Post-Gazette cuts will be 'devastating' to delivery, printing departments
A pile of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspapers is shown on June 20, 2019. (Sarah Kovash/WESA)
Union leadership anticipate layoffs in delivery and printing departments at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, following a July 18 announcement that the paper will cut two more days of its print edition.
“We can’t even anticipate how many jobs will be lost,” said Teamsters Local 211 president Joe Molinero, whose union members deliver papers to drop off sites. “This is devastating to our people. We’re probably going to lose 50 percent of our people, without a doubt. And the problem is going to be, the other 50 percent that could be still employed … Who’s going to continue to work there and raise a family with only three days income? That’s a serious problem.”
Molinero estimated he has roughly 100 union members in his unit and said many of them had upwards of 40 years experience.
The once-daily paper will only print on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays effective Sept. 30, and also plans to halt distribution of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The Post-Gazette does not print those publications, it only distributes them.
“If they eliminate [one partner publication], such as USA Today, it really doesn’t affect the delivery because [the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal] still have to be delivered,” Molinero said. “When they eliminate them all, such as they’re doing, that’s a problem.”
Distributing print content is “a pretty significant cost,” according to Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s business media analyst. “We can go back to the paperboy days and somebody could cover 200 stops within the neighborhood. As the household penetration gets worse and worse, it’s more driving, it’s more gas…it’s just more expensive to do.”
In a statement, the New York Times said it plans to continue to offer seven-day distribution in the Pittsburgh market, regardless of what organization does the distribution, but didn’t have public information available about a new distributor. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today didn’t return a request for comment.
In the lead up to the announcement, Molinero said he and other union leaders knew the company planned to cut one or two days of publication, but that the Post-Gazette didn’t say when they would do so.
“[The company] sprung that on us without telling us,” Molinero said. “All they would say is we’re looking to reduce [printing] by one or two more days, but never told us when it was going to happen.”
Molinero said 22 people in his unit were laid off last September, just over a month after the paper transitioned from a daily publication to five days a week. He said severance packages included up to six weeks pay and no health care benefits. Molinero hopes they will be able to negotiate better severance for future layoffs but said no meetings had been scheduled yet.
Layoffs are also possible for the nearly two dozen pressmen who print the Post-Gazette, according to Chris Lang, president of GCC IBT Local 24 M/9N.
“Let’s be honest, the newspaper industry has been going downhill for years, we understand that,” Lang said. Like others, Lang worried the company’s decision isn’t taking into account the county’s older population that prefers a print edition of the paper.
“There’s a lot of seniors out there that want to read the newspaper,” he said. “I’ve talked to numerous … neighbors that have said, ‘I don’t wanna go on the computer and do the crossword puzzles. I want to sit at the table, have my coffee, and read the newspaper.'”
Lang put the state of the Post-Gazette squarely on Block family, who owns the newspaper.
“They’ve just slowly manipulated everything to almost make it look as though it’s the employees’ fault, and it’s a terrible thing,” he said. “I think it’s a disservice to the city of Pittsburgh, to the people that live here.”
Lang said the Post-Gazette also prints the Ellwood City Ledger, the Beaver City Times, the Pitt News, the Green Scene, Senior Times, and The Bulletin. Lang doesn’t know whether those publications will be affected.
The Post-Gazette did not respond to a request for comment.