Monday, August 09, 2010

For Fiesta, A Roadside Attraction

No matter what your opinion is of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw I think there's one thing about her upon which we can all agree. The woman is stubborn.

I have no idea whether or not, "Over my dead body!" is her usual response on those occasions when boyfriend Arthur von Weisenberger wants to get frisky. But I'll bet you anything that's exactly what she says when someone asks her, "Will you ever reach an agreement with the union that represents your newsroom employees?"

There's only one other group of people who can match Wendy in her stubbornness. The Teamsters, who happen to represent those newsroom employees.

Nearly a full four years after those employees voted 33 to 6 to unionize and what is about to become three years at the bargaining table with nothing to show for it, the Teamsters are showing no signs of retreating.

Given that they are up against a one-time billionaire who still has a formidable war chest she can dip into in order to pay her lawyers, the Teamsters are probably the one organization that has the wherewithal to give Wendy the what for.

During last week's Fiesta, the Teamsters were driving a huge RV around downtown Santa Barbara adorned with anti-McCaw signs.

It was certainly the largest RV I had ever seen. How long was it? I didn't measure it but, let me put it this way. If the guy sitting behind the steering wheel used his phone to talk to the person sitting in the back of the RV, looking out the rear window, it would have been a long distance call.

The RV belonged to Marty Keegan, the organizer for the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters. Keegan, along with two associates, seemed to be enjoying a Fiesta of driving up and down the streets and parking in proximity to the News-Press building.

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On Friday, at their invitation, I climbed into the RV and chatted with them for a few minutes. "So what's the reaction to this thing?" I asked. They told me that most onlookers who acknowledge them either give a thumbs up or a thumbs down sign and they were getting far more of the former than the latter.

They mentioned that during their short stay here, they got the attention of News-Press City editor Scott Steepleton, who notwithstanding the size of their vehicle, they somehow managed to sneak up on.

Despite the fact that four years after having won recognition as the newsroom's bargaining unit, his union still has no labor contract and McCaw has not been forced to reinstate any of the union employees that she fired, Keegan seemed optimistic. "I'm excited about the future," he told me.

With the National Labor Relations Board back at full strength, some of the rulings favorable to the Union that have been rendered by administrative law judges, will hopefully be confirmed and enforced.

And then there's the matter of McCaw's biggest victory thus far in her battle with the Union. Her successful resistance of an injunction ordering the immediate reinstatement of eight fired reporters.

Although, a three-judge appellate panel upheld a trial judge's decision refusing to reinstate, the matter may be reheard by a panel of 11 randomly selected judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that will not include any of the three judges who decided the appeal the first time around. It shouldn't be too much longer before we know whether the court will grant such a rehearing. If they do, Keegan, mindful of the composition of the Ninth Circuit Judges, likes the Union's chances on rehearing.

In the meantime, as much as Wendy might want the rest of us to forget the past four years, the Teamsters are determined not to let us.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and