Friday, January 04, 2008

For Once Justice Was Swift

For those of us who had prepared ourselves for a long wait, it was quite a surprise. And it wasn’t the substance of the ruling that was the surprise but rather the swiftness of it.

A labor law judge has basically found the Santa Barbara News-Press “guilty” of everything it had been accused of in the hearing that took place last August and September.

We had all become accustomed to the glacial pace at which legal proceedings involving the News-Press had proceeded.

After all, it was not quite a year ago that another labor law judge heard the News-Press’ challenge to the 33 to 6 vote in favor of unionization by its newsroom employees. The evidence in that case took less than two days to present but it was nearly two months before the judge issued his decision upholding the vote.

With this latest case consuming 17 days of testimony it figured to be a long wait for a ruling on this one. Most people figured we would see the red carpet rolled out and rolled back up for the Santa Barbara Film Fest and bikinis return to East Beach before we would see a decision out of Judge William G. Kocol.

How wrong we were! Although it may not have been under the tree on Christmas morning to be unwrapped along with the other presents, it made it here in time for the New Year’s toast.

At a New Year’s Eve party I attended, former News-Press employees Anna Davison and Andrea Huebner were absolutely radiant having received word of the ruling earlier in the day. Not only had the judge ruled in favor of the employees who wished to unionize, he went out of his way to note the credence he gave to their testimony.

And wherever News-Press owner Wendy McCaw might have been ringing in the New Year on Monday evening, one can only imagine what her midnight toast might have been like. “Here’s to another million dollars in legal fees down the drain on another lost cause?”

I wonder if Wendy will try to recall the 16 custom-made large gift baskets, some including bottles of champagne, that she reportedly had sent over to her lawyer Barry Cappello's firm just before Christmas.

And just in case you’re wondering, employees at the News-Press didn’t receive so much as a Christmas card from McCaw.

Oh, the Christmas spirit still lives at the News-Press. It’s just the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The News-Press, through its lawyers, has already announced that it intends to appeal the judge’s decision. Surprise! Surprise!

That tactic will take time off of the clock but that’s about all. I attended nearly every session of the hearing and I can say that I’ve never seen a judge conduct a trial in a more even-handed or fair manner than Judge Kocol.

I can’t imagine anyone in the world who could match him in his mastery of the nuances of labor law, and his 75 pages of findings of fact and conclusions of law will not be overturned.

At their rally in De la Guerra Plaza this past Wednesday, the newsroom employees announced that they are going to once again request that the National Labor Relations Board take the News-Press to federal court for purposes of getting an order that the newspaper immediately reinstate the fired employees.

(BTW, local filmmaker Larry Nimmer has posted video he shot of Wednesday afternoon's rally.)

Several of the Board members who put the kibosh on authorizing the pursuit of injunctive relief last spring are now gone and the strong tenor of Judge Kocol’s ruling can only bolster the chances of the success of such a request.

• • •

While I was on vacation these past two weeks two of my fellow Daily Sound columnists found themselves in the news.

John Dickson, who writes the Tuesday restaurant column, made page one of the L.A. Times on Christmas Eve with a story on his project to answer kids phone calls to Santa Claus.

And “Miss Kitty” who writes the sex and relationships column that appears on Fridays became the victim of a burglary when would-be thieves attempted to break into her lingerie boutique “Purrmission” located on Calle Laureles Avenue.

Sounds like a failed panty raid to me.

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