Feds File Charges Against the News-Press

NLRB Cites Many Illegal Moves by Newspaper Management and Sets
February Hearing

The National Labor Relations Board today, December 28,
filed a complaint against the Santa Barbara News-Press
alleging labor law violations stemming from newsroom unionization
efforts and set a February 26 hearing in Santa Barbara. nlrb.jpg Charges include the firing of veteran
reporter and union leader Melinda Burns, illegal
gag orders, threatened suspensions, and cancellation of union
activist Starshine Roshell’s column. “The NLRB
general counsel’s decision to prosecute the News-Press for
its serious labor law violations validates the union’s position
that the News-Press is a labor outlaw trafficking in
threats and intimidation to transform the newsroom from a haven of
journalistic professionalism to a den of arbitrary management
fiat,” said Ira Gottlieb, attorney for the
Teamsters Union.

Not so, contends
David J. Millstein
, general counsel for the
News-Press. On Thursday afternoon (soon after this article
was initially posted), he explained, “The News-Press
welcomes the opportunity to have these issues heard as part of due
process by the administrative law judge, and intends to further
demonstrate that the management decisions in question were fair,
consistent and undertaken for legitimate and lawful reasons. We are
confident that these claims will be found without merit.”

Newsroom employees recently voted 33-6 to affiliate with the
Teamsters. The NLRB has already set a January 9 hearing at the
Santa Barbara Bankruptcy Court over News-Press allegations
that the election was unfair. Gottlieb termed the paper’s claim

The union will press its request that the NLRB “seek injunctive
relief against the News-Press to gain immediate
reinstatement for Ms. Burns and a rollback of the
News-Press’ unlawful policies and discipline” pending the
February 26 trial before an administrative law judge, Gottlieb
said. The hearing will be held at 1 p.m. at the Bankruptcy Court, a
federal facility.

The NLRB complaint released today, December 28, cited these
alleged federal labor law violations: the cancellation of Roshell’s
column; the issuing of two-day suspensions to a delegation of
employees who sought to deliver a petition to News-Press
owner Wendy McCaw (pictured); WendyMcCaw.jpg and the firing of Melinda Burns in
retaliation in order to discourage others from taking part in
legally protected unionization activities.

The NLRB complaint also charged that the News-Press
interfered with employee rights by issuing an August 10 “conflict
of interest” policy restricting public speaking; that associate
editor Scott Steepleton “threatened employees with
discipline if they engaged in an employee delegation;” and that
human resources director Yolanda Apodaca issued a
memo “threatening its employees with discipline if they engaged in
any employee delegation.”

The February 26 hearing will be conducted similar to a civil
trial but without a jury, with evidence taken and witnesses called,
Gottlieb said. It is not known whether McCaw will be called as a
witness. The complaint resulted from a “thorough and painstaking
investigation” by the NLRB staff, including witness interviews and
evidence gathering, Gottlieb said.


The prosecution “is further validation of the ‘McCaw Obey the
Law’ signs displayed in shop windows and vehicles in town, which
have drawn litigation threats made to local business owners by a
News-Press lawyer, and a sharp rebuke to that McCaw lawyer
from a constitutional lawyer at the ACLU,” Gottlieb said.


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