When the Blog Wags the Dog

FOOTBALL FURIES: Now that summer is officially
dead and the schools are back in session, we have a few seconds to
reflect on the advent of football season. I find
the team names of Santa Barbara’s three high schools—I know, I
know, there’s only one that really counts—really curious.

Santa Barbara High School—THE high school—has
the Dons, a name that refers back to the landed
gentry who ran the show back when the Spaniards and Mexicans were
still in charge. San
Marcos
—Santa Barbara’s second high school—has
the Royals, which harkens to a priveleged elite
even more exclusive than the Dons. Of course, that made a certain
degree of sense. The parents of the first class of Royals were the
tip of the spear of Santa Barbara’s suburban expansion in the late
1950s. Then in 1966, Dos Pueblos popped up, reflecting the fast and
furious pace of growth and development in the Goleta
Valley
. DP has as their team the
Chargers
, which I suspect was a rip of the
Chargers
of San Diego
, the professional football team started
and owned by a hotel tycoon—one of the Hiltons, no less—and named
after, some say, the instrument by which Americans could buy now
and pay later. [Editor’s Note: That seems to be a somewhat dubious
claim, but we’ll leave it in for rumor-starting sake.] (The DP’s
Charger logo is not a credit card, or even the lighting bolts
of the San Diego team, but rather a charging steed on top of a coat
of arms.)

With names like these, why not have teams called the
Fat Cats, Autocrats, and Plutocrats. But team names have
meanings that transcend everything, especially their specific
associations and connotations, no matter how offensive.

Just look at the Washington Redskins, a name so racist that even the NFL has sanctioned the team.
But the Skins are beloved in a town whose population is
overwhelmingly African-American. And once the football starts
flying, all this is just so much lather. Then only thing that
matters, then, is performance and results.

Typically, the News-Press has done a good job covering
the gridiron exploits of Santa Barbara’s junior giants. This year,
however, there’s reason to wonder just what the News-Press
will do. Its prep sports reporter, Mike Traphagen,
has announced his resignation from the newspaper, making him the
16th disaffected soul to depart the N-P for greener
pastures in the past six weeks. Traphagen knew the local sports
programs inside out, which makes his loss substantial.

Normally, someone like Traphagen would be replaced and there’d
be a learning curve for the newcomer. But in this case, there’s
reason to wonder what the News-Press’s commitment is to
high school sports. In years past, N-P owner Wendy
P. McCaw
has wondered out loud how much money she could
save by axing high school sports coverage altogether. Some, no
doubt, but not nearly as much as the paper would lose in terms of
community connection.

UNFAIR LABOR STRIFE: The News-Press
reportedly dropped its Unfair Labor Practice
complaint against the Teamsters organizers seeking sign the newspaper’s
newsroom workers into a union. The News-Press action came
after National Labor Relations Board investigators
determined there was no merit to newspaper management’s claim of
unfair tampering against union organizers.

Specifically, the News-Press had charged that former
editors and managers who have since quit had pressured and coerced
newsroom employees to sign Teamster pledge cards. Union
representatives had countered that no one in a management position
had behaved as charged, at least not while they were still employed
by the News-Press. But even if former managers had urged
News-Press workers to sign cards requesting a union
election, the NLRB argued, there would be no coercive
relationship.

huffhead.jpgNews-Press publicist
Agnes Huff (pictured) denied the newspaper
withdrew its complaint, stating the paper had simply amended it.
The latest allegation is that newsroom workers seeking to affiliate
with the Teamsters violated the National Labor Relations Board
rules for organizing by marching “en masse” through the newsroom on
several occasions in a loud and intimidating fashion. Huff said
such behaviour was disruptive and bullying to other workers and
would not be condoned.

While Huff did not elaborate with specific details of such
incidents, newsroom workers supportive of the union said that they
have gathered in groups to meet with editors or other management
figures, or to give a rousing send-off to one of the many newsroom
workers who have resigned in recent weeks. In one instance, a group
of newsroom workers sought to meet with Wendy McCaw and approached
her office in a sizable gathering to do so. They claim they were
told McCaw was in a meeting, but that she might be available later
in the day at 4 p.m. When the group started to assemble for the
four o’clock meeting—which had never been officially scheduled—they
were ordered by their editor Scott Steepleton to
get back to work. They complied.

Even with the amended News-Press unfair labor practice
complaint, Teamster organizer Marty Keegan
expressed confidence the election could proceed swiftly, perhaps
sooner than the September 21 target date. That’s of strategic
significance, Keegan said, because the longer the newspaper could
delay the union election, there would be fewer workers left likely
to be sympathetic to the union cause.

At last count, eight non-management workers have left the
News-Press in the past six weeks. According to the
N-P publicist Agnes Huff, the newspaper has hired about a dozen
replacement workers. Keegan added that the News-Press just
fired the second law firm it had hired to maintain a union free
workplace. In addition, newspaper management just terminated a
contract with the security firm that had provided service for many
years, opting for a new company instead, allegedly on the advice of
the paper’s new “security counsultant.” That would be
Nick Montano, a private investigator
who engages in “corporate espionage.”

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