Hilo paper on trial for charges over fired reporters
HILO » A National Labor Relations Board judge opened a trial yesterday in which the Hilo-based Hawaii Tribune-Herald faces 13 charges for alleged unfair labor practices.
The charges center on the firing of reporters Hunter Bishop in October 2005 and Dave Smith in April 2006.
Newspaper attorney Michael Zinser told Administrative Law Judge John McCarrick of San Francisco yesterday that Bishop had a history of insubordination. Smith was fired after he secretly tape-recorded a meeting between himself and Editor Dave Bock.
The trial follows years of bad labor relations at the Stephens Media newspaper.
The last contract for employees, who are members of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, expired in 2002. Employees currently work under month-to-month contract extensions.
Contract negotiations, conducted by Zinser for the paper, have repeatedly failed.
When Bishop was fired, a number of employees wore buttons saying "Bring Hunter back" until publisher Ted Dixon ordered them to stop. When Smith was fired, a number of employees wore red armbands until another order brought a halt.
The current troubles started Oct. 18, 2005, when clerk Koryn Nako allowed a union representative into the newspaper building. Bock talked to Nako about the alleged violation of a company policy. Union representatives contend that the policy is applied sporadically and arbitrarily.
Nako had asked for a witness to attend her meeting with Bock, which is her right under federal law, Bishop said.
Bishop, then a union representative, volunteered to be a witness, he testified yesterday. Bock told Bishop there was no need and Bishop went back to his lunch.
The next day, Bishop was suspended and later fired for being "disrespectful, insubordinate and disruptive," according to his firing letter.
The next spring, Smith, believing he wouldn't be allowed to bring a witness during a meeting with Bock, borrowed a tape recorder and used it secretly, the union has said. The union says that is not illegal. Zinser called it "dishonest."
Smith was fired after he refused to sign a paper saying he wouldn't make new tape recordings, Zinser said.