Fired News-Pressers Don’t Get Jobs Back, Yet

Ninth Circuit Denies Rehearing of Teamsters’ Injunction Request; Eight Former Employees Still in Legal Limbo

The eight News-Press journalists who were allegedly fired for their union activities won’t be getting their jobs back anytime soon, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to rehear the matter on Thursday. The decision, which was solely related to an attempt to have the journalists immediately reinstated, does not affect the overarching case against the News-Press, which is expected to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board at some point in the future. The court’s refusal to reconsider the matter en banc (with the circuit’s full slate of judges) leaves the January 2010 decision — in which two judges denied the reinstatement and one disagreed — intact.

We are disappointed that the Ninth Circuit as a whole decided not to review what we strongly believe is an erroneous opinion by the two-member majority on the panel refusing to grant interim, temporary relief while the NLRB deliberates,” read a prepared statement from Ira L. Gottlieb, attorney for the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that represents the newsroom. “It must be emphasized, however, that this appellate decision has no bearing whatsoever on the merits of all of the many findings of unfair labor practices that have been made by three Administrative Law Judges in the last three years, condemning the News-Press for no fewer than nine illegal firings of union supporters, bad faith bargaining without any desire to reach agreement from day one of the negotiating in November 2007, surveillance, threats, use of ‘temporary’ employees to undermine the bargaining unit, discontinuance of annual merit raise policy, discriminatory evaluations done to single out union supporters, and other changes of terms of employment that cannot be implemented without notice and bargaining with the union.”

News-Press co-publishers Wendy McCaw and Arthur von Wiesenberger felt validated by the decision, offering a joint statement over email: “Three times this case has been heard, once in Federal Court in Los Angeles, and now by the Ninth Circuit. These justices ruled what we have argued all along, that the Teamsters’ goal of taking over the content of the News-Press infringes our First Amendment right. It is high time the Teamsters leave the News-Press and our community in peace.”

The case is the result of the July 2006 meltdown at the News-Press, in which most of the daily paper’s newsroom managers quit over ethical concerns after owner Wendy McCaw intruded into the newsgathering process. Following a duct-tape-over-mouth display by journalists outside the iconic News-Press building in De la Guerra Plaza, more resignations followed, and then a unionization drive occurred. The leaders of that movement were soon fired, and that’s what triggered this aspect of the massive legal war. It remains anyone’s guess as to when the NLRB will actually make a final decision on the case.

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