Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #29: Saturday night sucker punch!

For those who may not read the news everyday, but would still like to know what's going on in Pittsburgh.

Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, holds up a picture of one of the injured strikers at a news conference Monday, March 13, 2023, at the Post-Gazette headquarters on the North Shore. Photo: Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress.

Striking PG Teamster struck. The first American newspaper strike in over 20 years has gotten even uglier: a non-union truck driver who crossed an active picket line allegedly assaulted two striking PG union workers protesting at a Post-Gazette distribution facility on West Carson Street, leaving one man with a broken jaw and in need of facial reconstruction surgery. Jillian Forstadt and Julia Zenkevich report for WESA

The injured Teamsters intend to press both civil and criminal charges against the Post-Gazette. Labor leaders are calling for complete video and body cam footage from the incident to be released. Pittsburgh Police responded but made no arrests at the time of the incident. The Post-Gazette filed a lawsuit last month attempting to seek an injunction against similar protests at their West Carson Street facility.

In a cruel twist of irony, both of the hospitalized men are without health insurance, as Post-Gazette ownership, Block Communications, refused to cover a $19/ week increase in insurance costs, which galvanized workers to strike in the first place. 

MORE: The Union Progress quoted Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, who said the strike is “getting more and more close to a full eruption.” ALSO: Joshua Benton breaks down the two competing narratives for NiemanLab.

PG Weinstein expose. Three journalists who are crossing an active picket line at the Post-Gazette published a report Friday that could shake up the county executive race: as early as 2021, the FBI “started asking questions” about 6-term county treasurer and county executive candidate, John Weinstein, regarding his position on the 3-person ALCOSAN board, which is responsible for some $2 billion in contract recommendations.

The questioning led county executive Rich Fitzgerald to decline to reappoint Weinstein to another term on the ALCOSAN board, but surprisingly, his replacement, State Rep. Nick Pisciottano, was voted down by Weinstein allies on county council even after he was previously endorsed in committee by many of the same dissenting council people.

NOTE: In solidarity with striking workers, the Independent, as well as many others have signed a petition vowing, among other things, not to share Post-Gazette content. This has prompted some to develop novel methods to share the fruits of good reporting without supporting the unjust ownership.

GASP takes on US Steel. GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, filed a lawsuit urging the EPA to challenge the Title V operating permit of US Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. The organization argues Clairton’s latest permit “doesn’t hold the company to a plan to remedy the source of the violations, as mandated by federal law.” Jillian Forstadt reports for WESA. MORE: US Steel announced Tuesday they will start to decommission three of the 10 remaining coke batteries at Clairton plant “later this month.” Reid Frazier reports for Allegheny Front.

A ‘criminal solution’. “A system so broken some defense attorneys avoid it entirely.” A Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and Spotlight PA special investigation of mental health policies in PA’s criminal justice found that “determining whether someone is mentally fit to stand trial in Pennsylvania often traps them in the very place making them worse — jail.” Words by Brittany Hailer and Danielle Ohl.

A “warning shot” to nonprofit hospitals. A Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the nonprofit Tower Health charged a Montgomery County hospital exorbitant management fees “and rewarded executives for the financial success of the hospitals,” disqualifying them as a “purely public charity.”  Ashad Hajela reports for Spotlight PA. RELATED: From May 2020: “UPMC rakes in $228 million in federal stimulus money.”

South Side restaurants survive. Covid-19 knocked out businesses up and down East Carson Street (RIP Rex Theater, Stagioni, Verdis, and others), but these three Black-owned businesses have managed to thrive: Gabriella’s diner; Back to the Foodture burgers, and Carmi’s Soul Food. The New Pittsburgh Courier reports.

Walnut sues Oakland homeowners: Walnut Capital “didn’t own the land where it wanted to build Oakland Crossings,” a 426-unit apartment building and grocery store on Halket Street in Oakland. Now, the developer is suing Oakland homeowners to force a sale, even after missing separate $100 thousand payments to each of the 19 property owners with homes on the intended development site, as was stipulated by the original sales agreement.  Ann Belser reports for NEXTpittsburgh.

Fears of an Appalachian wasteland. Amid a growing petrochemical hub in the Ohio River Valley, fears of environmental devastation have risen since the East Palestine train derailment. Eve Andrews reports for Grist.

Candidates’ pollution concerns. Candidates for county executive express their views on Allegheny County air pollution. It’s a taste of content to come in a series of reports on local air quality from PUP, Pittsburgh Independent, The Incline, Ambridge Connection, and Mon Valley Independent, supported by the Pittsburgh Media Partnership. Hannah Wyman reports for Pittsburgh Union Progress.

Grad student stipends spark organizing effort. After nearly unionizing in 2021, in an election that saw the university “engage in unfair labor practices,” low wages are prompting some Pitt grad students to consider another organizing effort. Emma Folts reports for PublicSource.

County jail concerns remain. The first in a two-part series examining Allegheny County’s justice system through the lens of the 2021 death of Gerald Thomas, who died at Allegheny County Jail 17 days after charges against him were dropped; as well as the judge currently under investigation who sent him there. Sean Campbell reports for BlackPittsburgh, in partnership with Pittsburgh City Paper and The Garrison Project.

Davis fires lifer liaisons. Lt. Gov. Austin Davis has so far refused to acknowledge the firings of two former lifers who received clemency under Governor Tom Wolfe and had been working in the Lt. Governor’s office. The men worked “ as liaisons between the Board of Pardons and men and women in prison seeking clemency.” Described as “success stories,” the men were fired after nearly four years employment. Joshua Vaughn reports for PennLive. (Non-subscribers can check out Vaughn’s Twitter thread on the matter.)

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.