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Judge Says News-Press Must Reinstate Eight Fired Reporters-DO NOT PUBLISH

In a 78-page decision after a 17-day hearing in August and September held in Santa Barbara, a judge ruled that the Santa Barbara News-Press violated the National Labor Relations Act by discharging eight reporters in retaliation for their union activity and support.

The NLRB’s Administrative Law Judge William G. Kocol dealt a major blow to the Santa Barbara News-Press in a decision dated Dec. 26. In a thorough 78-page decision after a 17-day hearing in August and September held in Santa Barbara, Kocol ruled that the News-Press violated the National Labor Relations Act by discharging Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Tom Schultz, Barney McManigal, Rob Kuznia, Dawn Hobbs, John Zant and Melissa Evans in retaliation for their union activity and support. Kocal also found the News-Press in violation of the federal labor law for discriminatorily lowering the evaluations of Hobbs, Evans, Davison and current employee Karna Hughes, determining that they should have received bonuses that they were denied because of the News-Press’ unlawful decisionmaking.

Further, the judge found that the News-Press violated the NLRA by: firing Bob Guiliano; issuing letters of suspension to numerous employees for their attempt to deliver a demand letter to Wendy McCaw; cancelling the column of Starshine Roshell; prohibiting the wearing of "McCaw, Obey the Law" signs and the display of "McCaw, Obey the Law" signs; engaging in surveillance of union activities; and threatening and coercively interrogating employees concerning their protected activities.

Despite the SBNP’s attempt to deny the employees reinstatement even if found to have discharged them unlawfully, the judge ordered that all of the discharged 8 should be offered reinstatement and made whole, and the four who had received discriminatory evaluations should receive bonuses. The judge was apparently troubled by the News Press’ stated view that issues of journalistic integrity were solely the prerogative of management, but in recommending a remedy, was even more concerned about the "flagrant nature of the violations in this case, from the unlawful discharges of Burns and Davison to the six employees for their protected condut on the Anapamu Bridge, result(ing) in the termination of more than 20 percent of the unit and 25 percent of the probable union voters.

In addition, Kocol found Associate Editor Scott Steepleton not credible, that he was "overeager" to help out his bosses, regardless of the facts; his demeanor, according to the judge, was "entirely unimpressive" and "had a smirking quality to it."

"We are gratified that the judge has so quickly and thoroughly found that the News-Press has wronged the newsroom employees, even as we regret that this massive enforcement action proved necessary", said Marty Keegan, lead organizer for the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who, as a witness in the trial, was found by the judge to be "sincere and convincing."

"We hope that the agency will now take another look at going to federal court to seek immediate relief that is so clearly needed and warranted," Keegan added.

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