A day after union officials filed another unfair labor charge against the Santa Barbara News-Press, newspaper lawyers fired back yesterday with three new charges, including harassment.
Among the charges, News-Press attorney Barry Capello claimed that in or around September 2007, former newsroom employees Dawn Hobbs and Tom Schultz approached and harassed News-Press workers tasked with filling tucks and distributing newspapers. In one case, he alleged that they attempted to stop the workers from delivering the papers around 2 a.m. in a Santa Barbara public parking lot.
“[The News-Press employees] were verbally harassed, and in one case, [Hobbs and Schultz] actually attempted to prevent them from leaving the lot and distributing the papers,” Capello said.
The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, contend that the alleged actions violate three NLBR laws.
Ira Gottlieb, an attorney for the newsroom’s union, the Graphics Communication Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said the charges were baseless and that he expects the NLRB to dismiss them.
“We’re confident that there’s no factual or legal basis for this charge,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb, who said he is speaking for Hobbs – who would not comment because she was not yet familiar with the charges – as well as Schultz, questioned the details and legitimacy of the paper’s charge.
“This is a city parking lot, not the News-Press parking lot,” Gottlieb said. “There was no attempt by anyone to prevent the News-Press from doing whatever it was they were doing in that parking lot.”
This most recent filing follows a year-and-a-half-long contentious battle between former newsroom employees and the News-Press. Since July 2006 when top editors left the paper, at least 40 employees have quit or been fired, many contending that Wendy McCaw, the newspaper’s owner, had allegedly attempted to manipulate the news. Hobbs and Schultz were fired for alleged bias in their reporting last February, a termination the union claimed was illegal.
A Dec. 26, 2007 ruling sided with the fired employees and the union, mandating that the News-Press rehire Hobbs, Schultz and others. The paper is expected to appeal the ruling in the coming week.
Gottlieb said that yesterday’s charges amounted to little more than an attempt to distract readers.
“It’s just a diversion for their own bad public image,” he said.