The National Labor Relations Board has unanimously ordered the owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press to offer reinstatement to eight reporters the newspaper fired during a union organizing battle. The paper has said it will appeal the decision.

In a 55-page decision released Thursday, the three-member NLRB board upheld a 2007 ruling by Administrative Law Judge William Kocol, who found that co-publishers Wendy McCaw and Arthur Von Wiesenberger had acted unlawfully by waging an “extensive campaign of retaliatory conduct against employees because they exercised their rights to seek union representation.” Kocol’s ruling had been appealed by Ampersand Publishing LLC, which owns the newspaper.

In its own ruling, the NLRB said the News-Press “committed multiple unfair labor practices during a union organizing campaign by newsroom employees.”

The board rejected the argument that an order in favor of the employees would interfere with the publisher’s First Amendment right to control the newspaper’s editorial content.

During the “New-Press Meltdown” as it’s known locally, 15 journalists resigned in protest, claiming McCaw was interfering in their news reporting and editing. Newsroom employees later voted to join the Teamsters union.

The NLRB board ordered the News-Press to offer reinstatement to eight employees who were fired for “biased reporting” and hanging a banner from a footbridge that urged people to cancel their subscriptions. They also ordered the paper’s management to rescind discriminatory evaluations of four union supporters, rescind 11 suspension notices and give back pay to all discriminated employees.

The eight fired reporters are Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Melissa Evans, Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Tom Schultz and John Zant. Burns was fired in 2006 and the rest were fired in early 2007.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

National Labor Relations Board’s Santa Barbara News-Press Decision

             

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.