Let the Games Begin

NLRB Hearings Begin For News-Press

Monday, January 8, 2007
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Tuesday Kicks Off the News-Press NLRB Hearings

Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 9, at 9 a.m. in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on State Street is the hour everyone's been waiting for since the newsroom of the Santa Barbara News-Press overwhelmingly voted to join the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. That's when an administrative law judge representing the National Labor Relations Board will hear objections to the September 27 pro-union vote, which was 33 in favor of unionization and 6 opposed.

The hearing was scheduled soon after the vote, when News-Press owner Wendy McCaw did what many business owners faced with unionization do: charge that the vote was somehow compromised and file objections to the outcome. Specifically, McCaw's team is charging four things.

The first is that newsroom supervisors were involved in the election, which is not allowed according to the NLRB. This is seems to be a fairly common charge in unionization cases.

The second is that the website and various bumper stickers issued by the Teamsters tricked some employees into believing that the newspaper itself was in favor of unionization.

The third is that a threat posted by an unnamed commenter on intimidated some employees into voting for unionization.

And the fourth is that the newsroom staff engaged in threatening behavior when delivering a letter to McCaw as a group.

The hearing is expected to last three days and is open to the public. Numerous witnesses will be called to vet these charges, and then the judge will decide whether McCaw's side has merit.

So what are the odds of her succeeding? Well, McCaw's legal eagles already submitted charges #1, #2, and #4 to the NLRB as unfair labor practices. The NLRB threw them out. (The NLRB did not, however, throw out the charges levied by the newsroom staff against McCaw and N-P management. Those unfair labor practice charges will, in fact, be heard on February 26.)

And for #3, the threat posted and then taken down at Blogabarbara? Since the N-P itself reposted the threat in a press release on Business Wire, thereby disseminating it to a wider audience, it seems doubtful that a judge would see in their favor on that one.

The union proponents are going into tomorrow's hearing with their heads held high. "We anticipate victory in connection with these baseless objections," explained a recent press release, "which were clearly filed by the company with the sole intent of delaying SBNP co-publisher and owner Wendy McCaw’s obligation to sit down at the table and negotiate a fair contract with her employees which will restore integrity to the newsroom."

So get ready for the showdown. The gloves come off tomorrow.

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