Teamsters Drop Three Unfair Labor Charges Against Santa Barbara Paper

By: Joe Strupp

As the labor battle sparked by last summer’s mass resignation at the Santa Barbara News-Press continues, management has won the latest round with the union representing newsroom workers agreeing to withdraw three unfair labor practice charges.

News-Press officials said the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, voted in just three months ago as the newsroom bargaining representative, withdrew the charges after the National Labor Relations Board found insufficient evidence to proceed on them. The NLRB also dismissed a fourth claim brought by the union against the paper, alleging unlawful surveillance of employees.

“We are encouraged that after a thorough investigation by the NLRB, these four baseless union claims were found to be without merit,” said David J. Millstein, News-Press general counsel.

Teamsters officials had no immediate comment Tuesday.

The three charges withdrawn by the union included allegations that the paper unfairly discharged an employee; conducted an unlawful interview with an employee; and unlawfully changed work assignments.

The paper also has temporarily blocked any effort to negotiate with the new bargaining unit by challenging the election that authorized the Teamsters to represent some 65 newsroom employees. The NLRB has yet to set a date for a hearing on the challenge.

The ongoing labor battle began when five newsroom staffers, most of them editors, walked off the job in July claiming that owner Wendy McCaw had meddled in newsroom decisions. Since their departure, at least two dozen more staffers have quit, while a handful of others have been fired. The paper has said it hired about 20 people to replace them and said the paper continues to focus on “its core business of providing the news.”

Among those fired was Melinda Burns, a longtime reporter who clams she was let go for her union organizing activities. An NLRB complaint was filed on her behalf claiming wrongful termination. An employee-backed Web site, www.savethenewspress.com, launched a petition drive protesting Burns’ ouster, which appears to have some 700 signatures.

Another group of supporters, comprised of current and former Santa Barbara residents, has created a fund for those who have left the paper. The Journalists Loan Fund, which claimed to have raised at least $16,000 since August, has already provided $3,500 to three former staffers, according to Sue Broidy, a former Santa Barbara resident and treasurer of the group.

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