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labor ‘Solidarity Is a Verb’: Pittsburgh IBEW Local Rallies to Side of Striking Newspaper Workers

“They have been through so much,” Layhew said of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America members who walked out in October 2022 over health care, wages and audacious attacks on their contract. “I really felt for them.”

Members of IBEW Local 29 join striking PG workers on a North Shore picket on Monday, March 4, 2024, (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Until he attended his first labor council meeting in February, Pittsburgh Local 29 lineman Jordan Layhew didn’t know about the long strike against his city’s newspaper or how badly its workers were hurting.

Shaken to hear a veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter’s grim update on their shrinking strike fund, Layhew sprang into action.

“They have been through so much,” Layhew said of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America members who walked out in October 2022 over health care, wages and audacious attacks on their contract. “I really felt for them.”

A chief steward, Layhew rallied his co-workers at Duquesne Light Co., passing the bucket for donations and leading nearly 20 members to join the picket line after their shift in early March.

For the weary strikers, whose walkout is the second-longest in NewsGuild history, it was a big booster shot of morale.

“It’s very easy to get to a point where you feel so isolated and alone, like nobody cares, and then you have a day like that,” said reporter Andrew Goldstein, NewsGuild-CWA unit chair at the Post-Gazette. “It was a special feeling for every one of us.

“Truth is, this strike would have failed without groups like Local 29,” he said. “It’s a different industry, very different type of work, but it goes to show what people say, that Pittsburgh is a union town.”

About half of the IBEW contingent came from the local’s budding RENEW chapter for younger members, which Layhew, 25, spearheaded and now chairs. “I think we’re up to 108 members,” he said. “I can’t take credit. My business manager, Josh Ewing, and all of our leadership support our group so much, anything we need.”

Layhew approached Ewing and others after the Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council meeting, where he was sworn in as a delegate representing Local 29.

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“We were spitballing about what we could do for the strikers,” he said. “I thought, ‘What better thing than to have these young guys come down and see what a strike looks like?’ They’d never seen one, and I hadn’t either.”

But they’d come close. On the picket line, Layhew told Guild members that his own unit voted to authorize a strike before ratifying a new contract last October.

“We weren’t in the position you’re in, but we felt like we were getting close to that point, to a strike,” he said, as reported by the Guild’s strike website, Pittsburgh Union Progress. “When we heard you’d been out 17 months — that’s mind-blowing that you guys are still putting up a fight.”

Goldstein and veteran reporter Ed Blazina, the local’s first vice president, pulled no punches about the economic and emotional toll on members. But they also stressed their unshakeable resolve against a punitive new generation of management at the family-owned newspaper and its union-busting lawyers.

“We are not going to roll over,” said Blazina, whose report to the labor council inspired Layhew. “There’s a reasonable cost for doing business, and they have to be willing to pay that.”

Since the early 2000s, the Guild officers said, the company has clawed back roughly $100 million in concessions from the union and four smaller bargaining units on the production and delivery side that are also on strike.

Blazina said the Guild was willing to negotiate givebacks at first, understanding that the Pulitzer Prize-winning Post-Gazette, like newspapers nationwide, was struggling financially. But the bloodletting never stopped, he said, and Guild members haven’t had a raise since 2007. Now, “They’re paying scabs more than they were willing to pay us.” 

In 2020, three years after the last contract expired, the company imposed conditions, further slashing wages and benefits, forcing a more costly health care plan onto workers and even killing the 40-hour week — meaning “you might work 33 hours one week and 12 the next,” Blazina said.

The animus wasn’t limited to the bargaining table. In a 2019 incident documented by outside media, one of the paper’s owners came into the newsroom late at night, saw a union sign and flew into a rage in front of his young daughter. Angrily, he told her not to associate with the “working class.”

“Exactly what happened,” Goldstein said. “I was there.”

An administrative law judge issued a scorching decision against the paper in 2023 on multiple violations of federal labor law. Confident of winning again, the Guild is anxiously waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to act on the company’s appeal. 

Meanwhile, contributions to the union’s dwindling strike fund continue to be a lifeline for members, helping cover rent, medical emergencies, car repairs, broken appliances and other necessities.

Jordan Layhew of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 29 speaks to striking Post-Gazette workers during a picket at the newspaper’s North Shore offices on Monday, March 4, 2024. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

As Layhew arrived at the March labor council meeting, he crossed the room to hand Goldstein an envelope stuffed with cash — $1,161 donated by his fellow linemen and other Local 29 brothers and sisters. 

Ewing, who observed the moment and later heard a grateful Goldstein speak from the floor, said he “couldn’t have been more proud.”

“He got emotional thanking Jordan and Local 29. It was quite a scene, the kind of thing you love to see,” he said, heaping praise on Layhew, a third-generation IBEW member whose father, Richard, is business manager of Pittsburgh Local 1919.

“We’ve donated to the strikers a few times, but this event was 100% Jordan,” Ewing said. “He has been phenomenal as a young leader. You couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

The feeling is mutual. “My dad pointed me in this direction,” Layhew said. “It was the greatest decision I’ve ever made. Not just to be a lineman but to be part of the IBEW. It’s fantastic. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”

Layhew said he’s been overwhelmed by thank-yous from Guild members — at the meeting, on the picket line and afterward at a pub where the Local 29 group treated strikers to drinks and eats. “I told them: ‘We’re here for you. We need to stick together.’”

Blazina heralded the “amazing support” from the labor movement at large and Local 29 specifically, summing up his appreciation as only a writer might:

“Lots of times, people treat solidarity as a noun,” he said. “Solidarity is a verb. Solidarity is doing something. And, wow, did these guys rally to the cause.”

Donations to the striking NewsGuild-CWA members can be made at

This story was first published in the IBEW Media Center on March 18.

An IBEW staff writer since 2017, Janelle started out as a Guild member in Eugene, Oregon, before joining the CWA and NewsGuild-CWA media offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Email her at

About the Pittsburgh Union Progress:  Launched on Oct. 20, 2022, the Pittsburgh Union Progress is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and contributors including a summer intern or two). The PUP covers the labor dispute and other important community news and serves as a voice for the people of Pittsburgh.

This publication will be shut down at the resolution of the labor disputes.  In the meantime, we’re proud to belong to the Pittsburgh Media Partnership that encourages collaboration and advocates for local journalism.