Picking up where they left off on Monday, representatives of the striking mailers union and of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette met Tuesday morning at Downtown’s Omni William Penn Hotel to continue talking about health care coverage that would work for the news workers and the company and help end the strike.
PG lawyer Michael D. Oesterle of King & Ballow, once again joined by the newspaper’s Production Operations Director Rob Weber, opened just after 10 a.m. by announcing that the company had indeed looked into making workers’ contributions to health care before taxes.
“While we’re not completely comfortable with dealing with this pretax, we are willing to deal with this pretax,” he said, alluding to the unions’ full health care proposal he’d requested and still is waiting for. “The ball is in your court now.”
“That is a positive development,” said Communications Workers of America District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. He sat across from them with CWA Representative Jon Remington and the president of the mailers union John Clark, plus two members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.
What ensued was a friendly and straightforward conversation that began on the topic of how changes in presidential administrations affect the National Labor Relations Board and then focused on the mailers’ “manning” issues. Mailers insert materials into the two remaining weekly print editions of the Post-Gazette and other printed work that Weber stressed is declining in volume every year.
That’s why outdated parts of the mailers’ most recent contract proposals need to go, Oesterle said.
Clark said he still needs to know how many of his workers — now down to about 11 full-timers and five part-timers — would be needed and in what roles if they were to return to work now. “We realize this is 2023, six years since this all started” in 2017 when the last contract expired.
“If we settle this health care stuff,” he said, tapping on the printed proposed contract, “we’ll really dive into all this stuff.”
Weber said the way of the future is “utility mailers” who can perform a variety of needed work on print jobs of various types, and for as long as the PG keeps printing, which is indefinite but sure to “grind to a stop” at some point.
“It’s helpful to hear your side of that,” said Mooney, stressing that the unions haven’t impeded the transition to digital, which even if complete, will still require workers in the newsroom and in advertising who also are on strike.
And after about an hour, the two sides agreed to set days to continue bargaining for the production, advertising and transportation workers next week, when their strike enters its eighth month.
Bob, a feature writer and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and serving as interim editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.