Pittsburgh newspaper union wants publisher barred from newsroom over 'violent' incident

What was described as a "bizarre" and "violent" encounter with the paper's publisher has prompted dramatic action from the union at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazet...

Posted: Feb 14, 2019 1:54 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2019 2:15 PM

What was described as a 'bizarre' and 'violent' encounter with the paper's publisher has prompted dramatic action from the union at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The alleged incident occurred last Saturday night when, according to a detailed account by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, John Robinson Block arrived in the paper's newsroom with his daughter.

Block, the publisher of the Post-Gazette, was described as intoxicated and belligerent by four separate eyewitnesses, whose accounts were published online Wednesday by the Guild.

The Guild has requested that Block address his 'personal issues' before he is 'allowed to return to the newsroom and be around his employees, both for our safety and his.' (Block was back in the office on Thursday but has not yet addressed the matter, according to Michael Fuoco, an enterprise reporter at the Post-Gazette and the president of the Guild.)

Additionally, the Guild has filed an unfair labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over Block's conduct.

The complaint, a copy of which was shared with CNN Business, said that Block '[threatened] employees with shop closure or job loss unless they cease engaging in union or other protected concerted activity.'

John Robinson Block and his brother Allan Block, who serves as chairman of Block Communications Inc., did not respond to a request for comment; a message left at Block Communications Inc. was unreturned.

Marianne Mizera, a web editor at the paper, said that Block arrived in the newsroom with his daughter around 10 p.m., and he was 'immediately yelling about various topics, pointing and waving his finger repeatedly up in the air and swinging his arms.'

'He was very angry and irate,' Mizera said, who added that it was 'clear he was intoxicated.'

The eyewitnesses said that Block was made angrier by a sign posted to a Guild bulletin board in the newsroom protesting the company over a dispute related to health care costs.

'He was going crazy over the 'Shame on the Blocks' sign on the guild bulletin board and demanded that someone take a photo of him and his daughter in front of it,' said Andrew Goldstein, a night cops reporter at the paper. 'She was screaming that she didn't want to, crying hysterically and red-faced. I felt terrible about what I was watching.'

Goldstein said that Block ranted about the Guild's leadership and said he was going to fire various editors and managers, all while 'slapping and kicking the wall near the 'Shame on the Blocks' sign, and pounding his fists.'

Carl Remensky, who works on the sports desk, also witnessed the moment near the sign.

'Eventually he got his daughter in front of the same Guild bulletin board,' Remensky said. 'At one point she appeared very distressed and I saw he had hold of her, with his arms around her waist, trying to pull her back in front of that bulletin board. She appeared to be crying and yelling and appeared doubled over as she tried pull away from him. She got away and Block remained standing at the bulletin board, shouting and slapping the 'Shame' poster.'

Goldstein said he was 'horrified' by what he saw.

Alex Miller, a paginator, backed that assessment.

'I've been working in newsrooms for more than a decade, and this is most bizarre thing I've seen,' Miller said. '[Block] behaved in a way that would get any ordinary employee fired on the spot and escorted out of the building for everybody's safety. He appeared totally out of control. He was loud and violent, and it was frightening to witness because he was so erratic. There was no way for anybody to know what he might do next.'

The Guild said it was prompted to make these accounts public after seeing a 'false narrative' pushed by Allan Block. Block Communications Inc. is the owner of the Post-Gazette, as well as the Toledo Blade and several television stations.

'The frustration over financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry led to an unfortunate exchange with employees of which I have been made aware,' Allan Block said in a statement earlier this week. 'Block Communications regrets if anyone present may have misconstrued what occurred as anything other than an indication of strong concern and support for the legacy and future of the Post-Gazette. We want the entire staff to know that we will continue to value all of our employees and their contributions to the PG.'

In its release on Wednesday, the Guild fired back at those claims, taking exception to Allan Block's attempts to 'whitewash' what transpired.

'To blame John Block's erratic, menacing and disturbing conduct on 'financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry' is cowardly, despicable and a blatant lie,' the Guild said. 'The Guild believes that John Block has personal issues that must be addressed before he is allowed to return to the newsroom and be around his employees, both for our safety and his. We are distraught over his interaction with his daughter and are highly concerned for her well-being.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515208

Reported Deaths: 10290
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34981557
DeSoto33342432
Hinds32718643
Jackson24896391
Rankin22553404
Lee16439245
Madison14949283
Jones14155248
Forrest13829260
Lauderdale12305324
Lowndes11348193
Lamar10687140
Pearl River9739244
Lafayette8867143
Hancock7847132
Washington7555169
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Monroe7055179
Pontotoc7026110
Warren6883178
Panola6783135
Neshoba6740210
Marshall6705142
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Pike5941157
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Attala339590
Winston317992
Chickasaw317667
Clay312778
Clarke301695
Calhoun286349
Holmes272589
Smith269952
Yalobusha244647
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220241
Perry214456
Amite210257
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175241
Jefferson Davis174043
Tunica163539
Benton153239
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134639
Humphreys132239
Franklin126430
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847064

Reported Deaths: 16157
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163702006
Mobile743001381
Madison53394737
Shelby38395371
Baldwin38140589
Tuscaloosa36096642
Montgomery34535782
Lee25639264
Calhoun22620519
Morgan22503408
Etowah20043520
Marshall18812317
Houston17754425
St. Clair16928358
Limestone16178220
Cullman16113304
Elmore15927295
Lauderdale15042307
Talladega14234301
DeKalb13033270
Walker12119380
Blount10756193
Autauga10531157
Jackson10191195
Coffee9431192
Colbert9356210
Dale9035192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell709665
Chilton7077170
Escambia6961144
Covington6956195
Franklin6355108
Chambers5791142
Marion5428130
Dallas5299210
Pike5124109
Clarke485586
Lawrence4841130
Winston4784110
Geneva4649136
Bibb435294
Barbour370080
Butler3445101
Marengo342793
Monroe338066
Randolph337367
Pickens334689
Fayette331385
Henry320866
Cherokee319563
Hale318589
Crenshaw261577
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253355
Clay251669
Macon245465
Conecuh193262
Coosa185647
Lowndes178268
Wilcox178138
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130245
Choctaw93328
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