Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feds allege more labor law violations at News-Press


Federal attorneys plan to prosecute the Santa Barbara News-Press for allegedly violating federal labor law by firing a pro-union newsroom employee two months ago, authorities announced yesterday.
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed their decision after investigating the firing of News-Press reporter and copy editor Dennis Moran, who was handed a termination letter on Aug. 30, union officials said.

Ira Gottlieb, an attorney representing the newsroom union, alleged the firing came as a result of Moran’s position on the union’s negotiating team and to “strike fear into the dwindling ranks” of union employees at the newspaper.
“It is regrettable that the News-Press continues to punish its conscientious, hard-working employees because they support and are active in the union,” Gottlieb said in a prepared statement. “Management’s intimidation tactics are blatant and transparent, but they will not deter the employees who still courageously support the union and each other in their steadfast efforts to achieve a fair employment contract to improve the working conditions at this newspaper.”
News-Press representatives disputed the charge, alleging that regional labor attorneys have lost objectivity with respect to issues involving the newspaper after losing an attempt to have eight fired reporters reinstated by the court.
“The union files charges in complete ignorance of the facts, but that is understandable since they have a willing audience in the [NLRB] region staff,” News-Press attorney Barry Cappello said in a prepared statement. “We know why the individual was terminated and so does he. Now unfortunately it will have to become public.”
Cappello did not elaborate on the reasons given for Moran’s termination. Gottlieb also declined to discuss the topic, although he mentioned the newspaper had suspended Moran in the weeks leading up to his termination.
Gottlieb noted the latest unfair labor practice charge is among several pending against the newspaper, which has been embroiled in a labor dispute since July 2006, when a handful of editors quit over what they termed inappropriate influence on newsroom affairs by owner and publisher Wendy McCaw.
A total of 15 labor law violations filed against the newspaper and found to have merit by an administrative law judge late last year are awaiting a decision by the NLRB on appeal.
Gottlieb said that decision will likely not come before the next president of the United States appoints a new member to the three-seat NLRB, which currently has two members.
In response to the lengthy litigation process, union officials sought a temporary injunction to reinstate eight reporters fired by the newspaper, but a district judge ruled against the injunction earlier this year. Gottlieb said whether an appeal hearing of that decision will take place should be determined in the next four to five months.
In the meantime, he pointed out several additional labor law violations — some still being investigated and others moving toward prosecution — filed against the newspaper for bargaining in bad faith, discontinuing annual employee evaluations and failing to provide requested bargaining information.
“Management will continue to lie about and misrepresent what’s going on at and away from the table, and attempt to frustrate the newsroom employees, but no one is persuaded by distortions from a recidivist labor outlaw,” Gottlieb said in the statement.
Cappello said the newspaper plans to mount a vigorous defense to all charges it faces.
A hearing on the outstanding charges has yet to be set, and Gottlieb said he expects federal labor attorneys to package all pending violations into a consolidated complaint.

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