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News-Press boycott charges dismissed

January 28, 2009 7:53 AM

SCOTT STEEPLETON, NEWS-PRESS ASSOCIATE EDITOR

The Los Angeles region director of the National Labor Relations Board dismissed five unfair labor practice charges filed by the News-Press against the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters over the union's boycott against the paper.

In recent months as the two sides have been meeting at the bargaining table to work out a contract for newsroom employees -- a federal mediator often shuttling between the parties -- union members and associates have been trying to convince local businesses to stop advertising with the newspaper.

The paper's management and attorneys say the union's activity is an illegal secondary boycott. In addition, some business owners have complained to the paper about feeling threatened or intimidated, claims that formed the basis for the paper's filing of charges.

James McDermott, NLRB's region 31 director, issued rulings late last week dismissing the charges for lack of evidence.

A. Barry Cappello, attorney for News-Press parent company Ampersand Publishing LLC, blasted the region's decisions.

"We have asserted long ago that they were so biased and prejudiced that no employer in our situation could ever get a fair shake," he said Tuesday. "We intend to appeal and prove this union intimidated our local businesses and engaged in an illegal boycott."

In an e-mailed press release, union attorney Ira Gottlieb stated, "The dismissals stymie the News-Press' latest attempt to silence its critics and opponents who seek to engage in constitutionally and statutorily protected protests against the News-Press."

He said the newspaper was "found guilty by an administrative law judge of unlawfully firing eight reporters, and engaging in spying, unlawful threats and interrogations, and demanding that employees cease engaging in protected activity."

Mr. Gottlieb also accused the paper of "surface bargaining -- that is, bargaining with no genuine intent to reach an agreement."

A second hearing on labor-related matters will take place May 11 in Santa Barbara. Mr. Gottlieb stated in his e-mail, "Still more charges against the News-Press remain under consideration for possible prosecution."

His e-mail went on to say, "The union hopes that with this latest determination by the NLRB, the News-Press will change its focus to bargaining in good faith to a fair conclusion of the negotiations, which have been ongoing for the last 14 months."

Said Mr. Cappello: "Unfortunately, instead of being truthful, (Mr. Gottlieb) exaggerates, pontificates and misrepresents the past, the present, and underestimates the News-Press' resolve for the future to not be intimidated by union thuggish tactics."

No judge found the News-Press guilty of anything, he added.

"In a 60-page opinion, an administrative law judge, with no authority to find guilt, innocence or liability, recommended that the NLRB find certain facts occurred," said Mr. Cappello. "The NLRB has yet to consider the matter."

"The only definitive judicial decision was pronounced by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson, in the News-Press' favor," said Mr. Cappello. "This court ruled the paper was correct in asserting the union was attempting to control the content of the paper, that it had no right to, and in fact it violated the publisher/owner Wendy McCaw's right to the First Amendment freedom of the press."

As for bad faith bargaining, said Mr. Cappello, "this union, the paper and a federal mediator have together been unable to reach an agreement."

"Papers across the nation are cutting back and closing. The Internet is killing the business model," he said. "Employees across the nation are losing their jobs because the economy is the worst since the Great Depression. This union insists on 'feather bedding,' content management and luxurious perks in an economic climate where survival is really the only mandate."

e-mail: ssteepleton@newspress.com

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