Friday, March 07, 2008

NLRB Takes News-Press To Court To Get Reporters Reinstated

After well over a year, the struggle for reinstatement by eight reporters who were fired by the Santa Barbara News-Press may finally be getting onto the fast track.

Yesterday, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles seeking the immediate reinstatement of those eight fired reporters.

In late December, an administrative law judge ruled that the reporters, Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Tom Schultz, Dawn Hobbs, Melissa Evans, John Zant, Barney McManigal and Rob Kuznia, (all members of the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters Union) had been unlawfully terminated in retaliation for their union organizing activities and ordered that they be restored to their former positions. The News-Press has appealed that decision thus delaying the return of the eight to the paper. But perhaps persuaded by how strongly Judge William G. Kocol rebuked the News-Press, finding the paper's disregard for the rights of employees to be "flagrant," the General Counsel has taken the extraordinary step of going to court to seek an order that the reporters be restored to their previous positions immediately.

So how fast will this latest lawsuit proceed? Probably a lot faster than you think.

The first court appearance in the case will be this Monday at 1:30 p.m. The judge to whom the case is assigned, Stephen Wilson, has a reputation for rapidly moving cases along. On Monday, at a minimum, the court will discuss the scheduling of future hearings with the parties. But there is the possibility that the court could use the hearing to start inquiring into the merits of the lawsuit as well.

This is a huge development. The fired reporters had hoped that the NLRB would take this action on their behalf last spring. Although the General Counsel had recommended to the full National Labor Relations Board that injunctive relief be pursued, the Board refused to authorize it. Since then, two things have changed; Judge Kocol's decision was handed down and what was a five member National Labor Relations Board now has three vacancies. The two remaining members have delegated their authority to determine whether to pursue injunctive relief of this type to the General Counsel. The General Counsel has chosen to exercise that power and seek the court order for reinstatement.

If there is to be a "beginning of the end" moment for Wendy McCaw in this long drawn out struggle this could be it. If the judge rules for the reporters and against McCaw and the News-Press, Wendy's avenues for challenging such a ruling will be limited. If she refuses to obey an order to reinstate the reporters, the News-Press, and perhaps even McCaw herself, could be facing charges of contempt of court.

The stakes in this chess game just got raised.

* * *

The Citizen McCaw premiere is tonight!

Film starts at 7:30 pm. Last I heard the producers were planning on playing music inside the Arlington once the doors open and prior to the start of the movie. Here are my suggestions for songs they should play:

"Wendy" by the Association.

"I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

"Hard Headed Woman" by Cat Stevens.

As for the film itself, I predict it will be a roller coaster experience for the audience. There are times you will laugh and moments that will bring tears to your eyes. There may be even a time or two when I expect the reaction of the audience to be flat out raucous.

The guy who comes closest to stealing the movie is the Indy's Nick Welsh with his sage observations about McCaw.

One of my favorite moments in the film comes near the very end when former editor Jerry Roberts is being interviewed and talks about what he misses about working at the paper.

At the conclusion of the film there will be a Q&A session with the film's producers Rod Lathim, Charles Minsky, Peter Seaman and Sam Tyler and principal cinematographer and editor Brent Sumner.

Don't expect to see McCaw lawyer Barry Cappello in the audience tonight. Cappello told the Ventura County Star that he didn't plan to attend the premiere of "Citizen McCaw" but will send another lawyer who's worked on the case to determine if any legal action is merited.


Let me remind you that tonight's show is sold out. However, two additional screenings have been added at the Marjorie Luke Theatre located at 721 E. Cota Street in Santa Barbara: Saturday, April 5th at 8 pm and Sunday, April 6th at 3 pm.

Tickets are on sale now at the Lobero Theatre Box Office at 33 E. Canon Perdido Street or by calling 805.963.0761 or online at General Admission Tickets are $17.50 (including all box office fees) and a limited number of $100 VIP center section seats are available as well.

See you at the movies!