Friday, February 09, 2007

Union and Rebellion

Disturbing news out of Santa Barbara, CA:

Three reporters - Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia and Barney McManigal - were fired Monday evening, while three others - John Zant, Thomas Schultz and Melissa Evans - were terminated Tuesday.

I suppose another woeful tale of the heartless and irresponsible Internet gobbling up audience, advertising market share, and formerly tenured positions. Or perhaps another example of corporate greed forcing out the precious gatekeepers of truth and justice.

Wrong, ink-stained wretch breath:

The firings came after a group of employees displayed a banner reading "Cancel Your Newspaper Today" from a bridge over Highway 101 in Santa Barbara during last Friday morning's rush hour.

Well. that's one way to get management's attention. Like most things in life, this reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. The one where George got a job offer from the Mets, but before he could take it, he had to get fired from the Yankees. From the episode, The Millenium:

GEORGE: Of course. But I really wanna leave my mark this time, you know, uh. I wanna walk away from the Yankees with people saying 'Wow! Now that guy got canned!'

JERRY: So you want to go out in a final blaze of incompetence?

GEORGE: Ehh. (nostalgic) Remember that summer at Dairy Queen where I cooled my feet in the soft-serve machine?

After several failed attempts to get fired, George resorted to:

[Yankee's Parking Lot. George is driving his car in a circle in the parking lot. Trailing behind the car, on a rope, is the World Series trophy which bounces and clatters on the tarmac. George is leaning out of the car window, with a megaphone.]

GEORGE: Attention Steinbrenner and front-office morons! Your triumphs mean nothing. You all stink. You can sit on it, and rotate! This is George Costanza. I fear no reprisal. Extension five-one-seven-oh.

The tactics are the same, but the motives of the Santa Barbarian reporters were quite different than George's. In fact, getting fired for trashing their employer was the last thing they expected. Crazy logic, you say? Cue the union interpreters:

Teamsters Union officials say they are seeking quick action from the National Labor Relations Board in response to this week's firing of six more Santa Barbara News-Press reporters, who were accused by the newspaper's management of "disloyalty."

"We asked the NLRB for new urgency under the circumstances," said union attorney Ira Gottlieb. "We'll go to federal court to ask a judge to reinstate these people immediately."

The union and reporters contend that the demonstration was federally protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Gottlieb assailed the firings as a "blatant, bare-knuckled attack" on the newsroom employees' rights under federal labor law.

"They engaged in collective expressive activity on behalf of their union, which is fully protected by the National Labor Relations Act," Gottlieb said.

They're gonna to fight for the right to cut their employer's throat. I better search the fine print on my Constitution for that hidden clause.

No matter how this dispute is resolved, you have to empathize with the employer, dragged into court for having the unmitigated gall to fire employees actively encouraging their customers to abandon them. Suddenly McClatchy Corporation's $600 million loss on sale of the Star Tribune looks like a reasonable maneuver. Get out while you can boys.

I have to wonder what sort of draconian atmosphere, what sort of intolerable depredations, could cause this level of hysterical newsroom employee rebellion?

The newspaper has been in turmoil since last July when most of the top editors resigned over alleged newsroom meddling by owner Wendy McCaw. McCaw said she wanted to eliminate "bias" from news stories and also sought stronger local coverage.

It all makes sense now.

1 comment:

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