Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

News-Press Workers Unionize

Thanks to several readers who passed this and other stories along that you can see in the "Keeping It Real" post.

Here's the Associated Press story in its' entirety. Craig Smith's Blog has the story and will likely have more tomorrow.

Congrats to The Organized for their hard work in getting the union vote approved. It goes to show that negative tactics and speaking poorly of your workers right to unionize are not good anti-union tactics. Even in the aftermath of the election, NP management had to say the results where influenced and coerced....all they had to do was treat their employees fairly and well and this would not have happened.

Have a glass of champagne tonight. You've got a caring community behind you and you deserve it.


SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The feud between newsroom employees and ownership at the Santa Barbara News-Press intensified Wednesday, with workers voting to join a union and management alleging employees may have been coerced.

The vote was the culmination of months' worth of bad blood that spilled into public view last summer when nearly every top editor quit to protest what they claimed was meddling by owner Wendy McCaw. She has countered that the former employees had injected their personal views into news coverage.

The workers voted to join the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Attorney Ira Gottlieb, who represents the workers, said the tally was 33-6. A spokeswoman for McCaw would not confirm the total but acknowledged employees had voted for the union.

"This historic vote sends a serious message to the company that we are strong and united in our efforts," the employees said in a statement.

The results must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board before both sides can begin contract negotiations, Gottlieb said.

Union officials and management agreed earlier this month to the election after both sides traded accusations of unfair labor practices. After the balloting, the paper issued a statement saying, "the News-Press is not convinced that its employees were afforded a fair election free from coercion. The paper will consider all its options."

News-Press spokeswoman Agnes Huff declined to elaborate.

In a statement, McCaw said she was disappointed by the outcome "and the way this organizing campaign has been waged."

She said she remained committed to providing timely, balanced news coverage to readers in the picturesque oceanfront community about 95 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Both sides had previously filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming intimidation and harassment. Those issues were being investigated by the board, which will decide whether to dismiss the charges, settle the dispute or issue a complaint detailing violations that an administrative law judge would consider.

Many of the employees who resigned said McCaw intervened to nix a story about the drunken driving sentencing of editorial page editor Travis Armstrong, as well as reprimanding staff for publishing the address where actor Rob Lowe wants to build a mansion.

The News-Press is a 41,000-circulation daily. It has about 50 newsroom employees among a 206-person work force.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the News-Press employees! No surprise in the vote tally either. It's shameful that McCaw looks like she's going to file for invalidating the vote, citing worker intimidation (while her own shills were doing it!).

9/28/2006 1:21 AM  
Blogger budlawman said...

The election made a definitive statement about what the people in the newsroom want, and what they think of current management's treatment of them. They have been saying all along they want to restore integrity to the paper, and what have they gotten for their trouble? Verbal abuse (through Huffy press releases and Armstrong editorials), suspension threats, gag orders, assignment changes, column cancellations, disrespect, unionbuster meetings, and Dr. Laura. Nevertheless, the employees are unified and ready to move forward, having offered all of us this profound and still-reverberating call to action. We hope management sees that the better course for the newsroom, for itself and for this community is to sit down and negotiate, rather than engage in further adversarial entanglement at the NLRB, which will inevitably prove unsuccessful and embarrassing to management. Wendy's statement said she was "disappointed", but it also mentioned that she was looking forward to the end of the dispute. That means bargaining, if she is sincere.

Way to go, newsroom staff! Savor this victory, enjoy your craft, and prepare for the next round.

9/28/2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Craig Smith's Blog said...

Most of the newsroom employees had voted early in the afternoon. About 15 of them returned to the third floor conference room in the News-Press building at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to witness the votes being counted. The first seven votes tallied were all for the union. Three more votes were counted and it was nine to one for the union. At that point it was obvious it was going to be a landslide. (Read more)

9/28/2006 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suppressing the news.

Favoring favorites like Travis Armstrong and Rob Lowe.

Spawning internet competitors.

Treating employees like dirt.

Making Santa Barbara an international laughing stock.

Losing a unionization election 85%-15%.

If divorcee Wendy paid $100,000,000 for the News-Press, she and boyfriend Nipper pissed half of it away during the last couple of months, with the union vote alone yesterday costing her $10,000,000.

She has become a pariah in her own town. HIS personal and business reputation remains where it was – in the gutter.

As Wendy should have discovered in mixing love and business a couple of years back, it’s vastly cheaper to put the live-in on a weekly cash allowance and keep him out of the family business.

With yesterday’s union loss being the opening shot in a long war, the same is true for her burgeoning army of lawyers, public relations experts, private investigators, more lawyers, guards and poison pen editorial writers. The fees must be staggering; but those pale in comparison to the damage they’ve done, to Wendy, to the paper, and to a community where most of them don’t even live. She needs to get rid of all of them and hire professional newspaper managers, and leave them alone, as she promised when she bought the paper.

She who doesn’t learn from history is bound to repeat it.

She won’t learn, and will repeat.

Hang on for the strike.

9/28/2006 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that Wendy McCaw is claiming “coercion” and hopes to change an 85% vote shows that she may have lost it mentally. The only alternative is that she’s listened so much to Arthur that she has become lost in his fog of hamburgers and rich women. Has anyone other than Arthur even seen or spoken with her? Whether it’s a “change of life,” early dementia, or some other medical or emotional reason, maybe she needs to be examined before more self-inflicted damage is done.

9/28/2006 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having to read and hear about yesterday’s News-Press union election in other local, national and international media (but not in the News-Press itself, except for a few inches on B-5) makes the case for union protection of editorial integrity. An oxymoron, almost, but true in the upside down world of Wendy McCaw.

Everyone is grappling with this: what possibly could be going on inside Wendy’s head? Is she crazy? Nick in today’s Poodle has probably the most logical theory—“her problems are, in a way, very personal, and sadly, all too common among those afflicted with vast wealth.”

Nick is right, the arrogance and ignorance started locally with Michael Huffington, and has hit those hardest – like Michael and Wendy – who didn’t make the dough themselves.

Wendy like Michael has lived inside a “billionaires’ bubble” for most of her adult life. She’s among the richest single women on earth and, like another Michael, Michael Jackson of Neverland, she has used her vast wealth to create her own world that no one else can see or hear.

But it’s unraveling. For Michael Huffington it was having to admit he is gay; for Michael Jackson it was the courts; for Wendy it will be the NLRB.

She isn’t advised by sophisticated and disinterested people who are smart enough to keep her out of trouble and to whom she will listen. She knows such people and needs to reach out to them before it’s too late.

Otherwise, the media circus and union fight will continue for a long long time at incalculable cost to her personally.

9/28/2006 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

33-6 is a landslide. Another 21 had already voted, with their feet, as they were leaving, pushing the real percentage well north of 95%.

9/28/2006 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get ready for the standard Wendy/Travis editorial rant: Short version, “boo hoo, we didn’t do anything and we’re victims and everyone is a conspiracy, especially Marty and Susan.”

9/28/2006 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From today’s L.A. Observed:

"Not even close

Kevin Roderick

Remaining staffers at Wendy McCaw's Santa Barbara News-Press voted 33-6 to join the Graphics Communications Conference of the Teamsters Union. McCaw immediately attacked the Teamsters, saying the union was in cahoots with everybody in Santa Barbara who thinks she's a rich twit. OK that part's not true."

9/28/2006 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9/28/2006 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone notice how awful Dr. Laura was today? Complete drivel.

9/28/2006 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“all they had to do was treat their employees fairly and well and this would not have happened.”

Sara, well said.

9/28/2006 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“While we are very disappointed in the outcome … , we are pleased that this unpleasant labor dispute is moving towards a resolution,” said Wendy McCaw, Santa Barbara News-Press co-publisher.”

“In response to Kaye's comment (about editors moving to the Daily News), News-Press spokeswoman Agnes Huff issued a statement to E&P, saying "The News-Press continues to be focused on getting past all these issues…”

Let’s get real, ladies, this rumble is just starting. It won’t be over until a competent leader, free from Wendy's interference, assumes operating control, with a free hand to rebuild a great local newspaper. The millions going to lawyers, private investigators, spokespeople, could instead be paid to loyal and hardworking employees.

9/28/2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous David Pritchett said...

During the news conference, Keegan of the Teamsters Union announced that ABC would be conducting an audit of the NewsPress circulation in early October.

Anyone can feel free to clarify what "ABC" is in this context, but it sounded like the real-deal authority.

9/28/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger Craig Smith's Blog said...

In response to David's question of 9:53 a.m. "ABC" is the Audit Bureau of Circulation, one of the agencies that will report to advertisers how many eyeballs they are getting in return for their advertising dollars.

9/28/2006 12:15 PM  
Blogger Craig Smith's Blog said...

In response to David's question of 9:53 a.m. "ABC" is the Audit Bureau of Circulation, one of the agencies that will report to advertisers how many eyeballs they are getting in return for their advertising dollars.

9/28/2006 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh? I'm confused. Call me stupid but why did only 39 employees vote. How many people work at the Newspress? There has to be more than that. I once had a job that had union representation. The only benefit I got was to pay dues and have someone else tell me "there's really nothing we can do about that" time and time again.

9/28/2006 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A FINE DAY AT DE LA GUERRA PLAZA! THANKS TO ALL COURAGEOUS ONES WHO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT FOR ALL OF US. 9:45am I just read "dr"L drivel. There have been the rumors about Deryk Schlessinger. It might be true she's preparing for his coming out. Also rumors about his "temper". Is he still in the Army? What happened with his underage drinking arrest? She is big on the war, that's one topic she feels she can do righteous indignation trip and rally her troops. Probably more drivel on that. She does want to get her people elected. Look for themes on mom and apple pie, protecting our freedoms. They didn't call her "Doc Meng" for not. She uses this column to bolster her other aspirations, it's not just about Santa Barbara. Do you google her? She gets attention and people to support Wendy.

9/28/2006 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This vote really repudiates Wendy McCaw's management style and the direction she's taken the News-Press in the past few months.

Realizing that she won't rehire the professional journalists she forced out and restore the situation that existed a year ago, McCaw nonetheless needs to take action - and not the sort of vindictive and petty action for which she's become known.

Here's a five-point plan that likely won't trigger a Huff & Puff press release:

1. Replace the dysfunctional McCaw/von Wiesenberger dual publishership with a professional manager, someone with a background in finance and publishing who is interested in profits, not political agendas.

2. Fire Travis Armstrong, whose credibility in both the newsroom and community are irreparably damaged. Give McCaw and von Wiesenberger direct control of the editorial pages, since that's an owner's prerogative and should minimize their tampering in other areas.

3. Hire a professional editor and managing editor. Given the well-documented troubles of the News-Press, it may be difficult finding eminently qualified candidates on the level of Jerry Roberts, but at this point even second-rate editors are superior to the current system. Make sure Scott Steepleton follows the orders of the editor and managing editor.

4. Fill other newsroom vacacanies with outsiders who are committed to journalism, not opportunists or McCaw toadies. This will put the paper back on the path of distinguished local reporting that McCaw claims is her goal.

5. Appoint an outside ombudsman, such as a retired journalist with no ax to grind, to monitor complaints about news coverage and to ferret out bias. Such an independent third party would minimize the role of the Teamsters union, which should allay McCaw's concerns about the union taking over the newsroom.

These kinds of steps should help restore integrity to the News-Press while maintaining McCaw's proper role as owner and helping restore profitability as well. It's a win for all involved!

9/28/2006 1:19 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

What part of "overwhelming" and "majority" doens't Agnes Huff understand! dd

9/28/2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger budlawman said...

In response to anonymous at 12:38 PM, the NLRB's election procedures require people to vote in "bargaining units", consisting of employees with an employer who share a "community of interest". They should have more or less common occupations, supervision, pay scale, hours, etc. So, this election was for "newsroom" employees only, and about 42 employees were eligible. There would be a different unit for pressroom employees, and of course, there are a number of people who are employed by the NP who don't have the right to vote or oganize at all (i.e., management), thanks to the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

As for your gripe about unions, like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones, but there is the advantage of a democracy; one can vote one's leaders out if one doesn't like the job they're doing. And unions are not the panacea for all that ails business operations, management and individual workers' situations. "Collective bargaining" means what it says, which is that a group of employees gets together to make demands on an employer, bargain its priorities, and it isn't going to get everything on its agenda. A lot of what it gets depends on the strength of the group and management's strength and willingness and ability to resist. Once a contract is in place, that can be the source of "There's nothing we can do about it." The union enforces the contract, can be creative about it, but the contract is not going to be the remedy for any and all conceivable workplace injustice. It is a helluva lot better than when there is no union, no contract, no reliable terms and conditions, no job protection, no countervailing employee strength, just unilateral management prerogative. But too often, those who whine about a union not helping them are in "entitlement" mode, figuring that once they've paid their dues, that's all they need to do to be "served". Well, it's a bit like paying your taxes and expecting your government to work perfectly; if you don't show you're paying attention, you might end up with a Congressman like Mike Huffington, a governor like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a president like George Dubya Bush.

9/28/2006 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That line in the statement, "The News-Press is not convinced that its employees were afforded a fair election free from coercion" -- that just repeats a serious mistake the management and its representatives keep making.

NP employees aren't children. They're not under the sway of either threats or undue promises from union organizers. Are you kidding? They've spent careers in which they've had to be skeptical and ask tough questions just to do their jobs right.

In fact I can tell you that employees have put plenty of tough questions to the union organizers. The organizers have been straightforward in return. No threats, no undeliverable promises, no coercion of any kind. In the end it was just intelligent, professional adults making up their minds on the best way to proceed.
McCaw, Huff, etc. would have no way to know that first-hand, because they haven't bothered to get to know any of the people who voted. But they shouldn't assume the vote went the way it did because the voters were incapable of making up their own minds. Their condescension is just one of many factors that have backfired for them.
Any company that wants a lesson on how NOT to do anti-union campaigning among employees should look at several things McCaw, Millstein, et al have done.

9/28/2006 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


My concerns I brought up to the union involved in my job (corrections) was one of plain physical safety from inmates. "Management" thought the bottom line would look better to let an inmate out of time-out after 10 minutes regardless if they were still being violent. I, for one of many, was disheatened to have to go through a union rep (yet another body who didn't "get it") only to have to wait for another meeting to take place while staff and other inmates were being physically harmed because of the new rule. Unions do slow down change. I hope that now the newsroom personnel who got what they wanted will still want what they got in the end.

9/29/2006 5:27 AM  
Blogger Dominatrikes said...

I miss reading the paper in the morning. I'm glad there was a victory. But I still can't go back to the NP until Travis is gone.

I know it's only a small number of people who voted, but in a way, they are speaking for all of us who have nothing to speak with except our subscription payments.

9/29/2006 6:45 AM  
Blogger budlawman said...

Anonymous 9/28/2006 6:04 PM, you've hit the nail on the head. Over and over, Wendy et al have publicly declared that if you don't agree with them, you must be a dupe, ignorant, a charlatan, or otherwise not capable of independent reason. In other words, only those in the thrall (or on the payroll) of the McCaw Machine possess Ultimate Truth. Hence, Nipper insulting SB's clergy, Wendy insulting her NP staff (both directly and through Travis' malice and employment of amoral union buster Jimbo Anderson for daily anti-union gabfests that I hope cost her a pretty penny), management blowing off entire segments of the community, Millstein threatening and suing the ex-editors, Dr. Laura insulting gays, single moms, feminists, and anyone left of Dubya, Huff lying about the NP's intent to follow the rules of labor law, and so on. Hardball might work to bust a union in some instances, but tin-eared bull in a china shop threats, belligerence and non-communication don't cut it in this situation.

9/29/2006 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Duplicity watch said...

NOTICE on the NP Website today, there is the word "COMMENTARIES" in the upper right hand corner of each page. Lo and behold, if you click on it, FOR FREE you can read all of the Cabal/UNION BUSTER op-eds from Travis, Wendy et al.....

so nice and accommodating of them

9/29/2006 1:30 PM  
Anonymous harping said...

budlawman, your list (11:51 am) was good & thorough but incomplete--you neglected to include "millstein insulting 44 attorneys." his letter to that group was a masterpiece of condescension!

9/29/2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger budlawman said...

Harping, you're absoluely right; there is such a smorgasbord of obnoxiosity from which to choose, and I neglected that one. Thanks for the friendly amendment.

9/30/2006 3:50 AM  

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