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News-Press Takes the Offensive

While Lawyers Begin Bargaining, the Paper Again Seeks to Nullify Union Vote


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In the same week the Santa Barbara News-Press announced it would begin bargaining with its unionized employees, it also took legal steps to re-challenge the certification of the Teamsters union that represents those newsroom workers. News-Press attorneys are citing two bombastic e-mails uncovered in the now four-week-long trial to revisit issues raised last January when the News-Press unsuccessfully charged the 33-to-6 vote in favor of the Teamsters should be set aside because of intimidating and threatening conduct by union supporters.

Specifically, the News-Press argued that last August 24, about 15 workers were loud, disruptive, and intimidating when delivering a list of demands to then acting publisher Travis Armstrong. The judge in that case found the testimony of Armstrong to be self-serving and unreliable, and upheld the union vote.

But in the recent trial-in which the National labor Relations Board has prosecuted the News-Press for nearly 20 federal labor law violations-News-Press attorneys have uncovered two e-mails written by former reporter Tom Schultz, a pro-union activist, describing in the event in much more raucous and confrontational terms. Had the first judge been aware of these e-mails, the News-Press is arguing, perhaps he would have ruled differently. Union lawyer Ira Gottlieb has sought dismiss the e-mails as “adolescent” chest thumping at odds with the facts. But even if the e-mails painted an accurate picture, he said, it would still not be reason enough to set aside results of last September’s union election.

Until that issue is resolved, however, the News-Press is legally obligated to begin negotiations with the union. In the meantime, reporter Hannah Guzik-one of the News-Press‘s more prominently featured recent arrivals-has left her job. The NLRB-News-Press trial resumes next Monday with the paper’s lawyers continuing to make its defense.

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