Clarification: The following article originally stated that Ira Gottlieb accused New-Press representatives of lying. Instead, he alleged that they had misrepresented some of the issues concerning employee raises.
The union representing the newsroom employees of the Santa Barbara News-Press filed yet another unfair labor charge against the paper yesterday, protesting the company’s decision not to offer staffers a raise in 2006.
The union filed the charges against the News-Press after learning that in each of the five years prior to 2006 – the year a vast majority of newsroom employees voted to unionize – a substantial number of employees received raises. In the filing with the National Labor Relations Board, the charges assert that the employer “unilaterally changed its policy of offering annual raises to bargaining unit employees in retaliation for their decision to seek and obtain union representation.”
Union attorney Ira Gottlieb of the Graphic Communication Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters alleged that representatives for the News-Press misrepresented the issues concerning the raises, telling union representatives that 2006 was not the first year since current owner Wendy McCaw purchased the paper that no employees had received raises. Gottlieb said when first confronted about the inconsistency, the News-Press’ response was “we’ll get back to you.”
“We asked the News-Press at the bargaining table to explain why this was so, why we should believe this was not a change in established practice intended to retaliate for the advent of the Union, and received no explanation at all,” Gottlieb said. “We had no choice but to file this charge to right this wrong.”
Disputes between employees and the owner at the Santa Barbara News-Press have gone on since July 2006 when top editors, including former executive editor and current UCSB Publications Director Jerry Roberts, quit the paper to protest what they charge was McCaw’s attempts to manipulate the news.
Since then, at least 40 employees have quit or been fired – many for allegedly showing bias in their reporting – and the union representing the employees has filed suit against the paper. In a ruling handed down on Dec. 26, 2007, a judge ordered that the News-Press rehire some of its fired employees. However, the paper is expected to file an appeal in the coming week.
Barry Capello, attorney for the newspaper, said the charge was frivolous and unnecessary since the union and the paper were currently bargaining over employment and wages.
“It is a violation of the collective bargaining process – we are in the midst of bargaining on wages, hours and terms of employment … and the union filing this charge while we’re bargaining on it is apparently taking wages off the [bargaining] table,” Capello said.
Although Gottlieb said the charges were filed after the News-Press refused to discuss the raises, Capello said he believed the timing was not quite coincidental, since his firm was in the process of filing unfair labor charges against the union yesterday. He said he would not discuss the charges, however, because he had not yet reviewed them with the union.