Melinda Burns (left) and Dawn Hobbs, along with many News-Pressers, placed duct tape over their mouths during a protest in 2006.

Paul Wellman (file)

Melinda Burns (left) and Dawn Hobbs, along with many News-Pressers, placed duct tape over their mouths during a protest in 2006.

News-Press’ Found to Owe Union and Employees $2.2 Million

The legal skirmishing over the firing of reporters at the Santa Barbara News-Press has arrived at a dollar amount owed to employees. The fight began with the walkout in 2006 of six editors and columnist Barney Brantingham over publisher Wendy McCaw’s imposition of restraints on newsroom coverage. When the remaining employees attempted to form a union, management retaliated by firing some of them, an action the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) twice found illegal. The board’s general counsel issued a “compliance specification” on July 13, stating the News-Press owed $2.2 million to the dozens of employees affected.

Both sides have been negotiating since March 2017 to narrow down the issues to compensation for wrongful termination, lost merit increases, lost time from non-union members’ labor, and tax consequences. Because the NLRB ruled the paper had bargained in bad faith, the union was to be compensated for costs and expenses as well.

Ira Gottlieb, attorney for the Teamsters representing the employees, noted that the final amount is to be worked out at a September hearing in Los Angeles. “There have been casualties on both sides,” he said. “They spent an awful lot of money that they didn’t have to spend, and their paper isn’t as vibrant as it once was.” The union and employees took the brunt of the impact, he added, during the 12 years of litigation: “They suffered a lot of harm and difficulty and anxiety.”

Neither McCaw nor the attorney representing the daily paper before the NLRB returned calls for comment.

Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on July 25 to clarify that the six editors resigned.

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