The owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press must pay nearly $2.2 million to former and current employees and a union, according to an administrative law judge’s decision stemming from a protracted labor dispute.

However, News-Press owner and multimillionaire Wendy McCaw likely will fight the decision as she has every other step of the dispute first filed in 2007.

The Sept. 4 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Dickie Montemayor of the National Labor Relations Board named Ampersand Publishing, LLC, the owner of the News-Press, as the respondent for the compliance proceeding that occurred over several days in December 2019 and February 2020.

The compliance proceeding followed a decision that Ampersand “engaged in flagrant unfair labor practices including bad-faith bargaining that was sufficiently aggravated to warrant reimbursement of the union’s bargaining expenses,” Montemayor wrote.

McCaw purchased the News-Press from the New York Times Company in 2000. 

Six years later during the “News-Press Meltdown,” as it’s known locally, 15 newsroom employees resigned because of perceived “unethical interference” by the publisher and owner.

Eight employees were fired in 2006 and 2007, allegedly because of this involvement, and remaining newsroom employees later voted to join the Teamsters union.

More labor disputes ensued, with more than 10 cases before the NLRB.

The recent decision stemmed from Administrative Law Judge Clifford H. Anderson’s 2009 ruling that Ampersand “engaged in conduct that resulted in multiple violations.” 

Anderson’s rulings, findings, and conclusions were affirmed by the NLRB and enforced by the court of appeals.

“Respondent’s violations were so broad and numerous that the board’s cease-and-desist portion of its order contained 17 separate paragraphs delineating the breadth of respondent’s unlawful conduct,” the legal opinion said.

Montemayor ordered Ampersand to “satisfy the long standing obligations incurred as a result of its willful defiance of its statutory obligations, which have for more than a decade gone unremedied.”

Specifically, Montemayor ordered Ampersand to:

» Give former British gossip columnist Richard Mineards back pay of $547,067 plus $2,949 to compensate him for expenses, as well as excess taxes and interest accrued to the date of payment. 

» Provide former sports reporter Dennis Moran back pay totaling $150,187 plus $6,878 to compensate him for expenses, along with excess taxes and interest accrued to the date of payment. 

» Reimburse the Teamsters Union $111,040 for costs and expenses incurred in collective bargaining, plus interest accrued to the date of payment. The decision says expenses included in the Teamsters tally were normal.

» Provide merit pay losses to union members at an amount of $221,596 plus excess taxes and interest. This includes 31 employees who should receive between $57 and $32,135.

» Pay union members $936,005 plus interest accrued for the use of non-union members. Some 40 workers would receive $948 to $63,990 since the newspaper hired temporary workers.

» Compensate Moran, Mineards and other unit employees for adverse tax consequences in the amount of $186,178, subject to any necessary recalculations required for employees with back pay that continues to accrue. 

A copy of the administrative law judge’s ruling, available by clicking here,  has been forwarded to the NLRB. If no exceptions are filed, the judge’s decision will become the NLRB’s order. 

Exceptions to the Montemayor’s decision in this proceeding must be submitted on or before Oct. 2, according to legal documents associated with the case.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.