‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Employees Launch Cancellation Campaign

By: Joe Strupp

Newsroom employees of the Santa Barbara News-Press who are seeking union representation in the wake of the recent editor resignations have launched a campaign asking subscribers to cancel their subscriptions if the union is not recognized.

The cancellation campaign is being waged by the same group of editorial employees who have asked to be represented by the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The group began handing out postcards last weekend to local readers that ask the paper to cancel their subscription if the union is not recognized and a contract is not negotiated.

“We have handed out probably 8,000 postcards,” said Melinda Burns, a 20-year staff writer and one of the campaign’s leaders. “Some people have just signed them on the spot. We don’t know how many we have gotten, but it is hundreds, we are hoping to get thousands.”

Organizers are asking subscribers to fill out the cards and send them to the would-be union group. Burns said they plan to collect as many of the cancellation cards as possible by Sept. 5, then turn them in to the newspaper.

Each card states that the person filling it out supports the “Santa Barbara News-Press newsroom staff in its effort to restore journalistic integrity to the paper, obtain union recognition and negotiate a fair employment contract. Cancel my subscription on Sept. 5, 2006 if the employees’ demands have not been met to their satisfaction.”

The postcard image also is available on a Web site the group has created.

Hundreds of subscribers have cancelled subscriptions since the mass resignation of editors that began July 6, newspaper executives have said. Those quitting included former editor Jerry Roberts, five lower editors, and a longtime columnist and investigative reporter. The resignations were in response to accusations of meddling by owner Wendy McCaw and publisher Travis Armstrong, and have received national interest.

McCaw has since denied the complaints of meddling and stated that some staffers left over a difference in news judgment. She also has said that bias had crept into some reporting.

The GCC wing of the Teamsters, which also represents editorial employees at Newsday in Melville, N.Y., has not received any response from the News-Press indicating it plans to recognize the union, Burns said. That, she said, has prompted the cancellation campaign.

“I don’t know whether we have a goal,” Burns said about the number of cancellations sought. “I think the advertisers might be interested if we have a lot of cards.”

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