Judge Orders News-Press Owner to Obey the Law
Handing a major victory to eight fired reporters at the Santa Barbara News-Press, a federal judge ruled that Wendy McCaw, the paper’s multi-millionaire owner and co-publisher, repeatedly and flagrantly broke the law to try and keep the Teamsters out of her newsroom.
Administrative Law Judge William Kocal denounced the “flagrant nature of the violations in this case” and McCaw’s “widespread, general disregard for the fundamental rights of the employees.”
Kocol ordered McCaw to reinstate the eight and “make them whole” for lost benefits and pay, with interest. He said the News-Press must discard bad evaluations given union sympathizers and stop intimidating, threatening, harassing, disciplining, firing and spying on employees who showed support for the union.
The judge thoroughly discredited Associate Editor Scott Steepleton, who the News-Press claimed made all the termination decisions. Kocol said Steepleton’s testimony in court was “exaggerated if not totally fabricated” and occasionally “had a smirking quality to it.”
McCaw, who has hired 10 law firms in an attempt to thwart unionization, has vosed to exhaust all avenues of appeal. The National Labor Relations Board will seen an injunction against the News-Press this spring in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, asking for immediate reinstatement of the fired reporters.
“We very much look forward to reclaiming our rightful jobs and providing the community with the quality journalism it deserves,” said Dawn Hobbs, one of the eight illegally fired reporters and a union leader. “While our reinstatement would be a critical step in the right direction, this fight is long from over. We still need to settle on a fair employment contract that each side can agree to.”
Melinda Burns, a News-Press senior writer who was fired in late 2006 after 21 years at the paper, said Kocol’s ruling was a “sweet victory” in the fight for workers’ rights and journalistic integrity at the News-Press.
“The law has finally caught up with Wendy McCaw,” Burns said. “We are very happy that the judge’s ruling came down so strongly in our favor. We look forward to returning to our jobs and signing a fair employment contract with McCaw.”
The News-Press newsroom voted 33-6 in September, 2006, to join the Graphic Communications Conference (GCC), a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “The judge’s decision was a rebuke of vindictive management policies and a victory for courageous editorial writers who were punished for exercising their basic right to organize,” said George Tedeschi, GCC President and Teamsters International Vice President.
“We are proud to support News-Press employees who stood up for their beliefs and would not be bullied,” Tedeschi said. “The good guys won, for sure.”