Upper management at the Santa Barbara News-Press has filed an official objection with the National Labor Relations Board over the recent decision by the editorial staff to unionize, claiming the election process was tainted.
Staff members voted 33-6 last week in favor of unionizing to, as they say, protect their jobs and basic journalistic ethics. However, management is accusing the pro-union staff members, and the Graphic Communication Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, of coercing employees, circulating false and misleading information and making potential criminal threats against the company.
According to a press release from the newspaper’s public relations management company, the union and its supporters created a hostile environment.
“Ultimately, the News-Press wants the employees to have a fair chance in making their own decision,” Agnes Huff, CEO of the News-Press’s public relations management company, said.
Staffers for the News-Press declined to comment yesterday.
The Regional Director of NLRB in Los Angeles will investigate the News-Press’s objections to the election in the coming months. The newspaper could protest the office’s decision and take the issue to the Washington bureau.
Over 20 staff members and editors have resigned since June, most in protest to what they say is improper meddling on the part of the owner in the newsroom. Many have also complained about the loss of journalistic integrity since the owner, Wendy McCaw, took command of the paper a few years ago.
Some of the complaints against the ownership and management include an incident involving Travis Armstrong – the former opinion page editor and recently appointed publisher. According to News-Press employees, upper management decided not to print a second story about Armstrong’s arrest for drunk driving.
In another incident, upper management reprimanded three editors and a reporter for printing actor Rob Lowe’s address in a news article, even though there had previously not been a policy against such content.
The editors and reporter were told that the Lowe family had been angered by the incident, and demanded action be taken.
In the News-Press press release, the company also announced that two newsroom employees, Copy Editor Al Bonowitz and reporter Starshine Roshell, resigned on Tuesday. According to sources at the News-Press, both employees were instrumental in the unionization process.
News-Press Associate Editor Scott Steepleton said he was surprised by Roshell’s use of profane language in her letter of resignation.
“While most of the former newsroom employees who resigned acted professionally, I was taken aback by Ms. Roshell’s use of profanity as she turned in her resignation letter,” Steepleton said in the press release.