National Labor Relations Board finds Santa Barbara newspaper committed multiple unfair labor practices
The National Labor Relations Board has unanimously found that the publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press committed multiple unfair labor practices during a union organizing campaign by newsroom employees, and ordered Ampersand Publishing LLC to offer reinstatement to eight fired journalists, among other remedies.
Chairman Wilma Liebman and Member Craig Becker, with Member Brian Hayes concurring on more limited grounds, rejected arguments that the employees’ actions were not protected because they dealt with editorial content rather than wages and benefits, and that the order would interfere with the publisher’s First Amendment right to control the newspaper’s editorial content.
The decision largely upholds a 2007 ruling by Administrative Law Judge William G. Kocol, which the publisher appealed.
“The judge found that the Respondent engaged in an extensive campaign of retaliatory conduct against employees because they exercised their rights to seek union representation and to join together for their mutual aid or protection. Our order remedies that unlawful conduct,” the decision states.
The union organizing campaign began in the summer of 2006 after 15 journalists resigned from the newspaper to protest what they claimed was interference with their reporting of the news. An election petition was filed in August of 2006 by the Graphics Communications Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Union. The decision covers the period following the petition filing.
The Board ordered the News-Press to cease and desist from the illegal activity, and to take the following affirmative remedial steps: offer reinstatement to eight employees, including six who hung a banner from a footbridge urging motorists to cancel their newspaper subscription and two others who were ostensibly fired for ‘biased reporting’; rescind discriminatory evaluations of four union supporters; rescind suspension notices sent to eleven employees; and make all discriminated employees whole with backpay awards.
Chairman Liebman and Member Becker also ordered that a senior management official read, or be present at the reading of, the complete NLRB notice to be posted.