They got their notices yesterday afternoon: News-Pressreporters Dawn Hobbs, BarneyMcManigal, and Rob Kuznia (pictured) weregiven their walking papers on Monday between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Soon after, the three were at Ruby’sCafe on De la Guerra Plaza, in the shadow of theNews-Press building, for an impromptu press conferenceattended by TV star John Palminteri and bloggerCraig Smith. The Indy‘s Martha Sadler andphotographer Paul Wellman were also there, and Sadler filed thenotes for this report.
This round of firings started after 5 p.m., when Dawn Hobbs(pictured), who has covered courts and crime forthe paper for eight years, was called into a conference room.Inside were Scott Steepleton (pictured), lawyer Dugan Kelley (who’sbeen with Barry Cappello’s firm since 2005), and someone takingnotes. When asked if she participated in theoverpass demonstration last Friday, Hobbs said yes. She alsoasked to call in her lawyer, but she was told, oddly, that she didnot have a lawyer and that this process was not one that requiredlegal representation on her part. (Of course, theNews-Press had an attorney there, so go figure.) Hobbsthen went upstairs toward her office, but the paper’s now notorioushuman relations manager Yolanda Apodaca (who newsroom staffers have been calling the”Angel of Death”) told her she had to leave. Hobbs said she had toget her cell phone and car keys, and when she got to the newsroom,she mouthed to the others, “I’ve been fired.” She was not escortedout.
The process went similarly for education reporter Rob Kuznia,who’s been with the paper for three years. Meanwhile, BarneyMcManigal (picured), a Santa Barbara native who’s covered countygovernment for over two years, called Kuznia from the bathroom andtold him to meet after work at Ruby’s. When he emerged from the bathroom, heran into Steepleton, and was brought down to the conference roomfor a similar process.
The letters that the three received were reportedly very short.Craig Smith has posted aversion on his blog. It is much shorter than the lengthy tomethat Melinda Burns received when she was firedlast October. But more distressing is that it actually lists”disloyalty” as the reason for the trio’s termination. Indeed,Teamsters attorney Ira Gottlieb issued a pressrelease at 8 a.m. this morning, calling the terminations “a blatantbare knuckled attack” and confirming that an unfair labor practicecharge is being filed today with the National Labor RelationsBoard. According to Gottlieb, longstanding federal law protectsemployees who engage in union activities such as Friday’sdemonstration.
Wrote Gottlieb, “In past unlawful firings by theNews-Press, management took the trouble to invent apretext for the discharges, which the union fully expects the NLRBto see through. In yesterday’s firings, however, theNews-Press simply fired the three employees for the statedreason that they engaged in collective expressive activity onbehalf of their union, which is fully protected by the NationalLabor Relations Act.” Gottlieb hopes that, based on these firings,the NLRB will realize that Wendy McCaw and her enforcers are “justthe kind of labor law ‘bad actors’ that invite and compelinvocation of the most stringent and powerful enforcement tools inthe NLRB’s arsenal.”
As for Hobbs, Kuznia, and McManigal, they all plan on gettingtheir jobs back, with back pay. Perhaps most bizarre is that allthree had stories in the newspaper this morning, but their bylineswere removed and replaced with “staff report.”
Another Monday casualty was Sarah Sinclair, theformer advertising director who was recently demoted to classifiedadvertising director. She resigned.
And the purge is not yet complete. Insiders believe that theremay be more firings today, since some of the newsroom employees whoparticipated in last Friday’s demonstration were not terminatedyesterday. Also, according to a comment posted on Blogabarbara at12:31 a.m. last night, N-P management was seizing thecomputers of reporter Melissa Evans and sports guyJohn Zant. That’s not confirmed as of yet, but itsounds like those two might be next.
Until then, let’s ponder these questions:
One, who’s next?
Two, how long can the News-Press management continue tofire reporters because they support the unionization of thenewsroom? Federal law deems this illegal, so it’s got to stopsomewhere, right?
Three, do Wendy McCaw’s lawyers know something about union lawthat no one else does?
And four, how long can the News-Press continue to existas a newspaper with news when all their reporters have been fired? Specifically, who will cover courts, crime, the county, andeducation — all massive beats?
Feel free to answer below.