First of all, let me introduce myself: I am Stephen Karlinchak, or, as I am sometimes known, Conan the Librarian. For more than 32 years, I have worked as a researcher, indexer, fact checker as well as jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, at “One of America’s great newspapers.”

This is the 100th day of a strike by myself and many of my fellow newsroom workers in the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, who went out on an unfair labor practice strike on Oct. 18.

Actually for me, it has been fewer than 100 days since I last worked for the Post-Gazette. The first week of the strike I was recuperating from eye surgery, hoping that the labor situation would be settled by the time I was ready to return to work, but that didn’t happen.

For some workers — those in the five other Post-Gazette production, advertising and transportation unions that went on strike on Oct. 6 — today is the 112th day.

Being on strike is hard. Deciding to be on strike was easier for me.

I am the grandson and namesake of two Ukrainian immigrants who dug coal in the mines of central Pennsylvania. I am the son, brother and nephew of men who belonged to the United Auto Workers as employees of General Motors. In addition, my mother was an operator for Bell Phone and a member of the Communications Workers of America.

I swear that had I not joined with my fellow workers, my father and mother, my grandfathers and uncles would have haunted me until the day I died — and my brother, Joe, probably wouldn’t speak to me.

This strike isn’t about me. In a month, I will be 65 years old(!). I have received my Medicare card. In a couple of days after my birthday, I will qualify for a full pension from the newspaper. While I would like it to be later rather than sooner, I know my tenure with the PG is coming to an end, maybe in weeks, maybe months, maybe years.

I’ve spent some of my free time ruefully reviewing my life, probably concentrating too much on the regrets that I have rather than whatever I have accomplished. (“Why didn’t I go to law school like I planned?” “Should I have gone to library school when I was 22 instead of 32?”)

A lot of friends and acquaintances have asked about picketing. To be honest, picketing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I live alone, so a lot of the interaction I have in my life is work-related. Union activity has replaced paid work as the major component of my social life.

Picketing is:

— Having pizza for lunch for the fourth day in a row. You’re tired of pizza but grateful for the CWA locals that paid for lunch.

— Post-Gazette alumni such as Joyce Gannon and Brian O’Neill stopping by and giving encouragement.

— Local politicians sending over snacks (again, many thanks).

— Colleagues Rick Davis and Pam Panchak comparing notes about the pierogis available at the local ethnic churches.

— Telling, with colleague Ed Blazina, young reporters about the Great Pittsburgh Newspaper Strike of 1992.

— Colleague Joe Knupsky holding court and reminiscing about the jobs he has had.

— Meeting the spouses of my fellow employees (bless them all).

— Wednesday nights with Scabby the inflatable rat, one of the mascots for the union, as we hang out along General Robinson Street on the North Shore.

— Dandy, a terrier, whose support human is colleague Susan Banks.

— Jack, colleague John Santa’s preschool son, joining us on the line.

— Colleague Helen Fallon offering to do one more thing for the union on top of the zillion things she is already doing (when she only works one day a week when she’s at work at the PG).

Being on strike: If not for me, for whom? It is for young journalists named Andrew and Alex, Natalie and Becca, Tyler and John. It is about seasoned and veteran journalists named Pam and Bob, Karen and Nate. It is about talented copy editors named Rob and Joe. It is about a lot of people who need to be recognized and compensated for what they do seven days a week, 365 days a year.

When I was a little boy, I would walk down Lysle Boulevard in McKeesport and from the sidewalk watch the presses run at the Daily News building. Later, when I was older and able to come into Pittsburgh by myself, I would go down to the Pittsburgh Press building to watch the presses run as I stood on the sidewalks along the Boulevard of the Allies. I somehow knew that I wanted to be a part of all that.

After 32-plus years at the PG and more than 40 years altogether in journalism, I have seen a lot of changes in the newspaper industry — some good, some bad. Something called digital has replaced newsprint, for example.

One thing I have learned is that journalism and the community at large are dependent upon talented and dedicated women and men who are committed to their craft.

These are the people with whom I stand.

To mark the week of the strike’s 100th day, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh will host a rally at noon Saturday outside the City-County Building on Grant Street, Downtown, where the strikers will be joined by union members, community stakeholders, elected officials and other supporters.

Stephen is the librarian at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Stephen Karlinchak

Stephen is the librarian at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at