On the Beat 3-9-2007

At this rate, all the fired News-Press journalists will be on Social Security before the National Labor Relations (NLRB) Board finally hears their case.

Whenever the feds schedule a hearing, the News-Press commits a whole new raft of alleged unfair labor practices, the union files complaints and the NLRB postpones its hearing.

I don’t know if this is the News-Press strategy, but it seems that all it has to do is keep the unfair labor practice complaints coming and the hearing dates will just keep fading into the future.

On the Beat

Case in point: Next week’s NLRB hearing into the firing of veteran reporter Melinda Burns, gag orders, canceling Starshine’s column in apparent punishment for her union activity and suspension orders to 11 newsroom employees has been postponed indefinitely, according to Sally Cappon of the Lompoc Record. That, according to the NLRB, is because new ULP complaints were filed, including firing of six reporters for taking part in a freeway demonstration last month.

Didn’t the NLRB have enough on its plate already to conduct a hearing about the Burns complaints and others? Why wait for more? Here you have the basic problem with the flawed system of trying to enforce laws allowing employees to organize. A reporter like Burns, a strong force in the union, is fired, leaving her without income, health insurance, her career in tatters and unable to participate in the union effort, waits months and perhaps years for justice.

There’s a saying in the courts: Justice delayed is justice denied.

Oddly, the vaunted, feared Teamsters are looking pretty timid in the News-Press case. I say: get thee to a judge and demand prompt action.

Meanwhile, something shadowy is going on behind the scenes. Several anonymous posts on BlogaBarbara have made vague allusions to alleged misconduct on the part of -who? Is this a bombshell about to burst? On Independent.com’s Santa Barbara Media Blog, reporter Drew Mackie writes about how the NP has subpoenaed Google in an attempt to learn who posted a January 27 comment on BlogaBarbara. The comment read, in part: “I believe a bombshell of conduct by a former employee is about to be exposed. It will forever change the way people jump in to protect someone they really do not know on a personal level. The one’s who came to the defense of the ex-employee will now be tainted with a stain that can never be erased.”

So what’s up with this? So far, there’s been no public explosion, but plenty of whispering behind the scenes. If the comment reflected badly on an employee and the union effort, why is the NP trying to expose the poster’s identity? Maybe to protect itself from any accusation that it had a hand in the slur?

Columnist Craig Smith reports on his blog that Nicholle Chaparro, a NP administrative assistant in classified advertising, is the latest to defect from the paper. “Nicholle handled all of the wedding, engagement and anniversary announcements among many, many other duties. Nicholle had been there almost three years. She left to take a much better paying job at Village Properties in Montecito.”

(Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes a Thursday print column in the Independent and Tuesday and Friday online columns.)


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