Local residents joined former or fired Santa Barbara News-Press employees throughout last week to continue protests against owner Wendy McCaw, as well as to challenge alleged threats directed toward those still working.
The Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union representing News-Press newsroom employees, filed a charge last Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board claiming News-Press attorney Barry Cappello had publicly threatened remaining workers with loss of their job if they were “disloyal” to the paper.
Cappello’s statements ran in several publications, including the Independent, in articles about last week’s firings of six News-Press employees. These employees, who the union asserts were “illegally fired,” were officially terminated for “disloyalty” after they helped hang a sign over Highway 101 that read “Cancel Your Newspaper Today!” on Friday, Feb. 2.
“People who want to engage in conduct that harms the newspaper… will not remain [employed],” Cappello is quoted as saying in the NLRB charge. “The paper had an absolute right to do what they did and would do it again in the face of disloyalty such as that.”
In response to the comments, former News-Press employees marched down State Street on Friday, stopping in front of Cappello’s office. Approximately 40 ex-staffers and supporters marched in circles below his second floor office shouting “shame, shame” and “shame on Barry.”
The protests that occurred last week were sparsely attended, although Friday’s did draw a number of honks from passing cars and a few shouts of support as well as hundreds of curious onlookers.
“I’ve never even imagined a newspaper being like this,” Yates Satterlee, a Santa Barbara resident and News-Press reader since 1944, said.
Satterlee, who said he followed the end of World War II through the News-Press when he was a boy, recently cancelled his subscription to the newspaper – something former employees have been asking residents to do since December.
“I cancelled two weeks ago,” Satterlee said. “I’m a little embarrassed I took so long.”
Adding to such support, community members have planned a rally slated for Feb. 21, which coordinator David Pritchett has dubbed “Wake-Up Wendy Wednesday.” Pritchett said he expects between 200 and 300 people to show up and protest News-Press co-publisher Wendy McCaw’s management of the paper.
“The demise of the News-Press is a tragedy for the Santa Barbara community,” Pritchett said. “People need a trustworthy daily source of news, and the news writers who were terminated illegally also need to know that the community supports them.”
Pritchett said he hopes local sports fans will show up to support 38-year News-Press veteran and reputable sports columnist John Zant who was fired last week.
“There’s a whole other body of people who are outraged, who may not have otherwise cared,” Pritchett said of Zant’s firing.