Tuesday, November 13, 2007

After A Year of Foot Dragging, Paper and Union Will Talk

Today, 13 plus months after they voted to unionize, newsroom employees at the Santa Barbara News-Press will finally sit down at the bargaining table with representatives of the paper's management on the other side.

So, are you thinking what I'm thinking? What the hell took so long?

Wendy spent a lot of time and undoubtedly an unfathomable amount of money trying to stave off negotiations.

While Wendy stalled, circulation went into the tank. Despite that fact I'm not optimistic about the prospects of the McCaw doing anything other than dragging the heels of her Jimmy Choo's. I hope I'm wrong.

This initial round of negotiations is only scheduled to last two days. Hopefully they will get down to business quickly and won't waste time arguing about the shape of the table that they're sitting at.

Nick Caruso, a union official with the Graphics Communication Conference of the Teamsters, will be serving as spokesperson for the employees of the newsroom. The Union Committee consists of Lyn Ward, Dennis Moran, and alternates, Karna Hughes and Tom Schultz. Dawn Hobbs and Melinda Burns. along with Schultz will serve as technical advisers while they are awaiting, what they hope will be, reinstatement to their former positions as reporters at the paper.

It is believed that the chief negotiator on behalf of the paper is Michael Zinser, the Tennessee attorney who played an advisory role to Barry Cappello in the recently concluded NLRB hearings.

The meetings are taking place at an undisclosed "neutral" location here in town. (And there's a discussion post on this over at Blogabarbara.)

* * *

It hadn't happened for a long time, but all four stories on the front page of last Saturday's paper carried the by-line of a local reporter.

Unfortunately it was a short-lived trend. Yesterday's paper had no local stories on the front page. Just some huge photos, with an accompanying caption, of a Veteran's Day celebration.

* * *

In the light of that nearly 15 percent drop in circulation, the News-Press has been conducting a very aggressive phone campaign to try to get former subscribers back into the fold.

Leslie Westbrook wrote about her own experience with the paper's telemarketers in her column yesterday in the Daily Sound.

Steve Underwood, a former colleague of mine at the County Counsel's office, wrote to say that the other night he and his wife received one of those phone calls trying to get them to re-subscribe to the paper. Steve's wife politely listened to the caller and then said... "Is Wendy still there?" The caller said "yes." To which Steve's wife replied, "Well then, we aren't interested." She then hung up the phone.

Maybe more people would sign up if Wendy raffled off one of those Bentleys?

* * *

Yesterday I used the word "tea-totaler." A couple of readers wrote in to point out the correct way to spell "teetotaler."

Having never been one, how was I supposed to know?

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