NLRB says Calif. newspaper bargains in bad faith

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The National Labor Relations Board has affirmed a judge's decision that the publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press has bargained in bad faith in a long-running dispute with a newsroom union.

The federal agency last week ordered Ampersand Publishing LLC to bargain in good faith with the union representing the company's employees. The board found Ampersand submitted proposals that would have allowed it to unilaterally set wages and hire and fire employees.

"We have not really had a genuine give-and-take at the table in nearly five years, and it has been extremely frustrating," said Nick Caruso, the union's chief negotiator. "We hope that this decision will give the News-Press reason to pause and reconsider its rigid anti-union bad faith stance, and finally begin a process that will lead to fairness and a more democratic workplace."

A phone message left for an attorney representing Ampersand was not immediately returned Monday.

Two years ago, a federal administrative law judge found that the newspaper had bargained in bad faith with the union since 2007. The federal labor relations board said last year that the paper fired journalists because of their union activity.

The dispute between Ampersand and employees date back to 2006, when nearly every top editor at the paper quit in protest over what they said was the owner's interference with news coverage.

Eight reporters were fired, six of whom hung a sign from a freeway pedestrian bridge that read, "Cancel Your Newspaper Today!"

In 2010, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that forcing Ampersand to rehire the employees fired for union activity is a violation of the publisher's First Amendment rights.