FROM LEFT:  Tom Schultz, Dawn Hobbs, Teamsters organizer George Perez, Barney McManigal, Rob Kuznia, Anna Davison, Melinda Burns, John Zant, and Melissa Evans rally for the right to organize the Santa Barbara <i>News-Press</i> newsroom.

Courtesy Photo

FROM LEFT: Tom Schultz, Dawn Hobbs, Teamsters organizer George Perez, Barney McManigal, Rob Kuznia, Anna Davison, Melinda Burns, John Zant, and Melissa Evans rally for the right to organize the Santa Barbara News-Press newsroom.

Not Taking It to the Supremes

Six Years After

Thursday, April 4, 2013
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We are two of the eight reporters who were unjustly fired more than six years ago for union organizing at the Santa Barbara News-Press in California. We won sweeping rulings for our reinstatement and back pay at the trial-court level and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), but we lost in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative courts in the land.

After much agonizing, we have decided not to appeal our case to the U.S. Supreme Court. There’s no way around it: The Republican majority on the court is hostile to unions, and we can’t risk cementing a bad ruling in stone. The D.C. appeals court unfairly ignored 70 years of labor law and its own precedent to side with Wendy McCaw, the multimillionaire News-Press owner. The three judges who heard our case, all of them appointees of former presidents Ronald Reagan and H.W. Bush, absurdly found that we reporters were trying to control the content of the paper, in violation of McCaw’s First Amendment rights. But the facts of the case clearly show that McCaw fired us only after the newsroom voted overwhelmingly to join the Teamsters and after we organized a boycott of the paper to press for a fair employment contract.

Although our case has ended bitterly, our colleagues from the News-Press are still trying to win that contract. Two Teamster lawsuits against McCaw are still pending. In one of them, the NLRB ruled that McCaw was guilty of bad-faith bargaining and ordered her to pay all of the union’s expenses from Day One of negotiations. McCaw has appealed that case to the D.C. court. Now, both of the pending cases are expected to be on hold while the Supreme Court reviews the legality of President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB.

If you haven’t already done so, please join the thousands of former News-Press readers who have quit the paper in protest and are never going back. McCaw may have won in court, but on the ground, she has lost everything that matters — her reputation, her credibility, her readers, and the goodwill of her community. We are very grateful for your support over the years — the petitions you signed, the blogs you created, the rallies you came to, the events you organized, the articles you wrote, the speeches you gave, the ads you pulled, and the money you raised to help us make ends meet. Every day that we went out in public with a poster or a leaflet, you told us, “We’re behind you.”

We are also grateful to the Teamsters, who continue to back the newsroom in contract negotiations and in court, spending more than half a million dollars to date. McCaw, surely one of the most blatantly anti-labor employers in the country, has hired nine law firms to try to defeat the union.

The fight for justice at the News-Press is one of the great Santa Barbara stories of our time, and we’re proud to have been part of it. If we ever have grandchildren, we will tell them about the wonderful jobs we had once, covering the news for one of the best dailies of its size in the country. We’ll tell them, “Never forget how the people of Santa Barbara stood up for the reporters who were wronged.”

Melinda Burns is a former News-Press senior writer and 21-year veteran of the paper; Dawn Hobbs was the News-Press crime and court reporter for nine years.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

As one of the tens of thousands who quit subscribing to the once-proud SB News-SUPpress, I admire these women and men who stayed the path, endured six years of hassle and pay loss in the name of principle and freedom of the press (First Amendment). I find this story inspiring and have recounted it clearly to my own students here in SB.
It never ceases to amaze me how this crucial case about freedom of speech and the right to organize got moved away from the 9th US. Circuit Court of Appeals in nearby San Francisco to the ultra-conservative Columbia Circuit Court in far-off Washington, D.C., with its Reagan-era appointees.
To some extent this proves that the USA has degenerated into a blatant plutocracy, where money rules and those who game the system remain in charge of a once-fine newspaper. How far the SB News-Press has fallen from the days when it won a Pulitzer Prize under Thomas Storke for exposing the John Birth society for what it actually was! Shame on you, Mrs. McCaw.
If your next-door neighbor still subscribes to this travesty of a daily paper, please consider gently remonstrating with him/her and urge them to quit... it's one thing you could do.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 12:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm no fan of the N-P, but it is way past time that this issue should finally come to a close even if the outcome is not favorable to the former staffers, most of whom seemed to have moved on. I've lived here for 20 plus years and fail to recall any sort of "golden age" at the N-P during that time. It was a mediocre paper at best prior to the staff firings and it seems to have indeed gotten worse since then. McCaw seems "challenged" in a number of areas, but she has the right to run the paper into the ground if she so chooses. Hopefully, we'll also no longer have to endure the yearly memorials to the "melt down" that are published every summer by former staffers and obsessed blogger-types.

zappa (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We owe it to this community to not support the News Press. It was always mediocre but at least it reproted local news and for real news I got the LA Times. However now we can get free local news online here at the Independent so the NP is superfluous.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I would have to agree that her character has been compromised. I do wonder why the employees believe they can force her into a union contract however. This is an at will employment state and she doesn't have to hire union employees or enter into contracts if she doesn't want to. I know it is horrible to lose your job and the way she went about it was tasteless. I will never purchase a SBNP paper, that doesn't mean I think the union should be able to come in and force its rules and policies on private businesses.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The NLRB is a wobbly left wing shake-down outfit. You don't need to be in a union in order to have good working conditions and pay at a NEWSPAPER! Maybe a coal mine - but get over it! Teamsters! Are you kidding me?

Go get a job and negotiate what you are worth and never forget you are worth EXACTLY what someone is willing to pay you and not a penny more.

Good grief!

willy88 (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 5:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While I refuse the SBNP because of its unfair labor practices, It is no great loss. It's a sloppy, biased newspaper. I applaud all of you who tried to act honorably.

lmeoriole (anonymous profile)
April 5, 2013 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

These workers who voted in 2006 to be unionized chose to be union. It is a right for all employees to be able to form a union and be represented so they have a voice at the bargaining table. For an employer to spend millions of dollars so she does not have a unionized work force does not make bushiness sense. She spent so much more than she would have if she negotiated a fair contract both sides could live with. Of course she has a right to mismanage and make horrible decisions but to destroy the lives of so many people is unjust. I applaud the workers who fought so hard to form a union I also applaud the community who continues to boycott this newspaper. Good luck on your endeavors to get a first contract.

jper33 (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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