this story, Newsom announced that his administration was investigating the farms involved in the shooting “to ensure workers are treated fairly and with the compassion they deserve,” according to a statement from Villaseñor.

For more, check out the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Strikes & News Happening Elsewhere 

Alright, folks, that’s all for today. Gotta run to a Pitt basketball game. Donate to help us pay the healthcare premiums this month. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 740 recurring donors today. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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