‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Files Challenge to Union Vote

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By: Joe Strupp

As it promised last week, the Santa Barbara News-Press has filed formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the recent vote by newsroom employees to allow the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to represent them.

Claiming “the conduct of the union affected the results of the September 27, 2006 election,” the newspaper, in a statement Wednesday, also accused the labor organizers of “union coercion of employees, circulation of false and misleading information and potential criminal threats against the company.”

But the paper did not cite specific examples of such alleged behavior.

Ira Gottlieb, an attorney for the union, blasted the accusations and said they were aimed at delaying the inevitable bargaining negotiations. “I know that there wasn’t any coercion from the union, I know that there weren’t any threats,” he told E&P. “The charges are bogus and they really have no chance of overturning this election. It’s a delay tactic.”

The challenge follows the vote last week, 33 to 6, by newsroom employees to unionize. The vote was the latest in a string of labor disputes at the paper that began in July with the first of more than two dozen newsroom resignations, including that of top editor Jerry Roberts. The paper also disclosed two more resignations today, adding copy editor Al Bonowitz and reporter Starshine Roshell to the list.

“The NLRB regulations provide for an investigation of the objections or challenges by the agency’s Regional Director,” the paper’s statement said. “The company’s objections to the election are consistent with the Unfair Labor Practice charge previously filed against the union by the paper. The News-Press is committed to ensuring that all actions and outcomes associated with this union campaign, including the recently held election, are found to be fair, legal and according to the rules and regulations set forth by the NLRB. “

In its statement, the paper also contends that its operations have not been adversely impacted, declaring “the paper continues to publish daily, just as it has for the last century. The focus remains on getting past the issues and improving the paper, the news coverage and the service the News-Press provides to the Santa Barbara community.”

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