Saturday, September 15, 2007

McCaw Asks NLRB To Throw Out Certification

Nearly a year after its newsroom employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Teamsters so they could bargain with their employer over issues including journalistic ethics, News-Press management has still not agreed to sit down at the table. It looks like it will be yet longer before there are any bargaining talks.

Yesterday, the News-Press filed a motion with the National Labor Relations Board asking it to reconsider its decision of August 16th of this year certifying the union as the bargaining unit.

The news is reported in a front page, column one story appearing in this morning's News-Press. The grounds for the motion is the failure of the union to produce an e-mail that had been requested in a subpoena prior to a hearing in January of this year on the issue of whether the outcome of the election should be overturned.

At the heart of the motion is an incident which involved an attempt by 15 to 20 newsroom employees to deliver a letter to the paper's owner Wendy McCaw on August 24th of last year. To do so they walked through the newsroom at around 3 pm that afternoon. One of the issues at the hearing in January of this year was whether the delivery attempt was quiet and peaceful or disruptive and threatening.

After hearing testimony, the administrative law judge who considered the question sided with the union finding that the delivery attempt was peaceful and rejecting, on credibility grounds, the testimony of editorial page editor Travis Armstrong and associate editor Scott Steepleton to the contrary.

Last week, at the current NLRB hearings that are underway on whether the News-Press is guilty of unfair labor practices including unlawfully firing eight reporters, two e-mails surfaced which the News-Press argues contradict those findings.

The News-Press is claiming in its motion that the e-mails were wrongfully withheld by the Union. This morning, union attorney Ira Gottlieb told me, via e-mail, that the union did not withhold any subpoenaed information that has since surfaced. The paper only subpoenaed the documents of the union, rather than those of individual employees, for that case and Gottlieb maintains that the union no longer had the e-mail at the time of the January hearing.

Gottlieb also stated that; "The Schultz e-mails prove nothing. He was crowing about how the event had been a success, but the language he used in the "rock the house" and "blitzkrieg" e-mails was obviously not literal." Gottlieb went on to point out that Armstrong himself even testified that there was no noise associated with the march to deliver the letter.

According to Gottlieb, even if that event was as allegedly disruptive as the paper claims, it still would not be sufficient to overturn a vote of 33 to 6 to unionize. "The motion should not come close to overturning the election. "I imagine the Board will rule relatively shortly on this . . ."

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