An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that the Santa Barbara News-Press violated federal labor law when it fired reporters Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Melissa Evans, Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Tom Schultz and John Zant. Burns was dismissed in 2006. The others were fired in early 2007. The judge ordered the eight to be offered reinstatement and back pay.

The terminations occurred during a bitter battle to organize the News-Press newsroom under the representation of the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The fired employees and the Teamsters alleged the terminations were in retaliation for their union support and activity, and administrative law judge William G. Kocol agreed in his 78-page decision, which was dated Dec. 26 and released Monday. Kocol held 17 days of hearings on the matter in August and September in Santa Barbara.

Kocol also determined the News-Press violated labor law by:

? Discriminatorily lowering performance evaluations of Davison, Evans, Hobbs and newsroom employee Karna Hughes.
? Firing editor Bob Guiliano.
? Issuing letters of suspension to numerous newsroom employees for their attempt to deliver a letter of demands to News-Press owner Wendy McCaw.
? Canceling reporter Starshine Roshell’s column.
? Prohibiting the wearing of “McCaw, Obey the Law” buttons and the display of “McCaw, Obey the Law” signs.
? Engaging in surveillance of union activities.
? Threatening and coercively interrogating employees concerning their protected activities.

News-Press officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Teamsters spokesman Marty Keegan said the union was gratified by the ruling. “We hope that the agency (the NLRB) will now take another look at going to federal court to seek immediate relief that is so clearly needed and warranted,” he added.