Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headquarters

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are shown in this undated photo.

(Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

'AI Will Not Scab Us': Post-Gazette Newsroom Decries Use of Artificial Intelligence

"As newsroom jobs continue to disappear due to corporate greed and mismanagement, we stand firmly against any use of AI that takes work out of union members' hands," said one labor leader.

Amid a nearly 16-month strike by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette employees, the union representing workers at Pennsylvania's top newspaper by circulation on Monday filed an official grievance condemning the use of artificial intelligence to create an illustration published in the previous day's edition.

"The Post-Gazette's attempt to replace our labor with artificial intelligence is a serious concern to journalists not just in Pittsburgh, but all across the country," Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president Zack Tanner said in a statement Tuesday. "As newsroom jobs continue to disappear due to corporate greed and mismanagement, we stand firmly against any use of AI that takes work out of union members' hands."

Post-Gazette production, distribution, and advertising workers have been on strike since October 2022, primarily over the loss of their healthcare plan. According to union officials, Block Communications, the paper's owner, refused to pay an additional $19 per week for each employee to keep workers' existing coverage.

The paper's workers have been without a contract since March 2017, when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired without a replacement.

Newspaper Guild workers are demanding:

  • An end to the impasse in contract negotiations;
  • Undoing the unilaterally imposed working conditions and reinstatement of terms of the expired 2014-17 newsroom contract;
  • A return to the bargaining table to reach a fair deal with the journalists represented by the Newspaper Guild; and
  • Meeting the healthcare demands of striking sister unions.

Block Communications has hired more than two dozen strike-breaking workers to ensure continued Post-Gazette publication during the prolonged union action. However, this is apparently the first time management has passed over human workers in favor of AI.

"AI will not scab us," the Newspaper Guild defiantly declared, using the colloquial labor term usually reserved for human beings who cross picket lines.

Common Dreamsreported last year how the AI and fake content industries pose an increasing threat to journalists' livelihoods around the world.

"As the [Post-Gazette] resists working with us to put an end to this strike, they continue to sink to new lows in an effort to crank out whatever product they can cobble together," Jen Kundrach, a striking illustrator at the paper, said Tuesday. "That they've resorted to the use of inferior, AI-generated images rather than custom art by a staff illustrator shows how little they must value the talent of their guild staff. They'd rather squander that talent and put out a subpar newspaper than come to the table and reach a fair agreement with us."

Post-Gazette workers are buoyed by a January 2023 National Labor Relations Board ruling that found management did not negotiate in good faith, imposed illegal working conditions, and unlawfully surveilled unionizing workers. Block Communications legal representatives appealed the decision. Strikers and their supporters are slated to attend a Saturday strategy session at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Union Hall at 10 19th Street in the South Side Flats.

Tanner asserted that if management thinks "that this fight is over, they are dead wrong."

"Workers on strike won't stop fighting, because Pittsburgh deserves a newspaper created by union labor, not artificial intelligence or scab workers," he added.

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