Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Union files another charge against News-Press


Union representatives filed a new unfair labor practice charge against the Santa Barbara News-Press yesterday in protest of what they term an illegal hiring practice.
Officials with the Graphic Communications Conference, a division of the Teamsters, filed the complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging the daily newspaper with using “temporary” employees to undermine the recently certified newsroom union.

“This union avoidance ploy will not stand,” Teamsters negotiator Nick Caruso said in an e-mail. “We tried to address and resolve this fundamental issue at the bargaining table without adversary action or rancor, but the employer insisted it has the right to continue to shrink the bargaining unit … while adding in unprecedented fashion, an allegedly ‘temporary’ workforce.”
Agnes Huff, a spokeswoman for the newspaper, said any public statements on the matter will be handled by attorney Barry Cappello. Calls to Cappello and Michael Zinser, who both represented the News-Press in a recent NLRB hearing into 15 other unfair labor practice charges, were not returned yesterday.
Ira Gottlieb, an attorney representing the union, said he gave the newspaper management every opportunity to work out the issue without resorting to legal action.
“In the spirit of trying to cooperate with them and not go the adversarial route, I wrote Mr. Zinser a letter on November 16 and asked him to respond by [Monday],” Gottlieb said. “I got no response at all as of the close of business.”
Gottlieb explained that the newspaper has subcontracted newsroom work that should be performed by union-represented employees to workers from local temp agencies.
At first “we had very sketchy information and we knew just from reading the paper that there were names we didn’t recognize,” he said.
After researching the matter, he said he contacted the News-Press attorneys, citing “pretty clear cases” that show the hiring practice is a violation of the law.
“It really didn’t take a lot of time to find the case,” Gottlieb said.
When he brought the matter up at the bargaining table, Gottlieb said the newspaper management told him they would need more time to respond in writing. He added that no attempt was made to ask for additional time or explain their position before Monday’s deadline.
“They are just trying to ride out the storm,” he said. “It seems to me that the answer to this is to put those people in the [bargaining] unit.”
Following his filing of the unfair labor practice charge yesterday, Gottlieb said he received an e-mail from Zinser stating “It’s unfortunate you had to file this. I haven’t had a chance to respond.”
“We have not gotten a substantive response,” Gottlieb said.
General counsel for the NLRB will investigate the charge and determine whether to move forward with prosecution, union representatives said. Unless the two sides can reach an agreement, the matter may have to be resolved in court or before an administrative law judge, as in previous disputes involving the News-Press and the union.
“We’d prefer a satisfactory resolution,” Gottlieb said. “I said that to them at the table and I said that to them in my letter. We don’t want to go this route. But we really don’t think we have a choice.”

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