Judge Says News-Press Violated Federal Labor Laws

Sweeping Decision Orders Re-Hiring of Fired Reporters, Back Pay, and More

Paul Wellman (file)

The decision comes much earlier than some had predicted, but it confirms what many have been alleging for months now: the Santa Barbara News-Press violated multiple federal labor laws over the past year, and the paper’s management will have to re-hire illegally fired employees and pay back wages, among other required remedies.

So decreed Judge William Kocol (pictured above) on Wednesday, December 26, in a sweeping decision that found News-Press management – including owner/publisher Wendy McCaw, co-publisher Arthur Von Wiesenberger, associate editor Scott Steepleton, and human relations director Yolanda Apodaca – at fault for the treatment and intimidation of the paper’s newsroom, which voted to unionize in September 2006. Basing his decision largely on the credibility of witnesses presented by the federal prosecutors and the News-Press‘ defense attorney Barry Cappello during the NLRB hearings held from August through September 2007 in Santa Barbara, Kocol determined that all of the unfair labor practices filed by the NLRB were indeed violations and ordered immediate actions to right the wrongs.

Melinda Burns, outside the NLRB hearing.
Paul Wellman (file)

According to the order, in the next two weeks, the News-Press must re-hire Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Tom Schultz, John Zant, and Melissa Evans, must back-pay those fired employees as well as fired editor Bob Guiliano, and must retract any related negative performance reviews or letters of reprimand. The judge also issued a wide-ranging cease-and-desist order against management, protecting current and future employees against surveillance, threats, interrogation, firings, or any other actions related to their union involvement. And this order must be posted in the newsroom.

To see the 78-page decision yourself, go here.

And for a more detailed explanation of Kocol’s decision, plus some deeper analysis, check Independent.com later this afternoon.


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