Exactly 18 months and 1½ hours into their unfair labor practices strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a small and tired but still-hanging-in-there group of unionized newsroom workers gathered Thursday afternoon, in person and on Zoom, for a hastily called meeting to hear what had been described in urgent messages as a “strike announcement.”

Zack Tanner, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, stood in the union’s temporary offices at the United Steelworkers Building, Downtown, and adjusted his computer’s camera so members online could see. In the room with him were about 10 of the journalists, who began their strike at noon on Oct. 18, 2022. Once everything was set, Tanner announced he had some “pretty major news. I’ll just cut to the chase on it.”

Then he said words for which some strikers desperately had been waiting: “The 10(j) is officially moved!”

The strikers knew he was referring to a 10(j) injunction. The National Labor Relations Board had authorized the regional NLRB office to seek an injunction in the guild’s and sister unions’ case against the Post-Gazette for dozens of ongoing unfair labor practice violations of federal law.

“OK, this is huge … huge news!” said international NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss, who noted that neither the NewsGuild nor its parent union, Communications Workers of America, ever had gotten such an injunction. They’re rare in any case, with this one being only the second one the NLRB authorized this year.

Possibly at stake, Tanner said, “We’re talking millions of dollars” that a federal judge could compel the company to pay, including to “make whole” workers for at least some of their losses, while also ending the strike and sending the strikers back to work and back to the bargaining table.

Strike leaders had realized during that morning’s regular check-in meeting that the case’s status had changed on the NLRB’s page that describes and tracks 10(j) injunctions.

As the site explains, “Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act authorizes the National Labor Relations Board to seek temporary injunctions against employers and unions in federal district courts to stop unfair labor practices while the case is being litigated before administrative law judges and the Board. These temporary injunctions are needed to protect the process of collective bargaining and employee rights under the Act, and to ensure that Board decisions will be meaningful.”

Especially on this dubious year-and-a-half anniversary of going on strike and joining strikers from four other unions that lost their health care coverage, the striking journalists were well aware of how an NLRB administrative law judge had, in January 2023, ruled resoundingly in their favor that the company broke federal law by imposing conditions (in 2020) and not bargaining in good faith; the judge ordered them to do so and, in the meantime, to return to the terms of their last contract (that expired in 2017).

But in March 2023, the company appealed. The case seemed to just sit there. The strike, the longest strike ever in Pittsburgh and the longest continuous current strike in the country, dragged on through March 2024. And now April. Spring was losing its color.

This tidbit that the Region 06 Pittsburgh NLRB is “Seeking Injunction” is a break in the case that Tanner said means that the regional NLRB office would be gathering additional facts and materials from the guild and other unions and their attorney Joe Pass, and then will file for the injunction in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, probably next week.

Alexandra Wimley, a striking member of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, listens to comments about a 10(j) injunction during a Zoom and in-person meeting at the union’s offices in the United Steelworkers Building in Pittsburgh on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Until that filing is made, Tanner told the group, he couldn’t know the scope of it or other specifics, but an NLRB attorney would be arguing for the guild and three other production unions still on strike: the pressmen, typos and mailers. (The Teamsters recently struck a secret deal with the company to get severance payments in exchange for ending their strike and dissolving their local.)

“This is great news for us,” Tanner said, not something he’s had occasion to say for some time. “It means we have an actual timeline and we have actual things to do” — over the next days and weeks.

This also gives the union a big boost in leverage.

In a Friday news release from the CWA, the Newspaper Guild notes, “The NLRB encourages parties to resolve cases by settlement rather than litigation whenever possible, and more than 90% of meritorious unfair labor practice cases are settled by agreement at some point in the process, according to the NLRB.

“Post-Gazette representatives, however, have repeatedly rejected basic settlements. They have also refused to bargain in good faith, a violation of federal law.”

The release recounts how the PG’s “imposed terms included a health care plan with costs that increased for families by as much as $13,000 per year, loss of a week of vacation, loss of protection from layoffs, and degraded work jurisdiction — essentially undermining union workers’ right to their job duties.”

One striking journalist, education reporter and Post-Gazette unit chair of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Andrew Goldstein, says in the release, “I’ve had my life and safety directly threatened by the PG’s hired ‘security’ on numerous occasions during the strike. …  I look forward to labor law actually being enforced, both for my safety, and the work I want to get back to doing with a hell of a lot more dignity at the paper I’ve read as long as I could read.”

“It’s great that the NLRB is seeking an injunction against Post-Gazette management for repeatedly breaking federal law,” Schleuss is quoted as saying. “Employers cannot be allowed to actively harm workers. The Post-Gazette could settle this and limit their liability at any time.”

Mike Davis, Vice President of CWA District 2-13, agreed, saying in the release, “The Post-Gazette has had the ability to settle the strike at any time, simply by complying with the law, as ordered by the courts and through NLRB decisions. It is unfortunate that the Post-Gazette’s continued unlawful violation of workers’ rights has undermined the rule of law and forced the government to seek an injunction to achieve justice.”

Andrew Goldstein, center, unit chair of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, listens to comments during the Zoom and in-person meeting on the union’s 10(j) injunction. Also listening are NewsGuild staff member Jacob Klinger, left, and strikers Ed Blazina and Emily Matthews. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Tanner is quoted as saying, “As striking workers, we’ve stood strong against Post-Gazette management and the Block family for the last 18 months as they’ve violated labor law and tried to ignore and break our unions. Today’s signal that the NLRB will finally be seeking injunctive relief through the courts is validation that our fight is just and will be won in short order.”

Of course, no one knows how a district judge will rule.

So, especially after a disheartening morning that included an update on tax debts and a disagreement over some strike communications, the journalists were reserved in their initial reactions. Some remembered being elated at the initial news of the NLRB administrative judge’s ruling way back in January 2023. Texted one, “I’ll get excited when something actually happens.”

Some asked questions and made requests, listened to more specifics and scenarios and strategy, and some pondered and appreciated where they were at this point, which Tanner and other leaders enthusiastically reiterated is “historic.” Maybe even a little hopeful?

Striker Ed Blazina said, “I just want to say, I can’t be more proud of the folks still here.”

“This honestly is a monumental moment in labor history,” Tanner said. “… I hope everybody takes a minute to think about that.”

And then, for one day longer, they continued to strike.

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 bbatz@unionprogress.com.

Bob Batz Jr.

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 bbatz@unionprogress.com.