Magazine article Editor & Publisher

NLRB Dismisses Claim of Anti-Union Layoff at MediaNews Group

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

NLRB Dismisses Claim of Anti-Union Layoff at MediaNews Group

Article excerpt

The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed a wrongful termination claim filed by a union organizer at a MediaNews Group chain who was laid off two days after being voted in as unit chair.

Sara Steffens, a nine-year reporter at the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif., was voted unit chair of the new Bay Area Newspaper Group-East Bay guild unit on July 9.

A chief organizer of the new Guild unit at the chain outside San Francisco, Steffens was laid off on July 11. She claimed then that she was being let go in part for her union activities and filed a complaint with the NLRB shortly afterward.

The guild unit represents nine BANG-EB papers that are part of MediaNews Group, including the Times and the Oakland Tribune.

On Nov. 28, Regional NLRB Director Alan B. Reichard issued his dismissal of the complaint concerning the termination of Steffens and fellow staffers Rebecca Rosen-Lum and Geoff Lepper.

" ... the evidence was insufficient to establish that but for these three employees' union activities, they would not have been selected for layoff," Reichard wrote in his decision. "In this regard, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the employer harbored animus against these three employees because of their protected activities."

Marshall Anstandig, Senior Vice President-General Counsel for the California Newspapers Partnership, which includes the Bay Area News Group, welcomed the news.

"Needless to say, we are very pleased with the NLRB's decision to dismiss the Guild's claim," he wrote to E&P in an e-mail Monday. "It is always unfortunate to be cutting staff, as you know. However, the allegation here was that we acted unlawfully. We are very pleased to see that the NLRB agreed with our position."

Carl Hall, a local guild representative who helped organize the BANG-EB unit, lamented the decision. "I am disappointed that they didn't see the evidence the way we did," he told E&P. "I have seen a lot of cases with less-compelling evidence. We are going to evaluate our options."

In an e-mail to E&P, Steffens added: "Obviously this is disappointing -- it was obvious to most everyone in the newsroom why I lost my job. …

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