Shortly before U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio stopped by the striking news workers’ Clinton picket Wednesday morning, a gust of wind toppled a light pole, which crashed down on Sweeney Drive with a resounding boom. The racket caught the attention of 20 or so strikers wearing lightweight jackets and standing on the sidewalk a block away. They turned, saw the stricken lamp lying prostrate in the street and shrugged. Said one, “At least it’s not freezing.”
In fact, temperatures hovered in the low 60s as Deluzio, D-17th District, walked up to the picket line, offering boxes of doughnuts and coffee as well as words of support to representatives of all five unions who’ve been on strike at the Post-Gazette since mid-October. He introduced himself to those gathered at the picket shelter and joked with mailer James “Hutchie” VanLandingham, who was Deluzio’s guest in Washington, D.C., last week for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
After a few moments, Deluzio paused to discuss with the Union Progress the letter he sent Monday to Biden’s Justice Department, asking officials there to examine the acquisition of Pittsburgh City Paper by a subsidiary of Block Communications, which owns the Post-Gazette. That purchase was announced in early January.
Deluzio’s request comes on the heels of an earlier letter to the DOJ from Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, which represents thousands of journalists, including those on strike at the Post-Gazette. Schleuss, CWA District 2-13 staff representative Jonathan Remington and leaders of other PG unions — John Clark, Pittsburgh Mailers 22/CWA 14842; and Don McConnell, Pittsburgh Typo 7/CWA 14827 — were in Clinton to talk with Deluzio.
Both letters were addressed to Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general at the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division. They express concern that the Pittsburgh City Paper acquisition represents a troubling consolidation in the region’s media market. Such consolidations often diminish both the amount of local coverage and the diversity of views available to readers.
“There isn’t the same coverage of courthouse, borough and township meetings that existed a generation ago,” Deluzio said. “That’s not unique to Western Pennsylvania. I think it’s a problem for us across the country.”
The Biden administration is focusing on antitrust enforcement more than any administration in decades, Deluzio said, so he’s certain the DOJ will take his request seriously.
“I’ve generally been someone who’s concerned about antitrust issues and consolidation across lots of industries,” he continued. “And I’m sitting here looking at Western Pennsylvania, its declining media landscape, with an owner who’s got a bad record with workers. And so I think asking the Justice Department to look into the transaction — to look into whether there are laws being broken — is the exact right thing to do.”
Deluzio said he has been heartened by the increasing support he sees for unions, especially among young people, in his district and beyond. “I know people are coming back [to unions],” he said. “You see it in the polls, [and] the strikes taking place right now.” He also said younger workers are moving toward union representation for a number of reasons, and all this has driven him to take action.
“I see optimism in all of this,” Deluzio said. His role, he told the strikers, is to “do all we can” to help union workers, and the request to investigate the City Paper purchase is one such action.