Striking veteran Post-Gazette journalist and Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh first vice president Ed Blazina was found not guilty of criminal trespass/simple trespasser for placing a “Solidarity” yard sign in the yard of Post-Gazette Executive Editor Stan Wischnowski in April.
Blazina, 67, of Penn Hills, who has been on strike with his union and workers from four other PG unions since October 2022, was asked Tuesday afternoon by Magisterial District Judge Robert Ravenstahl Jr. if he was indeed pleading not guilty. “That’s correct,” Blazina said.
As Wischnowski recounted under oath in North Fayette district court, he was at work at the PG’s North Shore newsroom on April 14 when he heard that people involved in the labor dispute were putting up “Wanted” posters with his photograph on them on the North Shore as well as throughout the neighborhood where he lives in North Fayette. So he drove home, where his wife showed him doorbell video of “the actor,” as he referred to Blazina, placing a yard sign in his yard.
Wischnowski said, “It was very unnerving in that there are ‘Wanted’ signs and people on my property.” He said the doorbell video showed that Blazina had been there with another striking news worker and what looked to him to be a 5-year-old boy.
Wischnowski also said that while some of his neighbors had been asked if they would take a yard sign, “I didn’t get asked.”
Testifying for the Commonwealth was North Fayette Police Lieutenant Chad Slovick, who said he was the officer who heard the call about a trespasser driving a red SUV and made the traffic stop at 7:24 p.m. He said, “Mr. Blazina was very courteous on the stop” and told him he had been in a group that was canvassing in the neighborhood.
Lt. Slovick provided Judge Ravenstahl with photos of Blazina at the stop, of the “Wanted … Union Buster” poster and of the yard sign, including a video still image of Blazina with a sign in Wischnowski’s yard.
Blazina’s attorney Justin Romano objected to the photos of the “Wanted” posters (Wischnowski said they have been posted in many places and as far away as St. Louis, Missouri) and the judge agreed to focus on the images from the Wischnowski residence. Romano asked Wischnowski what was on the sign and Wischnowski said the wording included “Solidarity.”
Judge Ravenstahl said he is familiar with the signs (they read “Solidarity with Post-Gazette workers on strike”). “They are in residential yards around the city.”
He asked Lt. Slovick if the North Fayette Police had received any other calls about unwanted yard signs or other such complaints in that neighborhood since April 14 and the answer was no.
Then the judge said of Blazina, “I’m going to find the gentleman not guilty, because I don’t think it rises to that level” of criminal trespass/simple trespasser (a summary offense).
But he told Wischnowski to call the police again “if there are any other issues” and warned Blazina and his supporters in the court, “You have to show [Wischnowski] respect” at his home. “This is getting to the point that somebody is going to get convicted of something.”
Blazina started working for the Post-Gazette in 1993, joining the paper from The Pittsburgh Press. His PG title is local news editor, though for the past eight years he’s covered the transportation beat.
He’s been a Newspaper Guild officer for more than 25 years, for the past nine as first vice president, which included two short terms as interim president, and also for more than a decade headed the union local’s health and safety committee.
Blazina’s byline hasn’t appeared in the PG since the strike started, but his name has, as the PG wrote in May about a Press Club of Western Pennsylvania Golden Quill Award Blazina won for a story on unpaid Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls, and a Golden Quill Blazina shared with other journalists for coverage of “Collapsing Bridges.”
The PG also wrote in June about that team’s “Bridges on the Brink” series winning the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi national journalism award as well as the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s John V.R. Bull First Amendment Award — both this year, adding to Blazina’s body of award-winning journalism.
While the strike continues, Blazina is a prolific contributor of transportation stories and other news for the Pittsburgh Union Progress. In his free time, he volunteers with the Crescent Hills Civic Association in Penn Hills to help maintain its small park.
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 email@example.com.