‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Union Organizing Pre-Dates Mass Defections

By: Joe Strupp

Newsroom employees of the Santa Barbara News-Press were apparently upset enough, even before last week’s multiple editor resignations, to seek union representation, according to a union official.

George Tedeschi, president of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamster, said his California representative had been approached several weeks ago by editorial employees looking for union support.

“They asked if we would represent them, it has been a matter of weeks,” said Tedeschi. “We are going to ask the employer to recognize the union and hopefully they will. If not, we will have to take whatever steps necessary to get the employees certified.”

Tedesch’s comments followed a report on the Web site www.laobserved.com that several News-Press editorial employees had approached Publisher Travis Armstrong earlier this week to inform him that the union request had been made. Armstrong could not be reached for comment Friday.

Word of the union organizing comes just a week after the News-Press underwent a massive editorial leadership resignation, which included Editor Jerry Roberts, five lower editors, a longtime columnist, and an investigative reporter. The resignations, which began July 6, were in response to accusations of meddling by owner Wendy McCaw and Armstrong.

McCaw has since denied the complaints and stated that some staffers left over a difference in news judgment. She also hinted in Thursday’s paper that bias had allegedly crept into some reporting.

Tedeschi, whose union also represents editorial employees at Newsday in Melville, N.Y., said the News-Press employees would likely seek a certification vote if the newspaper declines to recognize the union. “We prefer to work with the employer, but the employer has to be reasonable,” he said, declining to say how long such a vote might take to occur. “It depends upon what course of action we determine to go. The NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] can be a long, drawn-out process.”

When asked about the News-Press situation, which has already prompted heavy criticism from local residents and journalists, and at least 100 subscription cancellations, Tedeschi said it was obvious employees feel the need for group strength.

“People are upset, but there is another alternative,” he said. “To form a union.”

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