How long is 500 days?
a) 12,000 hours.
b) 720,000 minutes.
c) 43.2 million seconds.
d) Too long for the workers to be on strike at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
e) All of the above.

For those of you who haven’t read my previous essays marking the 100th day, 200th day and 300th day of the Great Newspaper Strike of 2022-24 as well as the strike’s first anniversary, let me introduce myself. I am Stephen Karlinchak, aka Conan the Librarian, jack of all trades and master of none in the PG newsroom. 

Readers know that I have been employed by the PG since 1990 in its morgue/archive/library/information center. However, since Oct. 18, 2022, I and the members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh have been on an unfair labor practices strike at the PG newsroom over issues such as no raise in salary since 2007, imposed working conditions in 2020 that included no guarantee for minimum working hours, etc. Also on strike are workers in the PG’s four production unions, who walked out 12 days earlier over a dispute with the company over their health care coverage. 

This is my 500th day on strike.

Why did I walk out with my friends and colleagues? I dunno, maybe I have a “martyr complex”?

I am Catholic, and like a lot of Catholics of my generation, I grew up hearing stories about the saints who cheerfully awaited their martyrdom in the arena. We told our religion teachers that we would be as brave those men and women facing the lions. However, the thought of being a lunch date for a pride of lions ain’t my idea of a fun time.

When my union made the decision to walk out, I had to decide how brave I wanted to be. I could sit quietly at my keyboard, going about my work, or I could be brave and join my co-workers on the picket line. I took a deep breath, exhaled, crossed my fingers and asked for a picket sign.

• • •

So how have I been spending the past 43.2 million seconds? 

I play Scrabble, a lot of Scrabble. I play against a computer and on the easiest level. My skills aren’t sharp enough to go up against the masters of the game.

The computer usually wins — its dictionary knows the names of Malaysian cereal grains and units of Ghanaian coinage.

However, over the past 15 months, my vocabulary has been increased and I have become a competitive Scrabble player. I have won several games (sometimes two games in a row); more than once used all seven letters in my rack at one time and have scored 400 points twice. Not bad for a 60-something-year-old man

As much as I enjoy playing Scrabble, I know it is a game, not a life. Yes, I spend time doing laundry, going grocery shopping, wiping down my kitchen and bathroom, etc., all the things that a grown-up would do. But still …

• • •

I came of age in the 1970s.

My parents were a part of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” It was called the “Greatest Generation” because its members survived the Depression, World War II and baby boomer children.

Because of their experiences in the Depression, World War II and the years that followed, these parents instilled upon their baby boomer children the importance of a good education that would lead to jobs with steady employment. These parents emphasized a strong work ethic — good work habits, punctuality, good manners, etc.

My contemporaries and I were hypnotized into believing that work was our destiny. Our co-workers became family members just as much as those individuals who are a part of our gene pools. Our job titles were as a part of our identities as our Social Security numbers.

Many of the post-boomer workers look at us older colleagues incredulously, rolling their eyes as our devotion to our jobs became almost all encompassing.  Maybe they have a point.

• • •

When I am not playing Scrabble online, I try to participate in as many strike activities as I can.

Among other things: I have picketed my employer and written thank-you notes to donors to our strike relief fund. I helped to compile the daily strike newsletter. I have taken notes at our daily check-in meetings as well as occasionally presiding at them. I have attended labor rallies and educational events. I have spoken to an adult education program about our strike. I have served on a national planning committee for a union strike school. I serve on a committee that provides financial assistance to strikers in need.

Why do I give my time and energy to such activities?

Well, first of all, I have the time. Secondly, I owe much to the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh; to the past members who won us wage increases, improved benefits and safe working conditions; as well as my colleagues with whom I work.

No one would mistake being on strike as spending the day at Kennywood. Our families have made sacrifices. We continue to appreciate the support of others while we do our best to support each other.

I live alone and for the most part, I don’t mind it. However, at times, the silence can be deafening. Somehow being with my striking colleagues means everything in the world to me. Just hearing about the activities of their children or the ailments of their parents or the misadventures of their pets brings me a sort of comfort.

Yeah, my fellow strikers have become my family.

• • •

I dearly want to get back to work. I want to survey what has happened to the PG library in my absence.

Has anyone been sitting at my desk? If not, how much dust has accumulated on it? Do I remember the passwords to my work computer and various databases to which I had access?

I want to discuss the library’s future with the powers-that-be at the newspaper. I want to check the drawers in my old desk to see what things I might have left in them.

I also wonder what my work life will be like once we return to the office. 

As much as I wish to go back to the PG newsroom, my colleagues and I wouldn’t return unconditionally. The writers, editors, photographers, artists and clerks who worked at the PG in the past fought to get us decent wages, benefits and working conditions. I stand with my friends and colleagues in securing improved wages, benefits and working conditions for those now at the PG and for employees who will come after us.

From left front, striking PG workers Andrew Goldstein, Stephen Karlinchak, Randy Stoernell, Helen Fallon and Ed Blazina write thank-you notes to donors of the Pittsburgh Striker Fund on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at the United Steelworkers building Downtown. (Karen Carlin/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

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