Santa Barbara News-Press upper management received two blows in the past two weeks, one from a class action lawsuit and the other from a recent decision by the Los Angeles branch of the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB ruled last Friday that upper management, which includes owner Wendy McCaw, provided insufficient evidence that pro-union supporters had coerced newsroom employees in a recent vote to unionize. Additionally, a former reporter has filed a lawsuit against the News-Press, saying the newspaper failed to pay workers what they were owed.
In late September, approximately 30 newsroom staff members voted to form a union under the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. News-Press upper management challenged the results and filed a claim with the NLRB saying pro-union employees had intimidated other staff members into unionization.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of former reporter Hildy Medina, accuses the News-Press of neglecting to pay overtime to staff members who worked more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. The lawsuit seeks to represent over 200 former and current employees.
Since June, over 20 employees have left the News-Press staff, most claiming that the paper’s owner and upper management continually compromise the paper’s journalistic integrity by meddling inappropriately with news articles.
When reached for comment, current News-Press employees said they could not discuss the situation, as they would be fired for doing so.
Agnes Huff of Agnes Huff Communications Group, the public relations company representing News-Press management, said her client may appeal the NLRB’s decision to a higher branch of the organization.
“The News-Press said the union interfered and coerced employees,” Huff said. “The News-Press now has the opportunity to file an appeal with a higher authority with the board in Washington D.C. and now we’re reviewing whether we’re going to do that.”
If it chooses to appeal, Huff said, the News-Press must file its complaint with the Washington D.C. NLRB board by Nov. 3. The board would then launch an in-depth investigation into the newspaper.
The NLRB is also currently reviewing a claim filed by the union against News-Press upper-management. The News-Press may have to appeal before a decision is made on the union’s claim of unfair labor practices, as the NLRB could take a few weeks to do so.
Huff said the union must have been happy with the victory, but it is not a closed matter.
“I think the union was likely pleased that on a local level the charge had been dismissed; we, however, disagreed,” Huff said.