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Union files labor complaint against Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

February 15, 2019
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A sign on a building marks the offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, representing newsroom workers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has filed unfair labor practice charges Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, against the publisher following an alleged incident over the weekend. According to the charge, publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block "restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights ... by threatening employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity." (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The union representing newsroom workers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has filed unfair labor practice charges against the publisher following what some employees called his drunken newsroom tirade.

The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, representing about 150 newsroom employees, submitted the charge to the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday.

Union president Michael Fuoco said the comments were made during an unexpected newsroom visit from Block on Saturday night.

According to the complaint, publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block “restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights ... by threatening employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity.”

The guild also claims he “threatened employees with discharge in retaliation for engaging in union or other protected concerted activity, and to discourage such activities.”

Contract negotiations have been ongoing since 2017.

Allan Block, who is John Robinson Block’s brother and chairman of the newspaper’s parent company, Block Communications Inc., issued an initial statement blaming the episode on workplace stress.

“The frustration over financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry led to an unfortunate exchange with employees of which I have been made aware,” Allan Block said in the Tuesday statement. “Block Communications regrets if anyone present may have misconstrued what occurred as anything other than an indication of strong concern and support for the legacy and future of the Post-Gazette.”

In response, the guild issued statements attributed to several staffers it said were in the newsroom late Saturday. Several employees described John Robinson Block as appearing drunk, railing against the union and individual managers, and upsetting his young daughter to the point of tears.

In an updated statement sent to The Associated Press late Thursday, the company said Block “expresses his sincere regrets over his conduct that evening and did not intend his actions to upset anyone.”

However, the company disputed the journalists’ accounts of the evening and said that Block had simply “expressed his frustration to the newsroom staff about several issues of concern to him.”

Block Communications is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, and also publishes The Blade newspaper in that city, among other holdings.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.
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A sign on a building marks the offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, representing newsroom workers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has filed unfair labor practice charges Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, against the publisher following an alleged incident over the weekend. According to the charge, publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block "restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of their rights ... by threatening employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity." (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)