Posted by Melinda Burns on:
July 25, 2011
This month marks the fifth anniversary of what is known internationally as the “News-Press Mess.” Don’t give up the fight! Send a message to Wendy McCaw at our Rally for Workers’ Rights on July 28 from noon to 1 p.m. in De la Guerra Plaza.
Speakers at the rally will include several of the illegally fired News-Press reporters; veteran journalist Lou Cannon; former Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum; and Daraka Larimore-Hall, chairman of the central committee of the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara. Folksinger B Willing James will perform songs by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan in support of the nine reporters who were illegally fired and all those who are continuing to stand up for their rights inside the News-Press.
The News-Press Meltdown, as it is called locally, began in early July, 2006, when five top editors resigned from the paper, alleging that Wendy McCaw, the multimillionaire owner, was improperly meddling in news coverage, in part by arbitrarily disciplining her own reporters and editors.
In September of that year, the newsroom employees voted overwhelmingly to join the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. These workers felt they had no other option than to call in the union to win a fair employment contract that would legally protect them from McCaw’s arbitrary attacks and provide job security. Within four months, McCaw illegally fired eight reporters, all of them union activists, a ratio of one out of every four newsroom employees who voted for the union. In 2008, she illegally fired a ninth reporter, a member of the union’s negotiating team. In the meantime, McCaw’s representatives have wasted nearly four years pretending to negotiate for a fair contract.
The News-Press offers a case study of what can happen when a wealthy employer is willing to break the law to mount an all-out assault on her employees’ rights, much like the recent attacks on union workers in the Midwest. McCaw is one of the most blatantly anti-union employers in California, and probably the country, today. She has lost three trials before federal administrative law judges, racking up no fewer than 25 violations of national labor law, including harassing, threatening and spying on union supporters. In 2007, a federal judge ordered McCaw to reinstate eight of the fired reporters with back pay; and in 2010, she was ordered to reinstate the ninth. She has delayed justice by appealing to the National Labor Relations Board to reverse those decisions. A judge last year found the News-Press guilty of bargaining with the union in bad faith, but McCaw has appealed that decision, too.
Since mid-2006, more than 70 News-Press journalists have quit the paper or been fired, an exodus in which replacement employees themselves have left and been replaced. The newsroom staff has shrunk by more than half. More than 16,000 News-Press readers have cancelled their subscriptions, a drop of nearly 40 percent. Many businesses have withdrawn their ads.
McCaw’s attempts at union-busting are thuggish and un-American. She has hired eight law firms and spent millions to try to keep the Teamsters out of her newsroom, derailing successful careers and running her business like a petty tyrant. The union will continue its boycott of the News-Press until McCaw signs a fair contract with her newsroom employees. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Tell Wendy McCaw that you have not forgotten the DISGRACE she has brought to Santa Barbara! Come to the News-Press Mess Fifth Anniversary: Rally for Workers Rights, noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, July 28 in De la Guerra Plaza.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
“NEWS-PRESS MESS” CHRONOLOGY:
October 2000: Wendy McCaw buys the Santa Barbara News-Press from the New York Times.
April 2006: McCaw names herself co-publisher with her fiance, Arthur von Wiesenberger.
July 5-6, 2006: Five top editors resign, along with veteran columnist Barney Brantingham.
July 14, 2006: Silenced by a gag order, newsroom employees hold a “duct tape” protest in De la Guerra Plaza.
Sept. 27, 2006: Newsroom votes 33-6 to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
October 2006 - February 2007: McCaw fires eight reporters, all of them union activists.
March 2007: A federal labor law judge rejects McCaw’s challenge of the union election.
November 2007: Negotiations begin for a fair newsroom contract.
December 2007: A federal labor law judge finds McCaw guilty of illegally firing eight reporters in retaliation for union organizing.
He orders their immediate reinstatement, but McCaw appeals.
August 2008: McCaw illegally fires a ninth reporter, a member of the union negotiating team.
May 2010: A federal labor law judge finds McCaw guilty of illegally firing that reporter and orders his immediate reinstatement. The judge also finds McCaw guilty of bad-faith bargaining and orders her immediately to start bargaining in good faith with her newsroom. She appeals and continues merely to pretend to negotiate to this day.