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More e-mails, more problems for Teamsters

September 18, 2007 8:30 AM

I've been learning a lot over the 14 days I've attended the National Labor Relations Board hearing involving the News-Press and the Teamsters union.

For one, people connected to that union have a hard time turning over documents even when there are multiple subpoenas ordering them to do so. News-Press attorney Barry Cappello has noted in court that the newspaper has handed over between 5,000 and 10,000 pages, but the union only has produced about an inch-high stack of paper.

Mr. Cappello wants a hearing on possible sanctions against Teamsters attorney Ira Gottlieb for an apparent pattern of failing to provide this evidence.

By now you may have read about two e-mails written by former reporter Tom Schultz regarding an Aug. 24 march through parts of the News-Press building. Mr. Schultz sent the messages to two dozen people, including Mr. Gottlieb and Teamsters agent Marty Keegan.

The e-mails paint a different picture from what Mr. Schultz, at a January labor hearing, testified to regarding the Aug. 24 march. He cast it in January as a professional walk from the newsroom to the offices of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw and Human Resources Director Yolanda Apodaca to deliver a letter.

But one of his e-mails states: "Peeps, we rocked the house, crossed their wires and got em unglued. Way to go. Anybody feel free to grab me for the full run down on the letter delivery." The second one says: "Hearing loss . . . must be due to that sonic boom we created during our blitzkrieg through the newsroom on our way to Wendy's office. Dammit, I must have banged on that sauce pan too close to my head right before jackhammering our demands in to the floor at HR."

At the January hearing on certification of the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters as the newsroom union, I testified that the march was frightening and brutish, particularly in the context of other union or union-related behavior during the seven weeks before the march.

This included, while I was acting publisher in July 2006, a large group of employees blocking my office door and refusing to leave even after I expressly told them their actions were making me uncomfortable. Fired reporter Melinda Burns' testimony from a couple of weeks ago confirmed that I used the word "uncomfortable."

The group basically forced me to take a letter from them, even though I requested we do this at another time and place. Rallies that summer, apparently connected to the union activities, included derogatory signs about me. You could get T-shirts on the Internet that targeted me with an expletive.

This is the type of behavior the Teamsters have helped bring to Santa Barbara.

The News-Press last Friday asked the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., to overturn the union certification. The newspaper says the judge in the January hearing "was not presented the (e-mails) because GCC concealed them. All the more offensive is that GCC failed to produce the documents in response to two separate subpoenas in two separate NLRB cases."

Regardless of the outcome of this request, the hearing on the charges of "unfair labor practices" against the News-Press is continuing in Santa Barbara. At last Friday's proceedings, yet another e-mail about the Aug. 24 march turned up. On Aug. 25, religion reporter Melissa Evans sent an e-mail to education reporter Rob Kuznia saying, "Yes, Scott was scared. Very scared."

Clearly, the Teamsters have a credibility problem. And anyone found to have withheld these key e-mails should be ashamed, very ashamed.

EMBELLISHMENTS? Remember the claims about all the subscription cancellation cards that union organizers supposedly collected from News-Press readers? It was said to be in the ballpark of 3,000.

But union testimony at the labor hearing has contradicted this. Union witnesses have put the number at "a thousand," or "900" or, most recently, "several hundred."

How embarrassing. No wonder the union, despite vows to do so, never turned the cards into the News-Press.

Travis Armstrong is the editorial page editor of the News-Press and host of a weekly talk show on AM 1290.