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Allegheny

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated labor law, judge rules

Natasha Lindstrom
| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
The offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the North Shore on March 20, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the North Shore on March 20, 2017.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette violated federal labor law by charging more than 400 union employees a 5 percent increase in health care premiums during contract negotiations, an administrative law judge has ruled.

The newspaper made an “unlawful unilateral change” that “reduced the health care benefits” of employees when the premium increase took effect in April, Judge David I. Goldman wrote in a 38-page ruling published Tuesday. The judge ordered the Post-Gazette and its parent company, Block Communications Inc., to pay the premium increase and reimburse employees who incurred losses from the change.

The Post-Gazette has the right to appeal.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, which represents 150 newsroom employees, issued a statement Wednesday celebrating the ruling and saying that it hopes the Post-Gazette “will do the right thing and pay what it is legally required by federal law and morally required as an employer.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see if they follow the law and have a moral compass,” Newspaper Guild President Michael A. Fuoco said.

A Block Communications spokesperson could not be reached Wednesday night.

The Newspaper Guild filed the unfair labor practice charge in January. Other unions joined in representing 250 members, including pressmen, operating engineers, delivery drivers and workers in advertising and finance.

A National Labor Relations Board regional director in Pittsburgh initially ruled in the unions’ favor. Block appealed, which led to an Aug. 21 hearing before Goldman.

Federal law requires that companies involved in collective bargaining “continue the status quo in the terms and conditions of employment while the parties negotiate for a new labor agreement,” Goldman wrote in Tuesday’s ruling.

Negotiations over contract renewals between the newspaper and its unions have dragged on more than 20 months, since March 31, 2017.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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