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Post Gazette, city officials respond to police incident with union employee picketers

PITTSBURGH — Six months after walking off the job at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the fight for a new contract took another turn for union employees. Disturbing allegations surfaced Thursday morning about the series of events that unfolded outside of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Distribution Center Wednesday night. Workers on strike said Pittsburgh police got physical with picketers, saying they shoved several people and even used a baton on one woman.

“We were walking the line and the police came and broke out line and assaulted us, pushed me around, knocked me down on the ground,” said Kristen Affrime, CWA LOCAL 1038, Philadelphia.

People provided a cell phone video to Channel 11 that shows an officer pushing a picketer. The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh said another officer batoned a woman to the ground along West Carson Street.

“[This is] the 100th time I’ve been on a line, and I’ve never seen police response like this – ever,” said Lou Mondragon of California

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette provided the following statement:

“Last night, 19 City of Pittsburgh police cruisers were dispatched to our distribution center on West Carson Street where union picketers were attempting to block the delivery of newspapers. This type of activity by the union has been persisting since the beginning of the strike, which began in October. We are shocked that the City of Pittsburgh continues to allow this unlawful conduct by the unions, which is putting individuals in harm’s way.

On Friday, February 17, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief against five unions representing striking employees at the company. This legal action seeks an order to stop the unions and their supporters from trespassing onto the company’s property. As of yesterday, no decision had been reached on this matter.”

But attorney Joe Pass of Jubelirer, Pass & Intrieri, who represents the five unions on strike, said union employees have a right to be on the property.

“They picket in front of the driveway, it does slow down the process, and yes, they have a right to do that. They are not stopping it though,” Pass said.

“This city needs a good newspaper. This city needs its good journalists here covering things – that’s not happening now. That’s not happening with the Post Gazette,” said Steve Mellon of The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

Channel 11 asked Pittsburgh Public Safety officials if officers followed the proper police protocols, if anyone was arrested, and we requested body camera footage. They sent us this statement

“We are aware of questions regarding a protest on West Carson Street last night. We are currently in the process of reviewing all video footage and other resources available to us in order to ensure a complete assessment of events. While we understand the concern surrounding this issue, we ask for patience as this process progresses.”

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