NLRB Rules on Santa Barbara Paper: Bad-Faith Bargaining

By: Joe Strupp

The National Labor Relations Board has found that the Santa Barbara News-Press is bargaining in bad faith and will take the case to an administrative law judge, according to the union that filed the charge.

The move follows a charge filed in May by the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has been representing News-Press newsroom employees since 2006.

“After the News-Press stalled the first day of bargaining for over a year through legal maneuvering, the parties first met to negotiate in November, 2007,” the union stated in a release that said the NLRB general counsel had informed them of the pending complaint. “The News-Press conducted itself at the table as if the Union had not won the right to bargain, seeking to maintain the pre-union status quo in its bargaining positions and to avoid agreement, while doing what it could, lawfully or otherwise, to frustrate the newsroom employees hoping for workplace improvement through negotiation of a contract.”

News-Press officials could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. The NLRB has not set a hearing date for the latest complaint.

Tony Bisceglia, assistant to the regional NLRB director in Los Angeles, said no formal complaint had been issued. But he said parties in the cases are often informed that one is pending.

“We will generally tell parties at a certain point in the investigation, but not tell the press,” he said, declining to say if that had occurred in this case.

The union won a secret ballot election in September 2006 to represent newsroom employees. That vote came months after former editor Jerry Roberts and several other top editors resigned in July claiming that owner Wendy McCaw had been interfering in newsroom decisions.

During the two years since that incident, more than 40 newsroom staffers have been fired or resigned, with a slew of NLRB complaints filed by both the union and management.

“The News-Press has committed and been found guilty by an Administrative Law Judge of no less than 15 labor law violations, including the unlawful firings of eight reporters,” the union said about the past complaints. “The News-Press has appealed that decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.”

“We would much prefer that the News-Press bargain in good faith and reach a satisfactory agreement, than have to go to the NLRB to once again force the newspaper to adhere to basic labor law requirements”, Teamster negotiator Nick Caruso said in a statement. “We have been quite reasonable in our positions, and quite clear as to what it will take to get an agreement. We recognize these are tough times for newspapers, but the News-Press in turn has to recognize that the Union is here to stay, that the employees need and deserve some basic protection and stability, and that the best way to improve the paper and the atmosphere in the newsroom is to reach a fair employment contract.”

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