News-Press newsroom staffers will vote on forming a union September 26—unless new hurdles loom. There are 37 reporters, photographers, editors, and others eligible to vote, union leaders said at a press conference today, September 5, at Storke Placita, adding that they are confident of approval of more than the necessary 50 percent plus one.
However, attrition among the staffers continues. Today sports desk staffer Kim Burnell left, the 17th to resign since the meltdown began in early July. Although newsroom personnel appeared at the conference, they did not speak due to a gag order that’s under protest by the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters.
But Teamsters’ organizer Marty Keegan announced that so far about 3,000 subscribers have canceled, including those who signed cards pledging to quit by today if no agreement had been reached with owner Wendy McCaw. “We feel that over 10 percent (of subscribers) have cancelled,” he said. “We ask the rest to cancel as soon as possible” to support the journalists.
Although a meeting with News-Press management during the weekend resulted in no agreement over such disputes as beat changes and suspension of nearly a dozen employees who sought to deliver a note to McCaw, there has been tentative agreement on all sides to hold the September 26 vote, Keegan said. “We know we have the votes,” he said.
The weekend talks were sought by News-Press management but did not involve McCaw, the union said. But a community group that included respected journalists Sander Vanocur and Lou Cannon, civic leaders Harriett Phillips and Connie Hannah, and the Reverends Teena Grant and Ken Collier said they asked to meet with McCaw to “explore any and all alternatives to this damaging and seemingly endless confrontation.” They did not hear from her. Rev. Grant said that a letter from a list of religious leaders asking McCaw to treat the journalists fairly was rejected by the News-Press, but published in The Santa Barbara Independent.
Meanwhile, the News-Press has hired its third set of labor lawyers since the union began organizing on July 6, said Ira Gottlieb, Teamsters attorney.
Sue Broidy announced that residents concerned about journalists who have lost their jobs at the paper have set up a Journalists Loan Fund, Attn. Sue Broidy, 3412 Calle Noguera, Santa Barbara, 93105. The Santa Barbara Bank and Trust account number is 0100252972. More than $1,000 has already been raised and she said she expected to raise at least $5,000 by the end of the week.