By: Joe Strupp
It appears that last week’s string of firings at the Santa Barbara News-Press has not stopped ongoing protests of the embattled paper as the six fired employees, and others, announce plans to continue their campaign against the daily with regular protests this week.
After losing their jobs for placing a protest banner over a freeway that urged a boycott of the paper, the six employees, along with two others fired earlier in the months-long dispute, say they will hold daily protests in front of the paper and at other locations around the city this week, with the first set for early this morning.
“In light of the mass illegal firings at the Santa Barbara News-Press, the eight who have been terminated will continue protests this week,” an e-mail to reporters from Dawn Hobbs, one of the recently dismissed reporters, said.
It went on to note that the protests will be:
? Today – 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – “A banner and signs at corner of
Garden and Guitierrez streets.”
? Wednesday, Feb. 14 – 1:30 p.m. — A “loud protest in front of the News-Press, with a Valentine theme.”
? Friday, Feb. 16 – 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – “A banner and signs at the corner of Carrillo and Castillo streets.”
“The banner efforts are to encourage readers to cancel their subscriptions,” the e-mail added. “The goal of the noisy protests are to annoy management and to also show support for our colleagues who are still in there.”
The employees added that “a very large rally” was being planned by local residents for Wed., Feb. 21, at noon.
The events follow last week’s firing of Hobbs and five other newsroom employees, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, John Zant, Melissa Evans and Tom Schultz, who took part in the banner hanging on Feb. 2. They followed the earlier firings of Anna Davison and Melinda Burns.
The Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which was voted in to represent newsroom employees last fall, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week claiming the newspaper, and its attorney, A. Barry Cappello, illegally threatened workers.
The charge, posted on an employee-run Web site, claims Cappello violated workers rights by telling them they would lose their jobs if they engaged in protest acts similar to the banner incident.
“Capello threatened the remaining employees by proclaiming that ‘people who want to engage in conduct that harms the newspaper…will not remain employed.’ He was further quoted as follows: ‘the paper had an absolute legal right to do what they did and would do it again in the face of disloyalty such as that.'”
Cappello could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
The recent events are the latest in a long-running battle at the paper between newsroom workers and owner Wendy McCaw dating back to the July 6, 2006 resignation of several editors, including top editor Jerry Roberts, who claimed McCaw was interfering in newsroom decisions.
Since then, 38 employees have either quit or been fired, the newsroom has voted in the Teamster unit as its representative, and various NLRB complaints have been filed by both sides. McCaw has also challenged the union vote and sued a reporter for the American Journalism Review for libel after she wrote an article about the dispute.
The NLRB issued a complaint in December that found the News-Press engaged in unfair labor practices and improperly sought to discourage union activities. The complaint, prompted by a string of employee charges filed with the NLRB in recent months, cited several examples of anti-union actions at the paper, including the suspension of several employees and the previous firing of a former reporter.
The NLRB set a Feb. 26 hearing date before an administrative law judge who will determine if any of the charges are valid.