By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh have asked that Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block be banned from the building or searched for weapons before entry following a weekend newsroom tirade that witnesses described as “berserk.”
You can read our full account of the incident here from yesterday’s story. But a portion of the memo reads: “Block was screaming at the top of his lungs, raving like a lunatic and repeatedly and loudly slapping the Guild bulletin board with his hand. Block threatened to fire various managers, get rid of Mike and me and, most significantly, shut down the paper if the “goddamn Guild” did not remove the sign by Monday or Tuesday.”
A memo was sent from Guild President Mike Fuoco and Jonathan Silver, unit rep, to managing editor Sally Stapleton and Lisa Hurm, P-G vice president and general manager, on Monday. The memo came two days after Block entered the paper’s newsroom at 10 p.m. Saturday night. Block wasn’t alone on his trip, he also had his pre-teen child with him following a dinner at the Duquesne Club. Block’s goal, according to Silver’s email, was to take the child’s picture next to a newsroom sign that read, “Shame on the Blocks!” Guild members anonymously told the Current that the sign was put on a bulletin board controlled by the Guild in protest of negotiations over healthcare benefits. Block’s demeanor worried employees enough that they called union reps, Stapleton and the company’s head of HR.
In the memo Fuoco and Silver write:”On the advice of our attorney, please consider this notice that members of the Newspaper Guild who are fearful for their safety will report to work from home unless and until: A.) John Block’s employee badge is deactivated, preventing him from entering the building and the building guard is instructed to not allow him to enter. B.) Or, in lieu of that, he consents to a search for weapons by an independent third party of his person and his office.
“Newspaper Guild members are ready and able to fulfill their duties as employees of the Post-Gazette as per the contract and will do so off-site if need be. Please know that this action, should it be taken, has nothing to do with contract negotiations and labor relations. It is solely and exclusively because people are fearful of another Capital Gazette newsroom rampage in light of John Block’s unhinged, threatening and abusive conduct. It is incumbent upon the Company to make sure all employees, managers and union alike, are afforded a safe environment in which to work. Given the events of Saturday, it is clear that John Block’s actions are unpredictable and aggressive and that he has antipathy for “the goddamn Guild.” It is not unreasonable for Guild members to fear that his hostility could could morph into violence.
“Should we not hear back from you with a definitive action plan by 9 p.m. today, we will notify our members that if they are in fear of their personal safety and they feel coming to work is a potentially hazardous working condition, beginning tomorrow they should report telephonically to their supervisor to inform them they will be working from home until this issue is resolved to the Guild’s satisfaction. Please be aware that in the absence of a concrete commitment by BCI to protect Post-Gazette newsroom employees, the Guild will have no other option but to pursue other means to safeguard our members and, by extension, our managers.”