Friday, May 30, 2008

They Partied Like It Was 1999

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a little champagne party over at the News-Press building Wednesday evening.

Just after 5 p.m. all the reporters, editors and copy desk people were called into the conference room where associate editor Scott Steepleton announced the news about federal judge Steven Wilson's refusal to reinstate the eight fired reporters and pronounced it reason to celebrate. Several people responded by applauding. Arthur von Wiesenberger, making a rare appearance before the staff, then spoke. "From a publisher's standpoint, it's been a difficult two years and we're happy to put this behind us and move on."

He then proceeded to open one of at least four bottles of Mumms champagne that was on the table in front of him.

It was a curious scene especially when you consider that the News-Press has a policy prohibiting the consumption of alcohol while on the job. And many of the newsroom staff present (which is made up largely of temporary workers at this point in time) were in the middle of their shift. Just the same, glasses were tipped and eyes were rolled.

And by the way, the paper's human resources director, Yolanda Apodaca, was there along with Director of Community Relations Graham Brown.

* * *

My best guess as to what News-Press employees were thinking during the champagne party.

Arthur may not know how to run a newspaper but he can sure throw a hell of a happy hour!

We should do this every time a judge rules in favor of the News-Press. See you here again in the year 2018.

If I could sneak one of those bottles of champagne out of here maybe I could trade it for a month's worth of health insurance?

* * *

And how are the eight fired reporters taking the news about the denial of the injunction request?

"This just means we won’t be going back to work now. This doesn't dampen our spirits in the slightest," former reporter Dawn Hobbs told Barney Brantingham. She added that they still won the trial, referring to last summer's hearing which resulted in a administrative law judge William Kocol determining that the News-Press was guilty of having committed numerous unfair labor practices.

And no, Wednesday's ruling doesn't change that finding at all. Judge Kocol's decision has been appealed to the National Labor Relations Board which will review it. The purpose of seeking the injunction was to force the newspaper to reinstate the reporters pending that appeal. If the NLRB upholds Kocol's decision and denies the paper's appeal, the reporters will get their job's back. Judge Wilson's ruling just means they won't be able to take the express lane to reinstatement.

In fact, I wouldn't expect the NLRB to decide the News-Press' appeal of judge Kocol's decision until some time in 2009. We'll see who pops the champagne then.