Give some credit to the AP. MediaNews CEO may be the chairman of the wire service, but AP reporter Jeremy Herron wrote this story that gave the union’s point of view about layoffs at the Contra Costa Times and other East Bay newspapers owned by MediaNews.
- Sara Steffens, a nine-year Contra Costa Times staffer who was elected chair of the papers’ bargaining unit, called her layoff retaliatory.
“They wanted to keep me from continuing to engage co-workers as we push for our first contract and they hoped this would send a message to scare people away from further union activity,” she said.
Steffens, who covered poverty and social services, said about 53 percent of the staff who voted June 13 approved union representation. That vote led the NLRB two weeks later to certify the Bay Area News Group-East Bay unit of the Media Workers Guild to represent the staff in contract negotiations.
Other reporters laid off include religion writer Rebecca Rosen Lum, a founding member of the union organizing committee, and Geoff Lepper, columnist covering the Golden State Warriors basketball team.
Steffens said Lepper had been outspoken in favor of the union in meetings leading up to the vote.
Marshall Anstandig (pictured), the labor attorney who represents the paper’s ownership, called the charge “ridiculous … The reporters laid off were in beats the papers did not believe they could continue to cover during the severe economic downturn they’ve had,” Anstandig told the AP. Anstandig, who used to be Knight Ridder’s top attorney for labor matters, said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the union vote. (Photo credit: CNPA)