Personal File: Law Suits instead of a Gold Watch
News-Press accuses Teamsters of tagging; updates on Melinda Burns firing
Santa Barbara News-Press Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge
against Teamsters Union for Secondary Activity
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Santa Barbara
News-Press has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Teamsters Union
for threatening and coercive secondary activities directed at its
distributors in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
The charge states that the union, through its representatives,
engaged in, or encouraged others to engage in, secondary activities
directed at independent newspaper distributors whose livelihoods
depend on selling individual copies of the News-Press from
newspaper racks. Banners calling for the cancellation of the
News-Press have been placed on a local newspaper rack.
Single copy newspaper racks have also been vandalized with
anti-News-Press graffiti, and newspapers have been stolen
from the racks.
Based on the union’s concerted and public campaign urging
subscribers to cancel the paper, the News-Press believes
that this theft and vandalism, which hurt its distributors, are
attributable to the union.
The union’s campaign against the News-Press most
recently included reporter Melinda Burns’ claim that she was fired
from the paper in retaliation for her role in the union campaign.
This claim is absolutely false. Ms. Burns was terminated because
she violated journalistic standards by repeatedly injecting
personal bias into her reporting. She continued to do so for at
least five years, in spite of repeated warnings by her editors that
this was unacceptable. The specifics of Ms. Burns’ actions are
outlined in her termination letter from Associate Editor Scott
Mr. Steepleton wrote, “Despite counseling, admonishment and
warnings over the past five years, you have ignored this duty and
consistently produced biased and one-sided reporting which promotes
your own personal views. You have been given repeated warnings, and
every opportunity to improve, however, you have chosen not to do
so.” It is this well documented history of biased reporting that
resulted in the termination of Ms. Burns.
One of the latest examples of bias includes an article Ms. Burns
wrote on ballot Measure D which ended up in a campaign mailer that
was distributed to thousands of voters and made it appear that the
News-Press was endorsing the measure.
The News-Press has an obligation to its readers to have
unbiased news reporting and could not in good faith continue to
tolerate such lack of balance in reporting, particularly where it
would impact an election campaign. Contacts Agnes Huff
Communications Agnes Huff, PhD, 310-641-2525
(Hat Tip to poster “Royale With Cheese” for the initial
Huff-reference, which had the beauty headline, “N-P Files Another
NLRB Claim; Steepleton Slags Burns.”
The following are comments from another post regarding this
This is the most asinine charge I have ever read. To call
Melinda Burns a biased reporter is a classic example of stupidity.
I do not know Scott Steepleton, but from what I have seen he is
incapable of judging the work of others, especially that of a total
professional like Melinda Burns.
And just who is biased here? Melinda writes a balanced
pre-election story about Measure D, a issue the News-Press
editorial opposed. Who’s biased?
So her story got picked up by Measure D supporters. How many
candidates tout newspaper endorsements in campaigning? It is common
practice for campaigns to quote from newspaper articles. The bias
would fall to the supporters of the issue, not the reporter who has
presented both sides.
My guess is that Wendy knows she messed up in firing Melinda so
now she starts a campaign to discredit her and save herself. Well,
I got news for you Wendy. It’s too late.
Posted by another ex inmate | November 11, 2006 07:41
Come on…accusing the Teamsters Union of street graffiti? Looks
like an excuse to dump on a dedicated 21-year employee just before
a fancy dinner, with candlelight both inside and outside the Four
Seasons. Employee matters are “internal,” Wendy insists, unless she
wants to slam someone unfairly, without opportunity to respond, by
releasing excerpts from an employee’s confidential personnel file
in a national press release. But if an employee speaks up against
her publicly in a newspaper like the Indy, where Wendy can respond,
bam…a lawsuit. Sick. Does the union mean anything? Isn’t the union
supposed to protect employees from this kind of abuse?
Posted by incredulous | November 11, 2006 09:14 AM
A few points …
Yes, a union is very good at protecting from this sort of
illegal firing a) once its presence is certified by the feds and b)
through a contract.
The newsroom has neither so far. Wendy is stalling, stalling,
stalling contract negotiaions by objecting to the landslide
election with the NLRB.
So… SB, cancel your subscriptions. If this downward spiral
continues, you’ll be doing it anyway. Do it now and you’ve got a
chance to help end that spiral.
Secondly, this asinine charge that the union is responsible for
vandalizing a newsrack is patently absurd, unless they’ve got some
hard evidence (doubt it, where’s the police report then?). These
boxes are planted on friggin street corners. The whole concept
behind a newspaper machine is that it’s ACCESSIBLE TO THE ENTIRE
Note to Santa Barbara: Only an idiot would take your entire town
for idiots. That’s the writing to be found between the lines of
that press release.
And btw, since when does a company put contents from somebody’s
personnel file online? In a national press release, no less.
As a longtime observer of labor disputes, I can tell you the
Teamsters have a few far more tried, true and effective — and
legal — pressure tactics to fall back on, rather than vandalism
and graffiti. Why would the Teamsters risk taking to the streets
with a Sharpie?
Prediction: Charging Melinda with bias is incredibly subjective.
You can’t prove it. The paper is going to lose a round in firing
Melinda, who will be reinstated and justly compensated.
Posted by a few things | November 11, 2006 10:14 AM
I am amazed and astonished by the latest posting by Agnes Huff.
I hope someone from the legal community can comment on the legality
of publishing an excerpt from an employee’s file, without fear of
reprisal. I believe that there are laws regarding this and it would
be a service to everyone to know these facts. What is also amazing
is that this release is not only unprofessional, it shows the world
how vindictive and immature Ms. McCaw is. Melinda Burns has over 20
years of experience and has won numerous awards for excellence for
her writing. I don’t know of any awards Ms McCaw has won for her
journalistic skills. This is just another “personal” vendetta
thinly veiled by Ms Huff’s spin doctoring. I hope the citizens of
SB will turn out in force tonight to support Melinda and the rest
of the employees. Posted by Ex Inmate | November 11, 2006 10:48
and one more thing …
If Melinda’s “bias” issues were an ongoing 5 year problem, why
terminate her just days after she successfully led a union drive to
I’m calling b.s.
This was a vendetta, plain and simple. Payback from Wendy for
DEVALUING her “shop” as it shall soon be known by, I’m guessing,
millions of dollars.
The McCaw News Press:
bling -> blang -> blop -> thud.
Kinda like the rest of her business endeavors.
Congrats to the newsroom for your 33-6 defeat of Wendy’s McNews
machine. I have no doubt that in due time you will reap many
rewards – both journalistically and financially.
Posted by a few things | November 11, 2006 11:16 AM