Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Monday, March 12, 2007

NLRB Ruling Text

For those of you interested in actually reading Judge Schmidt's 22-page ruling, I would recommend it. It's available in the following PDF from Thanks to The Organized for providing it.

It's fascinating to run through the events of the last nine months, see the NLRB's point of view and obtain some satisfaction for our many months of discussing this issue. As to achieving total satisfaction, we will have to see how and if the ruling is implemented by News-Press management.

For several years now I have expressed concerns about Travis Armstrong's editorial policies, blatant editorial bias, and head strong approach. He was described as someone who "embellished" and "evidenced a strong, visceral bias toward the organizing campaign...". His account of Marty Keegan "lurking" across the street from his apartment was a described as a "self-serving characterization without convincing corraboration". Later, Armstrong and Steepleton's accounts were called "extreme embellishments" and "unreliable". Although these comments clearly do not bely my concerns with Armstrong directly -- it could, um, establish one's opinion as to 'character, courage and conscience'.

As for the parts of the objection which included BlogaBarbara, I am glad that the judge saw that the "Phase 2" comment could not have had a strong effect when it was only on the blog for a short period of time, overnight. Allowing that comment to be published was certainly a mistake and one that I regret.

Finally a reader suggested we come up with "spin" suggestions for the News-Press. I'm not sure they will say much of anything at all. They did cover the hearing and it will be interesting to see if they follow up or not. I vote for next to no comment.

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Anonymous harping said...

I wonder if Agnes Huff will protest because she is referred to as "Andrea Huff" when she is introduced on p. 11, line 22.

3/12/2007 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Moreno said...

The decision is a great read. Judge Schmidt essentially calls Armstrong a bald-face liar, and strongly suggests that the N-P's objections were so utterly without merit as to be offensive to the court.

A thorough thumping of Wendy and Co.

3/12/2007 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Travis was picked up for drunk driving, he claimed "stress at work".

And this was before the Big Yeehaw NP firestorm. What was going on then at work that stressed him out so much? Something was coming down well before the Mass Walkouts and Mass Firings. And Travis suffered. Does anyone else find this odd now?

3/12/2007 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This begins what will be a string of legal defeats this year for McCaw and von Weasenburger.

If she were rational, the fortune she's pouring into lawyers would instead go to rebuilding a respected newspaper.

But she’s undoubtedly angry and will again show her lack of common sense by appealing the ruling.

Another example of why she's a union girl now.

3/12/2007 10:46 PM  
Anonymous not self-serving enough to embellish this with a name said...

It won't be difficult for the NP management to spin this decision.
They will simply ignore the actual purpose and conclusion of the hearing and focus on this:

* The evidenced showed that was NP was right to consider the comment on Blogabarbara to be threatening.

* The NP was right that Tom Shultz intentionally placed the SBNP masthead in close proximity to pro-union propaganda.

* In two instances, groups of pro-union employees did engage in disloyal conduct by attempting to delivery a letter critical of News Press management.

* The News Press was right, Myer was proven to show pro-union conduct and this did occur during the critical period.

Nevermind that the judge could not find evidence to support that these events and facts affected the unit employee's ability to take part in a free election and dismissed the objections.

See how easy that was to spin? I patiently await the NewPress' announcement in a full page ad that our chocolate rations have been generously raised to 20 grams.

3/12/2007 11:40 PM  
Anonymous a LIE by any other name said...

pre·var·i·cate (prĭ-văr'ĭ-kāt') pronunciation
intr.v., -cat·ed, -cat·ing, -cates.

To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate. See synonyms at lie.

Main Entry: pre·var·i·cate
Pronunciation: pri-'ver-&-"kAt, -'va-r&-
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
Etymology: Latin praevaricatus, past participle of praevaricari to act in collusion, literally, to straddle, from prae- + varicare to straddle, from varus bowlegged
: to deviate from the truth : EQUIVOCATE
synonym see LIE

3/13/2007 12:41 AM  
Anonymous jqb said...

Later, Armstrong and Steepleton's accounts were called "extreme embellishments" and "unreliable".

This is judicial language for "unprosecutable perjury". Other comments along thes lines from Judge Schmidt:

I find Armstrong's effort to depict the July 13 visit by employees to his office as threatening or intimidating to be entirely manufactured for purposes of this proceeding....his fortuitous and positive identification ... of ... Keegan ... had no ring of truthfulness at all....I do not credit his self-serving characterizations without convincing corroboration...."This whole episode amounted to nothing more than a simple effort by employees to begin a conversation about their grievances and their desire for representation. No amount of prevarication can turn it into anything else....No support exists in the record for this wildly inflated argument.

Some other notable quotes:

SBNP's publicist characterized these legally protected activities as an "all out war".

One of the more well-publicized street theatre skits included the appearance of newsroom employees with mouths sealed by duct tape in protest of rules barring employees from public discussions of various News-Press issues without management approval. In a complaint that issued on December 27, the NLRB General Counsel alleges certain of these rules violate the Act.

no evidence would reasonably support an inference or factual finding that the employees engaged in any form of loud, unruly, disruptive, destructive, or overtly threatening conduct.

The Employer adduced no testimony in support of the theme running through all three memos that the group seeking to deliver the McCaw letter sought to "confront, threaten, and physically intimidate" anyone.

No evidence establishes that either party is responsible for the reprehensible Phase 2 comment. [Though personally, I would put money on the author of the comment being an NP supporter or even an employee.]

The Company adduced no evidence that any of its former employees who might harbor animus toward it likely possessed the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities required to invade or disrupt its IT system in the manner suggested by the Phase 2 comment. Likewise, the Company adduced no evidence that this threat was widely disseminated among the unit employees, and of those who admitted knowing about it, at least one prounion employee (Shultz), and perhaps a second (Bonowitz), publicly disavowed the criminal conduct suggested by the Phase 2 comment. And to the extent that the threat was "rejuvenated" near the time of the election, the Company itself did that.

The savethenewpress website certainly does not implicate Savair....The Employer's reliance on Gormac is also unusual....I have concluded that the Employer's claims about the savethenewspress would fail....the Employer points to nothing....No evidence shows that the Employer protested any alleged misrepresentations on the that website which it new claims existed. In addition, the Employer's claim ... is simply frivolous....Moreover, absolutely no evidence shows....Equally without merit is the Employer's contention....The Employer's brief seems to label every unfavorable, anonymous blog comment it doesn't like to as the product of a union supporter. I find Employer's argument ... without merit....the central premise for the Employer's argument ... cannot be taken seriously at all. The Employer's arguments also assume....That assumption also has no evidentiary support at all....the Employer's argument ... tends to misconstrue....

The Employer's effort ... lacks merit for one additional and significant reason. The Midland Board ... said: "[W]e believe that Board rules in this area must be based on a view of employees as mature individuals who are capable of recognizing campaign propaganda for what it is and discounting it." That observation strikes me as particularly apt to this election involving a unit persons schooled in the sophisticated used of words, phrases and sentences.

I reject the Employer's contention that the July 13 action constituted an intimidating situation of any sort.

Judge Schmidt goes on in a similar manner, and refers repeatedly to the union election with such language as "this landslide result" and "this overwhelming election". I wonder when we will see Laura Schlessinger or any other NP supporter display some character, courage, and conscience and acknowledge the dishonesty that Judge Schmidt points out in the NP's case and its witnesses, and urge Wendy McCaw to obey the law.

3/13/2007 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon. 10:37 pm

Have you never had stress at work?? Give it a rest. The guy has paid for his mistake. Come on, how many people could stand up to having your heritage, sexuality and pretty much your soul put on display??? Enough! Everybody just stop hurting each other already. And I mean EVERYBODY.

3/13/2007 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Harvey Milk said...

I was truly shocked to see my comments from last August about Travis and his sexual orientation quoted in the judge's opinion. The judge did conclude that my comments could be read as sympathetic for Travis... and indeed, I have a great deal of sympathy for Travis. He is an outsider in so many ways, and he might crave simple respect and acceptance.

Somehow this situation has become so charged that we cannot relax and see past all the emotions, and keep some decent feeling for all the human problems that drive this debacle. The most troubled is Wendy... she is almost a fairy-tale archetype of the isolated miser. Both Travis and Scott are in their own ways her craven support team, and von W. the soporific but conniving exploiter.

Surprising that none of us have figured out how to melt away their shields, and touch their human souls. Admittedly their actions are indefensible, but, hate the sin, love the sinner.

3/13/2007 6:33 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I vote "No Comment" - why give the NP any ammunition to fight on? dd

3/13/2007 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bet the NPs lawyers are having a good laugh and wondering how they can milk the "blonde" for more money.

3/13/2007 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other than to a few former NP employees in this town, this is not a major newstory. The NewsPress has been coming out everyday, a little thinner but not noticably much different. Sorry, but this story is not major news.

With the Blonde, the Baron and the Billions, it is salacious tabloid stuff only. And at least the new NewsPress is not dropping down to that level.

3/13/2007 8:34 AM  
Anonymous jqb said...

Other than to a few former NP employees in this town, this is not a major newstory.

People with "character, courage, and conscience", not to mention good sense, disagree.

3/13/2007 10:20 AM  
Anonymous niceFLguy said...

8:34 AM:
If you think this is not a major news story, then clearly you have not been paying attention.

The story is not the firings/resignations of 40+ newsroom employees, all formerly trusted and valued. Rather, it's about freedom of expression; the right of the press to inform and safeguard the community it serves - without interference from external (or internal) parties with ulterior motives or personal agendas; the freedom to solicit labor representation; and last but not least, the battle between good and evil for the hearts and minds of a well-known community.

That's why the story is being told and retold by newspapers, TV stations and bloggers throughout the world.

3/13/2007 10:27 AM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

Another nice spin job by the ever-popular Anonymous at
3/13/2007 8:34 AM

Did not the Newspress flaks get the memo that they should adopt a fake name to play along with these blog thangs?

So the Wendy Apologists do admit that the number of pages are down, but does not pass the Laugh Test with "but not noticably much different. Sorry, but this story is not major news."

Except for Nora Wallace, who --whether we like it or not-- keeps us all well informed about the Air Force Base, Solvang, and The Chumash Casino, the Newspress has no credible and/or experienced reporters covering news any more, and many major stories go unreported and scooped by the other two Santa Barbara newspapers.

This IS a MAJOR news story because it is the first action through NLRB, by a Federal Judge, to show how much of a non-credible fantasy The Wendy and her hireling lackies Armstrong, Steepleton, and Nipper really are.

And then readers still are supposed to believe anything those hacks write? The House of Cards that Storke Castle has become just got exposed even more, and the next rulings by NLRB will be a tornado blowing it all down.

The long-term outcome on how to build it back, and into what, will be the next Chapter in the Post-Blonde Era.

3/13/2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous jqb said...

It's also about the fact that Santa Barbara no longer has a paper of record. The claim that the NP is "not noticably much different" is remarkably unperceptive.

3/13/2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the battle between good and evil for the hearts and minds of a well-known community

I can hear the National Anthem playing in the background.

3/13/2007 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:33, Harvey Milk: "...and indeed, I have a great deal of sympathy for Travis. He is an outsider in so many ways, and he might crave simple respect and acceptance."

I think Travis has forfeited the sympathy and respect/acceptance, both of which he'd probably prefer to sympathy, by his actions and his writings.

Agreeing with most of the wildlife arguments he's made, I stood up for him for months, now more than a year, against friends and others. No more. I still think it is important for a newspaper to not be the voice of the government. But to be effective, even to be heard, there has to be fairness. Imo, Travis Armstrong has forfeited that sympathy by the nastiness of so much of what he has written, and, if those who used to work are to be believed (Judge Schmidt did!) the nastiness of his behaviour towards other fellow employees.

He has bought into, perhaps sold himself to Ampersand, becoming its water boy. How can one respect that --- or even have much sympathy! At some point, like Dorian Grey, he'll have to look into the mirror and see how he has treated others, see the wages of being a leader in the "craven support team".

If indeed he craves respect and acceptance, as "Harvey Milk" wrote, then writing differently - or, if that is impossible, that he truly does do as bidden, quitting the job would be a step towards regaining that respect/acceptance.

3/13/2007 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:34 AM, This may not be major, still it reveals alot for the history books. I am interested in expert views on both sides.

" Blonde, the Baron and the Billions, it is salacious tabloid stuff " How do you say what the "Dr." Laura style is? Like her or not, she is global and represents the local in her column. I know she is a stand up person for Travis and NP, I don't know where the NP stands up much for her. They use the quotes "Dr.". Why? Can NP people be more clear and specific in Anonymous blogs? I prefer less prevarication on either side. The NP is secret in critical areas, this makes it difficult for an observer to write on both sides. Libertarians need to have a well rounded perspective to defend these freedoms. It's not only blind allegiance.

I'm not an insider and don't get NP bond with "Dr." Laura. I'm ready to cancel.

3/13/2007 11:16 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

"Not a major newstory" [sic]--only if you don't consider the fact that as the saga has unfolded it's been covered by major media such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair & LA Times, & that AP stories about it continue to be published around the world. Not to mention blog coverage that has hardly been limited to SB blogs. But I guess since the N-P hasn't covered the story you don't consider it "major." ;-)

3/13/2007 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Mic DeNiro said...

Harvey Milk said, "… hate the sin, love the sinner."

Good idea, but it might have come across as more heartfelt if it weren't preceded by his writing, "The most troubled is Wendy... she is almost a fairy-tale archetype of the isolated miser. Both Travis and Scott are in their own ways her craven support team, and von W. the soporific but conniving exploiter.”

Gimme some love, Harvey.

On second thought, don't bother.

3/13/2007 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Glimpy said...

11:25 AM, Let's keep the discourse civilized.

3/13/2007 1:23 PM  
Blogger John Quimby said...

You have to admire Ampersand management.

They have managed to achieve what no Santa Barbara media company has since California joined the Union.

3/13/2007 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the NLRB dismissed some of the union's filings weeks ago, McCaw/Huff issued a BusinessWire release trumpeting the "victory." The release astoundingly was published on the News-Press' website, as a news story, without any editing. The print version of the release, issued as a hard news story the next morning, had only slight editing.

There is NOTHING in today's News-Press or on its website about the new ruling favoring the union.

The news has been in stories, however, across California.

What happened to McCaw's "fair and balanced" reporting of the "best local news to be had"?

How can she fire reporters and ruin careers over "bias" when she has become its most flagrant local practioner?

Look in the mirror, Wendy.

Ban the bias.

3/13/2007 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Harvey Milk said...

mic, sure, I can love you, and love the sin sometimes too. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, and you gotta face up to Wendy, Travis, Scott, and von W. and what they do. I've seen so much darned denial, they just need to face themselves and accept themselves, and get out of their respective closets.

3/13/2007 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Bob Guiliano said...

Well, the NLRB judge has spoken. He was a neutral observer agreed upon by both sides to objectively listen to what News-Press managers and staff had to say.

So, professional newsroom managers Travis Armstrong and Scott Steepleton are prone to "extreme embellishments" and "unreliable" statements when under oath swearing to God that they will tell the truth, the judge found.

Some questions must logically follow:

Can they be trusted to adhere to journalistic ethics, merely on the honor system, to provide readers with unbiased truth on editorial and news pages, and to be truthful advising their publisher?

Is the main problem at the News-Press a fight for honor by reporters and editors who risked and lost their jobs to restore ethics and integrity to best serve the readers of Santa Barbara and help Wendy McCaw publish the best newspaper possible?

Or, as supporters say, is the problem a devious plot by a gang of biased reporters and editors who infiltrated the News-Press, colluded with the Teamsters union to help increase its membership, with an ulterior motive to attract more homeless to the streets of Santa Barbara?

Which alternative sounds more "embellished" and "unreliable?"

I'm particularly interested in hearing some good answers from supporters of the News-Press "transition" who trust Armstrong and Steepleton and are satisfied that the News-Press under their management is doing an excellent job presenting diverse opinions on the editorial pages and full range of coverage on the news pages.

P.S. A note to Wendy. You can still turn your newspaper around and alter its future. Consider the past a learning experience. Time to clean house of lackeys and get some straight shooters in there to give you and Arthur sound advice and perhaps one day help your newspaper set the bar for the industry.

3/13/2007 5:06 PM  
Anonymous fan of the law said...

To my mind, one of the illuminating facets of the ruling is the sheer incompetence of Millstein. His arguments were facile and off-target, and one has to question his ability to interpret case law.

Although he has demonstrated a pugnacious -- and no doubt lucrative -- dedication to Wendy's agenda, it is clear he is no Barry Cappello.

Indeed, the emergence of Cappello as Wendy's primary legal weapon suggests that she has finally realized that Millstein is a minor leaguer, and has elected to upgrade.

3/13/2007 6:01 PM  
Blogger david said...

Link to place where you can get the ALJ decision, as a web page:


3/13/2007 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly the tone and tenor of the anti-Wendy posts on this forum give credibility to the claim these writers are a very biased claque.

I hope they don't get their jobs back because I don't want to read them any more. I want the NewsPress to be better than that unending stream of pettiness evidenced here.

Except for SDLG - she be way cool. She is a professional.

3/13/2007 7:24 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

So it sounds like the employees are now free to elect reps and start discussions with SBNP management on working conditions et al? Anyone care to share what their plans are in this vein? Would an appeal (soon to follow I can imagine) put a stop to union activities in house? Would the fired employees rather have a financial settlement or return to work? Would the union strike if their demands (assuming they do)for new management are not met? Strikes can be very painful for both sides but I'm betting WM has the gumption to stick one out, so the employees better think long and hard on this option. Union officials are paid by the union. Don't think they neccessarily have your best interests in mind.

Been there, done that, couldn't afford the T shirt.

3/14/2007 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much are the union dues that the NewsPress employees how have to pay?

$25 a year - $100 a month - what???

3/14/2007 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cappello may be a good trial lawyer, but he is unethical (e.g., totally bogus threats to shopkeepers) and out of his depth in labor law.

3/14/2007 8:49 PM  
Anonymous jqb said...

Sadly the tone and tenor of the anti-Wendy posts on this forum give credibility to the claim these writers are a very biased claque.

Exactly what posts and persons are you referring to? How do you know which posts are by NP writers? Considering what you write here, you have no credibility.

I hope they don't get their jobs back because I don't want to read them any more. I want the NewsPress to be better than that unending stream of pettiness evidenced here.

That's a swell tone and tenor you have there -- petty and hypocritical.

3/15/2007 8:01 AM  

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