PR: NLRB to Prosecute SBNP for Bargaining in Bad Faith
The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board announced yesterday, after an investigation into the misconduct of the Santa Barbara News-Press at and away from the negotiating table over the last nine months, that it will prosecute the News-Press for failing and refusing to bargain in good faith with the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
The GCC/IBT won a secret ballot election in September, 2006, winning the right to bargain collectively with the News-Press over terms and conditions of employment for news department employees. Since then the News-Press has committed and been found guilty by an Adminstrative Law Judge of no less than 15 labor law violations, including the unlawful firings of eight reporters. The News-Press has appealed that decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.
After the News-Press stalled the first day of bargaining for over a year through legal maneuvering, the parties first met to negotiate in November, 2007. The News-Press conducted itself at the table as if the Union had not won the right to bargain, seeking to maintain the pre-union status quo in its bargaining positions and to avoid agreement, while doing what it could, lawfully or otherwise, to frustrate the newsroom employees hoping for workplace improvement through negotiation of a contract. That misconduct and disinterest in bargaining was manifested, inter alia, in its outrageous and absurd proposals that, if agreed upon, would maintain its discretion to change economic terms even after an agreement was reached, provide for a grievance process ending with Wendy McCaw deciding whether her own management had violated the contract, perpetuate the arbitrary "at will" lack of employee protection that the News-Press has used to intimidate and coerce its employees over the last two years. That News-Press bad faith and disdain for the bargaining process was further demonstrated in the unprecedented hiring of employees it labeled "temporary" - though some have remained employed for over a year - to perform newsroom work, failing and refusing to provide information requested by the Union, its filing of bogus unfair labor practice charges against the Union (none of which have been found to have merit), agreeing to meet only sporadically, its publishing of scurrilous editorials about the bargaining sessions, its misrepresentation of the nature of accepted editorial practices that have been customary at the SBNP for years, and its circulation of employee communiqués rife with misinformation and vitriol.
The NLRB's investigation of the News-Press' bad faith bargaining came in response to a charge filed by the Union in May, and canvassed the totality of the parties' conduct from the beginning of the bargaining sessions.
"We would much prefer that the News-Press bargain in good faith and reach a satisfactory agreement, than have to go to the NLRB to once again force the newspaper to adhere to basic labor law requirements", said Teamster negotiator Nick Caruso. "We have been quite reasonable in our positions, and quite clear as to what it will take to get an agreement. We recognize these are tough times for newspapers, but the News-Press in turn has to recognize that the Union is here to stay, that the employees need and deserve some basic protection and stability, and that the best way to improve the paper and the atmosphere in the newsroom is to reach a fair employment contract.", added Caruso. Summarized Caruso, "Once we have a good agreement in place, the Union will be happy to help the News-Press gain back lost readership and advertising revenue."
This is not the first time that the NLRB has found the News-Press' lead negotiator, Nashville, Tennessee union buster Michael Zinser, to be worthy of prosecution for bad faith bargaining. In at least two other recent cases in Pennsylvania and Hawaii, the NLRB's General Counsel issued complaints against Zinser newspaper clients for bargaining in bad faith in violation of federal labor law. Both of those cases settled before trial.
The NLRB has not set a hearing date for prosecuting the News-Press on its forthcoming bad faith bargaining complaint. The NLRB also announced that it would prosecute the News-Press for failing to provide annual evaluations to a substantial number of employees for last year, and continues to delilberate on several other charges filed by the Union against the News-Press, including the hiring of "temporary" employees to undermine the bargaining unit, and the hiring of an investigative reporter outside of the unit.