Pittsburgh Union Progress workers hold bake sale as strike against the Post-Gazette enters its sixth month

Written By Cassandra Harris and Carson Folio

On Tuesday, March 14, friends, union members, political candidates and families in support of the  Pittsburgh Union Progress (PUP) strike baked cakes, pies and other sweets to raise money for the PUP’s striker fund. The Post-Gazette (P-G) strike is approaching six months now with peaceful negotiations losing traction since an altercation at a Post-Gazette distribution facility between a protester and Post-Gazette truck driver just days before the bake sale.

According to Newspaper Guild representatives the workers are on strike to secure fair wages, yearly raises and affordable healthcare.

“Members of four of five Post-Gazette unions walked off the job Oct. 6 in protest of a new health insurance plan that shifted a greater share of cost to employees, saying the change was not bargained as required by their contract,”  an article from the P-G said. 

According to the P-G, the new coverage roughly doubled monthly premium costs for union members with benefits provided by a high-deductible plan. The bake sale was intended to help fund the members on strike, around 60 bakers helped.

“Everything that we gathered today monetarily will go to the strike fund for the workers who have been on strike for 140 days,” said Cheyenne Gallivan, a member of the United Steelworkers union. “I lose count, I’m sure they don’t, but it has been a long time.”

They called it their solidarity in our recipe bake sale. To Allie Petonic, a member of United Steelworkers local 3657, solidarity for the workers on strike means many things. 

“We understand their struggle for the work and the dignity of their work and for a fair contract,” Petonic said. “Understanding that solidarity, treating each other’s struggle and each other’s fight, but also what we need is important for somebody else as it is for any of us” 

One of the strikers, Andrew Goldstein, was Editor-in-Chief of the Globe in 2014 and worked at the P-G five months ago covering K-12 education. He took charge of the action committee for the striker paper and was at the bake sale to help package pies and cakes.

“Our striker fund goes to the 100 people who have been on strike now for more than five months,” Goldstein said. “We have since the beginning been raising funds to help people pay their bills, pay rent, car payments, medical bills, you know, food, whatever they might need.”

The fund is regulated by a union that strikers go through so that they can access the funds when unexpected costs show up. 

So far supporters have donated over 250,000 dollars for the striker fund but much of that aid is already gone, the bake sale raised 4,000 dollars for the fund. The strike hasn’t been financially easy for guild members like Goldstein. Many strikers have health problems, but Goldstein affirmed that they are being taken care of.

“It’s been a massive hit, I think, like many strikers we have missed out now on probably well over $10,000 of pay, probably really far more than that,” Goldstein said. “We’ve missed out on opportunities for overtime pay. We’ve lost our healthcare. It’s a stressor. You find yourself sometimes, thinking twice when you go to the grocery store.”

Goldstein is represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, one of five unions on strike.

“Striking is kind of a full time job and I’m really busy with events like this or picketing or planning different actions,” Goldstein said. “Being able to write for the PUP kind of keeps me sane, keeps me doing what I’m trained to do.”

The last contract between guild and union members of the P-G expired seven years ago in 2017. Presently, with their most recent contract expired, the P-G is seeking a court order to, “stop picketers from trespassing.”

According to Goldstein, close to 110 strikers remain, while the P-G noted the ranks of striking members had been thinned by union members who have found other jobs.

“What they’re currently doing is not respect,” Steelworkers member Gallivan said. “This is disrespect at the highest level and this event today and the strikers on the picket lines shows that this community won’t put up with it.”

 Goldstein is tired of striking. 

“You know, it’s time to end this madness, the money that they’ve spent to try to fight the workers who are on strike is far beyond what it would have cost them at the very beginning and even now still to end,” Goldstein said. “We all want to get back to work, we are all eager to get back to work, but the Post-Gazette has to treat us fairly.”

According to the P-G, about 60 non-management newsroom employees are continuing to work for the P-G

It is unclear when or if a deal will be made between the two sides.