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The ACLU of Southern California stepped in when a Santa Barbara newspaper publisher threatened local business owners. The businesses received cease-and-desist letters from a lawyer for News-Press publisher Wendy McCaw after they posted signs urging her to "obey the law" by recognizing a new employee union.

ACLU/SC attorney Peter Eliasberg said it was "outrageous that the owner of a newspaper who should be a champion of free speech is instead trying to silence the voices of members of the community."

Editorial employees of the Santa Barbara News-Press recently voted to unionize, but McCaw has opposed their decision. Since July, more than half the newspaper's 50-member staff of reporters and editors have quit or been fired.

After McCaw's lawyer charged that local business, including Highlights Hair Salon, had defamed McCaw by posting the signs, the ACLU/SC responded in a letter: "In light of the well-established law, I trust neither you or any other lawyer for Ms. McCaw or the News-Press will be sending threatening letters to Santa Barbara residents who choose to weigh in with opinions on the News-Press's labor dispute with its employees."

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