The timing couldn’t have been better. Dickie Montemayor, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) saw fit to observe this weekend’s Labor Day festivities by dropping a $2 million bomb on the Santa Barbara News-Press and its ever-embattled owner, Wendy P. McCaw, for unfair labor practices and bad-faith bargaining — described variously in the court ruling as “flagrant” and “aggravated” — that the judge said would take 17 paragraphs to list in full. These violations, the judge decreed, date back to more than a decade ago, when that newspaper was in the throes of a bitter labor dispute with its newsroom employees over unionization.
The ruling awarded $936,000 to 40 newsroom workers represented by the union to compensate them for loss of earnings they would have accrued had the News-Press not hired temporary workers to perform many of the functions that would otherwise have been handled by employees covered by the union contract.
Another $221,000 was awarded to workers for merit pay increases they would have received had the management and owners of the News-Press not eliminated the merit-pay-increase system in place when newsroom employees voted to be represented by the Teamsters in September 2006. In addition, the judge ordered McCaw — sole owner of the News-Press — to pay the newsroom union $111,040 for expenses accrued at a time when the owners were engaged in bad-faith bargaining.
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