Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, December 28, 2006

NLRB to Prosecute Over Burns Firing

A press release from The Organized....
link: NLRB complaint pdf

In further vindication of the Teamsters Union's battle against Santa Barbara News-Press management, the National Labor Relations Board today issued a complaint to formally begin the prosecution of the News-Press for its unlawful October 27 firing of senior writer and leading union supporter Melinda Burns, and for its imposition of "gag orders" severely restricting employees' rights to communicate with each other and with the public about their plight. The complaint the NLRB issued against the SBNP (attached) after a thorough and painstaking investigation including witness interviews and evidence gathered from union, management, and third parties -- also cites earlier noted News-Press labor law violations, including the News-Press' August, 2006 threat to impose wholesale suspensions on at least 11 newsroom employees for lawfully gathering together to deliver a working conditions demand letter to News-Press owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw, and its retaliatory cancellation of Starshine Roshell's weekly column.

"The NLRB General Counsel's decision to prosecute the News-Press for its serious labor law violations validates the Union's position that the News-Press is a labor outlaw trafficking in threats and intimidation to transform the newsroom from a haven of journalistic professionalism to a den of arbitrary management fiat", said Ira Gottlieb, attorney for the Union and partner in the Burbank labor law firm of Geffner & Bush. "The News-Press has repeatedly and falsely asserted it would abide by the federal labor law rules that have been in place for almost three-quarters of a century, but it has only honored them in the breach," he added. "The decision to prosecute the News-Press for its retaliatory discharge of Ms. Burns is particularly poignant both because of Melinda's leadership role in the union's successful organizing campaign, and because of the vicious defamatory falsehoods the News-Press published about her in connection with that discharge, which the NLRB General Counsel's investigation has revealed to be specious and without substance." It also is further validation of the "McCaw Obey the Law" signs displayed in shop windows and vehicles in town, which have drawn litigation threats made to local business owners by a News-Press lawyer, and a sharp rebuke to that McCaw lawyer from a constitutional lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Added Gottlieb: "The NLRB has seen through the trumped-up post hoc pretext offered up by Associate Editor Scott Steepleton and shockingly published by News-Press public relations representative Agnes Huff, in a reprehensible effort to damage Ms. Burns' reputation. This announcement of a prosecution by the neutral federal labor relations agency helps expose the News-Press' abhorrent decision for what it truly was: retaliation and discrimination, pure and simple."

With the issuance of the complaint, the NLRB announced a hearing date to try the unfair labor practice complaint before an administrative law judge of February 26, 2007, in Santa Barbara. In that hearing, a lawyer representing the General Counsel of the NLRB will present its case against the Santa Barbara News-Press.

The Union will continue to press forward with its request that the NLRB seek interim injunctive relief against the NP to gain immediate reinstatement for Ms. Burns, and a rollback of the News-Press' unlawful policies and discipline, pending the trial of the unfair labor practices before the ALJ.

The hearing on the News-Press' frivolous election objections remains on schedule for January 9 in Santa Barbara. It will take place in the Santa Barbara bankruptcy court, 1415 State Street, Courtroom 202.

In a related development, the Union has appealed the dismissal of its charge protesting Wendy McCaw's photo surveillance in the News-Press employee parking lot to the General Counsel's Office of Appeals in Washington, D.C. McCaw has admitted to using a camera in the parking lot to record evidence of employees' union sentiment, but denies she did so for improper reasons. The Union believes the issue of the substance, credibility and legitimacy of McCaw's justification for what would otherwise be unlawful surveillance under longstanding NLRB doctrine should be determined by an administrative law judge and perhaps the Board itself, rather than dismissed without a hearing. It is not clear when the appeal may be decided.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the News-Press:


SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – December 28, 2006 – As expected, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today advised the Santa Barbara News-Press that a hearing has been scheduled in Santa Barbara on February 26, 2007 on pending charges brought by the Teamsters against the paper, which the NLRB determined should be consolidated. Last week, the Teamsters agreed to withdraw four unfair labor practice claims they had filed against the paper, rather than allow the NLRB to dismiss them for lack of merit.

The NLRB hearing on the remaining unfair labor practice charges being made by the Teamsters are: a claim regarding the paper's conflict of interest policy, the cancellation of a newspaper column, the issuance of suspension notices in response to an employee disturbance, and the claim that one employee, Melinda Burns, should not have been discharged.

“The News-Press welcomes the opportunity to have these issues heard as part of due process by the administrative law judge, and intends to further demonstrate that the management decisions in question were fair, consistent and undertaken for legitimate and lawful reasons,” said David J. Millstein, general counsel for the Santa Barbara News-Press. “We are confident that these claims will be found without merit” he added.

The NLRB set January 9, 2007, as the date to hear the paper's objections to the union election.

12/28/2006 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The willingness of the NP staff to take on McCaw is a testament to their commitment to do their jobs. I have been involved in a situation of public interest for over a year now and have worked with three different NP reporters, all of whom have treated me professionally, respectfully, and have honored my requests for anonymity. The people who work there are great. The people who try to control the people who work there are the problem. Just let the reporters do their jobs.

12/28/2006 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

Notwithstanding the fact that Melinda Burns was an at-will employee, the News-Press has amply documented the reasons for her termination.

Beginning last summer, the newspaper's management undertook a concerted effort to remove bias from its reporting.

Melinda Burns was known to frequently and often flagrantly inject bias into her "reporting." This was noted over the past five years by several supervisors, including those who are hostile to the current management. For example, Linda Strean, an active participant in the Susan Paterno smear and defamation campaign, noted during more than one performance review that Ms. Burns was unable or unwilling to keep her opinions out of her stories.

Incompetent and/or derelict supervisors such as Ms. Strean and Jerry Roberts may have tolerated this practice, but it was no longer tenable once the News-Press undertook its anti-bias reforms.

It's really that simple. The News-Press does not have room for biased reporters and editors on its staff.

12/28/2006 8:07 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Then why Nelville do you think the NP owners keep Travis Armstrong on? Is he not biased when he speaks of SEIU campaign contributions to some candidates but fails to mention police union money to others? Is he not biased when he attacks some politicians but not others? Opinion is one thing -- fairness is another. DO you see the New York Times or the SF Chronicle doing the same? with the same language and tone?

12/28/2006 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SBNP is blowing smoke.
Wonder if they have a permit to do that.

12/28/2006 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By its decision to prosecute, the NLRB General Counsel has essentially concluded that the News-Press' stated reasons for firing Melinda Burns were pretextual, which is a kind and generous legal way of saying they are lies. In his termination letter, Steepleton totally (and here, Nelville partially) misrepresents the content of Burns' performance reviews.

The fact that an employee is "at will" does not mean she can be fired for illegal reasons. That's what happened to Melinda Burns, and that's why the NLRB is prosecuting the NP.

12/28/2006 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Considering that the NP is being prosecuted by the NLRB over Melinda's firing, I find it amazing that you would include personal information about Ms Burns PRIVATE employee file and publish it in a public forum. You are also taking something out of context and using it to defame Ms Burns. Isn't that illegal Mr. Flynn?

I have gotten many of those reviews myself, and it is standard practice for management to put in some minor negative statement even if the rest of the review is outstanding. I should know, I was one of those employees that ALWAYS got outstanding reviews, but there was always some little caveat for me to "work on". If management had any negative comments on Ms Burns, they were probably very, very minor, and not very important when you look at the whole of the review and the bulk of her work. It is very unethical of you to use something like that and present it as damning evidence regarding Ms Burns termination. You talk a whole lot about bias, ethics and fairness but you don't even know the meaning of the words.

12/29/2006 4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know why you bother posting here - your wisdom is lost on these clowns. I set up a blog where people like you can discuss the horror and toil that is being a member of the owner class. I've just posted a new thread where you might share some of your thoughts on the best way to fire rotten employees (they're all rotten, of course, but you know what I mean).

Note: I'm confused why so few are posting on this new blog - yet. Clearly, the majority of Santa Barbarbarians agree with Nelville, so I suspect it is but a matter of time.

12/29/2006 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

once more " Nelville" has been shot down.
keep trying Neville i know it's hard defending a side that is so in the wrong...but your posts do make fun reading...

12/29/2006 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

Re: the 10:04 PM question: Travis K. Armstrong is the editorial page editor of the News-Press. His job description entails publishing opinions and fostering debate. Reporters at the News-Press, and all other respected newspapers, are supposed to investigate and report news, not promulgate opinions. The blog moderator's inability to distinguish between these duties betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles and responsibilities of newspaper employees.

As for the comments from 4:53 AM: Melinda Burns already forfeited her right to privacy by publicly attacking the News-Press in several forums, including television interviews and so-called protest rallies. (Actually union-enabled agitation.) She was warned that public disparagement of the News-Press would lead to consequences, including the disclosure of the true reasons for her firing, yet she irresponsibly chose to ignore those warnings.

Ditto for Jerry Roberts, who also has breached confidences of his employment at Ampersand.

Disgruntled employees and ex-employees cannot expect unfounded attacks on the News-Press or its management to go unanswered.

12/29/2006 8:42 AM  
Anonymous rob 'n leech said...

Think Pink for the New Year

Rosé Champagnes are Leading the Way for Celebratory Occasions

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A rose is a rose is a rose, unless it’s a rosé champagne. Pink (or rosé) champagnes have ascended to the top of the preferred list and are considered the most “in” drink for the new year according to Arthur von Wiesenberger, a renowned wine and champagne expert. For his 2007 champagne recommendations, Mr. von Wiesenberger can sum up his advice in two words: Think Pink.

“Choosing the right pink champagne for New Year’s Eve and other special events throughout the year depends as much on each customer’s taste preference as it does on the champagne’s unique characteristics,” said Mr. von Wiesenberger. “Not to be confused with rosé wines, rosé champagnes are hot sellers that may very well propel a lasting trend. To help choose the perfect bottle, we’ve identified a variety of great rosés that will excite even the most discriminating palate,” he added.

For those with a lavish taste and wallet, Mr. von Wiesenberger recommends the Krug Rosé (about $290), a champagne steeped in tradition with a hint of raspberries and strawberries in the nose and a copper-pink color. Surprisingly dry yet mellow, the unique sophistication of this rosé will make seasoned connoisseurs sit up and take notice. The classic 1996 Dom Pérignon Rosé (about $300) is also a fine choice for those fortunate enough to toast with it. The incredibly fine, pinpoint bubbles, stunning sunrise pink color, and a remembrance of finesse, will entice the taste buds to nirvana.

Today’s moderately priced rosés are nothing short of splendid. For about $70 a bottle, consumers can sample the Ruinart Rosé, now back on the shelves of American wine shops. Boasting a non-vintage blend of 45 percent chardonnay and 55 percent pinot noir, this rosé shines with a golden pink color thanks to a dash of added red wine and a nose of currants and spices. For those with a spicy nose, Moët Imperial Rosé (about $55) with its hints of black cherries, currants and a touch of cinnamon may be an excellent choice. For about $60 a bottle, the Billecart-Salmon Rosé, a tangy rhubarb and berry flavored bubbly with a crispness that lingers long after the first swallow, or Taittinger Cuvée Rosé (about $60) for those who prefer a more crisp and vibrant balance of red berries and fresh floral tones, are wise selections.

Although celebrating the New Year and any special occasion with a fresh pink rosé is always enticing, consumers are reminded to please drink responsibly.

About Pink Champagne

Rosés are made within a strictly defined region of North East France and are a blend of a small amount of finished red wine with fermented white wine and several grape varieties, including the pinot noir grape. After the grape skin is left in contact with the juice for a period of time, skin maceration occurs which extracts a little of the pink color. Too much contact with the skins can produce a bitter wine and so great care and concentration are a necessity when producing this unique blend. Nicely aged rosé champagne will have a yeasty, frothy mousse with tiny bubbles and a taste that is a complex mix between fruits, wild berries and spices.

“Today’s ‘must have’ pink champagnes are good news this year for distributors, who usually get a bigger margin on rosés over regular white champagnes,” said Mr. von Wiesenberger. “But it is also great news for consumers because there is a much broader selection of high quality rosés than there were just a few years ago,” he added.

About Arthur von Wiesenberger

A consultant to the beverage industry since 1978, Arthur von Wiesenberger established the popular Web site that offers in depth information on wines, champagnes and fine dining. Mr. von Wiesenberger has been awarded the Diplôme d’honneur from the Corporation des Vignerons de Champagne (France) and is a Chevalier of the Chapitre de la Fleur de Vigne de l’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne (France), both considered of great prestige in Champagne, France. In 1992, Mr. von Wiesenberger authored “Champagne & Caviar – A Connoisseur’s Survival Guide” (Capra Press/Best Cellers), which explores all the grand marques Champagnes. The coffee table top book was selected as a featured Neiman Marcus book for their In-Circle events across the U.S. Earlier in his career, he co-founded the Nipper’s Champagne clubs in Montecito and on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, that in the mid-1980s were selling four percent of all the champagne imported into the U.S. according to People magazine. The successful clubs were featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” Time magazine and selected as The Best by Playboy magazine and many other publications. For more information on pink (or white) champagnes, visit the Web site at

Ágnes Huff Communications Group
Ágnes Huff, PhD, or Anna Jerden, 310-641-2525

12/29/2006 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Poor poor nelvlle said...

News to Nelville: Your assertions that discharged employees somehow "forfeit" their rights to confidential personnel records does not comport with employee law in California. With all that money spent on high-priced attorneys, you'd think you'd be able to get some decent counsel on such a basic tenet.

Oh well, it's all downhill from here, nel...

12/29/2006 9:20 AM  
Anonymous ispellwendywithaB said...

In the 21 years that Melinda had been at the SBNP her less-than-complimentary (if not galling and disrespectful) evaluations began with Wendy's ownership of the SBNP. I've read some of them in recent years, and they were so poorly written that they were hard to take seriously. It was plain to me that she was getting kicked because she was writing fairly about issues that weren't, shall we say, near and dear to Wendy. Talk about bias. Melinda was mentored by one of the best -- Keith E. Dalton. If he were still alive, there would be hell to pay for this mess.

As for the evaluations, *everyone* got less than what they deserved because one of the first things Wendy did as owner of the paper was to eliminate cost-of-living pay raises and other such benefits in favor of bonuses tied to performance evaluations. What better way to stiff your employees out of hard-earned raises than to give them all low grades? Bitch.

12/29/2006 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Valerio said...

All the Nelville allegations now have a fantastic venue scheduled to test those theories.

As the cliches goes:

12/29/2006 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Neville, Melinda wasn't a journalist at all, now? She was merely "reporting" (nod nod, wink wink)?

If she was so "bad" at her "job" -- if, as "you" "say", "she" was "injecting bias" into her "articles" for a whole "five years" despite being "continuously" "warned" -- why wasn't she "terminated" long before "now"? If "she" was merely an "at-will" "employee", what took "the management" so long to "lower the boom"?

I've never before "heard" of an "employer" who was so "tolerant" of "insubordinate employees" that they would "keep them on" for "five whole years". Certainly "three strikes" would have been "sufficient", and that "point" would surely have been "reached" "years ago", would "it" not?

It "seems" to me that "the management" of your "news" paper (and not just the "editors" and "supervisors" who apparently spent oh-so-much time "disciplining" Melinda, but the "owner" and her "cohorts" as well) are "responsible" for "allowing" such a "terrible" "reporter" to "inject bias" into her "articles" and to "poison" the "community" for "so long".

But I "suppose" that in "your mind", the "owners" and "her" "cohorts" are to be "commended" for their "infinite patience" and "understanding" of "the situation".

12/29/2006 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, all you people should just down a couple of bottles of pink champagne to forget your troubles and the past. When you wake up, it will be a new day (and possibly a new YEAR) and hopefully all of us can make a new year's resolution to stop hating so much. It's really a worthless expenditure of energy.

12/29/2006 3:25 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

2:24 pm -- try not identifying previous commenters no matter how obvious it is and I can publish your comment. Thanks!

12/29/2006 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're right. maybe a three day bender will make all of the senseless injustices of the world go away...for three days. i'm sure that the discharged editors & reporters of the SBNP would like nothing better than to celebrate the New Year in style, if only they didn't have to oh, save their pennies, find new jobs, say farewell to old friends, leave the city that they love far behind, defend their reputations, stand up for the most basic ethical principles, and fight for a fair contract for those still brave enough to be trying to do their jobs in a factory run by mental midgets and psychos. is it hate? that's a strong word. is it personal? hell yes. you drink up, i'll pour out a bottle on the curbside for auld lang syne.

12/29/2006 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re" Neville's comment "Ditto for Jerry Roberts, who also has breached confidences of his employment at Ampersand."

Hmm, I seem to remember that it was one of the News-Press' own legal team members that was found responsible for spilling the beans on the Roberts' breach of confidentiality issue.

Neviile, you may want to make sure that you have your facts straight before you go before the judge. You'd look a bit, err. foolish otherwise, and probably sink your case for your employer/client, too.

But then, maybe you are posting these wild assertions and falsehoods here merely to attempt to foster a campaign of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). By posting in an anonymous fashion, what is fact and what is fiction certainly doesn't matter, now does it?

12/29/2006 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dalton was a man among mensch. The Nip, Travis, et al., wouldn't have ever dared to accuse him of biased reporting. No, that would've taken real balls...if also sheer stupidity. Luckily for the Nip and Travis, they don't have a pair between them. Which explains why they pick on 59-year-old women, hide behind Agnes' pleated skirts, and gnaw so ravenously on Wendy's teats.

12/29/2006 5:52 PM  
Anonymous news guy said...

Thank you, ispellwendywithab, for the mention of Keith. Every time I pass his marker in the placita I smile a little and wish he were around to help us cut through the BS. (Man, can you imagine what he'd say to the likes of Travis?) I liked him a lot, and miss him still.

12/29/2006 6:02 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

5:52 -- you are close on that one!

12/29/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Harping -- couldn't tell whether you were referring to you know who or offering a second choice -- here's the comment:

Hey Nelville (or ------- )--if the N-P is so unbiased, how come you edit people's letters to the editor so as to remove even the most minor negative comments about your editorials? This has happened to me twice, & I have heard of & from others who have experienced the same treatment. (I'm not talking about corrections, I'm talking about edits that actually change the intent of the letter writer.)Likewise there are many people who have given up writing letters to the editor that are critical of your editorials because their letters simply do not get published, despite complying with all the specified requirements & being much better written than the majority of letters that do get published. You can claim that these "accusations" are untrue but that claim would be the real untruth & you know it. If the N-P's website wasn't such a mess I'd suggest that you offer the option of publishing letters online that you supposedly don't have space to run in your print edition (this is something the Independent & many other papers are doing) but I bet so few people read anything on the N-P site that wouldn't help much. Which reminds me--Sara, how about starting a thread re: why the N-P's site is so bad?

12/29/2006 7:25 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Not a bad idea for a thread -- maybe early in the new year.

12/29/2006 7:25 PM  
Anonymous harping said...

Thanks, Sara! That gives me something to look forward to. ;-)

12/29/2006 7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara!! Hello????

That obsession you have with Travis is really something! He's the opinion editor. He writes editorials. It *IS* his job to write biased pieces.

12/29/2006 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 9:22 p.m.

Next time you're at the library, take a look at some other newspapers' editorials.

You'll find very few -- if any -- editorial writers who are as meanspirited and vicious as Travis.

Travis' political views don't bother me nearly as much as how he villifies others in expressing them.

His editorials spew out venom against fellow human beings.

Does Travis hate people that much? Or is it himself that he hates?

12/30/2006 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By any standard (at least in the 20th century) Travis' editorials are an embarrassment to journalism. They are ill-reasoned, vindictive, intellectually dishonest and over-the-top mean-spirited. It's rather pathetic.

12/31/2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did my comments on Travis' editorials not make the cut? If not, why? Was it calling them "an embarrassment to journalism"? Or that they are "ill-reasoned, vindictive, intellectually dishonest"? Well?

12/31/2006 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:22, just because Sara addresses the problem that is Travis doesn't make her "obsessed", any more than you seem obsessed in calling her out on it. Travis has made himself a discussion-worthy public figure, and so have Nip and Wendy. To refuse to address them here, on Santa Barbara's best blog, would be rather senseless.

12/31/2006 1:04 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

12:36 AM -- just didn't get to comments yet! Now and then I have a life outside of BlogaBarbara :)

1:04 PM -- thanks. It is a problem that isn't being addressed -- far from obsession, we need to keep the subject in the forefront if anything at all will be done about it.

Happy New Year!

12/31/2006 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Earlier in his career, he co-founded the Nipper’s Champagne clubs in Montecito and on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills"

Champaign, Caviar & Cocaine clubs- I remember that place. It was an embrassament to our local community, kind of like the NP is now. And contrary to the implied elegance, it was in reality a slimeball place populated by cocaine dealers & their customers- perpetuating a shallow, faux culture trying to be something it was not (kind of like trying to be a von baron when one is not)

1/14/2007 12:49 PM  

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