Union grievance forces Pacifica to reinstate laid off staffer; Judge issues TRO against Pacifica

Pacifica management is reinstating former Morning Show co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert with back pay and other benefits — but he will be employed starting Monday, February 28 as a news reporter rather than as a morning co-host. Edwards-Tiekert, who is outspoken on station issues and critical of management, was laid off out of seniority order. An arbitration on his case had been pending.

“Legally speaking, Pacifica management is throwing in the towel,” wrote Edwards-Tiekert in a letter to supporters. “After three months of stonewalling, they have given our union a ‘make whole’ offer for my grievance: that means they’ll be putting me back on payroll, with back pay. Pacifica has basically conceded it can’t win the pending arbitration over my dismissal. This is a victory for our union in enforcing its contract.” PRESS COVERAGE: East Bay Express | KPFA News | berkeleyside.com | Bay Area Observer

Until the settlement this week, Pacifica management had claimed repeatedly that its layoffs would be upheld by a neutral arbitrator. Co-host Aimee Allison’s arbitration hearing is still going forward, according to KPFAWorker.org.

Supporters are redoubling their efforts in the wake of the win. “Brian’s return to the station is an important victory, but we are not going to rest until Aimee Allison, David Bacon and all the other Morning Show staff, paid and unpaid, are back as well,” said KPFA board member Pamela Drake. “Pacifica was not following the union contract, which protects workers from being singled out on the basis of their political positions.”

We urge everyone to give generously during the current KPFA fund drive – here’s our advice for listeners who’ve asked us how to donate.

New financial details about KPFA’s budget

Financial documents show that KPFA was already outperforming its budget by $290,000 in the first quarter of this fiscal year, casting serious doubt on Pacifica’s claims that it needed to lay off Morning Show co-hosts Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert to meet budget targets (the combined cost of both their salaries and benefits is in the vicinity of $80,000). | SEE LINE 51 COLUMN K OF THIS SPREADSHEET

“These financials go only through December, before KPFA gained any savings from the layoffs because it was still paying severance to most laid off staff at that time,” said Barbara Whipperman, KPFA’s local board treasurer. “In fact, this shows that Pacifica may have generated an unreasonably pessimistic budget in order to justify the layoffs.”

Results from the first week of KPFA’s pledge drive show that the new morning lineup is raising much less than before. | SEE GRAPH

Pacifica hit with TRO and injunction in two separate legal rulings within a week

An Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 23 prohibiting the Pacifica National Board from discussing KPFA issues at its upcoming meeting in Houston, and setting a date for a full hearing on March 18.

“This is the third legal ruling in as many months against the out-of-control Pacifica national board,” said board member Dan Siegel. “Making up reasons to throw democratically-elected representatives off its board is not the way to run a national progressive radio network.”

The ruling was in response to a petition filed last Friday by a majority of the members of KPFA’s Local Station Board. In January, SaveKPFA members Andrea Turner, Dan Siegel, and Laura Prives won election to Pacifica’s National Board, marking a major loss of power for the group led by Tracy Rosenberg that backed the termination of KPFA’s Morning Show. Then, without notice, the incumbent members of the Pacifica National office threw Dan Siegel off both the local and national board, using an absurd misinterpretation of the Pacifica bylaws. They illegally extended the tenure of incumbent national board members Joe Wanzala and Shahram Aghamir, who had been due to be replaced by the SaveKPFA representatives.

“Pacifica faces critical issues right now,” said KPFA local board chair Margy Wilkinson, a member of SaveKPFA. “At a time when the right is attempting to bust unions nationwide, and millions in the Middle East are rising up for democracy, we should be using our resources to further social justice. We should not be forced to go to court in endless battles over the network’s governance.”

The ruling follows two recent similar court actions. Pacifica was slapped with an injunction on February 18 after a KPFK/Los Angeles staff delegate went to court to prevent the network from illegally annulling an election there. Another injunction was issued in December requiring Pacifica to refrain from annulling KPFA’s staff delegate election and requiring it to seat democratically-elected SaveKPFA-affiliated rep Lewis Sawyer.

KPFA winter fund drive update

Thank you to all those donating during KPFA Radio’s fund drive. Congrats to programmer David Gans and his crew (including Tim Lynch and Bonnie Simmons, among many others), who yesterday raised over $58,000 in an all-day Grateful Dead marathon AND got two additional donations of $10K each! And to Mitch Jeserich of Letters & Politics for the highest single-hour pledge total yet – over $11,000. Here’s a link to pledge online.

Listeners deliver $61,200 in pledges to Pacifica, local board asks execs to cut their own pay

Some of the hundreds of listeners who pledged to restore the Morning Show

After Saturday’s Breakfast with the Morning Show, listeners took a giant check to KPFA with $61,200 in pledges — enough to restore the Morning Show through 2011. We hope you’ll take a moment to contact Pacifica’s executive director to urge her to accept the pledges. | EMAIL PACIFICA or PHONE 510-402-9880.

An unusually large number of listeners stayed for KPFA’s local station board (LSB) meeting later that morning. They came from around the greater Bay Area to address the board, such as long-time listener Bonnie Bell, from San Jose. “Every time there’s a fundraiser, I hear people say, ‘It’s your station. You contribute to it, it’s your station.’ But when the Morning Show was taken off, I didn’t feel it was my station at all.” | LISTEN TO AUDIO, more public commentary is linked at KPFA’s LSB page

GM resigns? What about KPFA’s $375,000?

As reported by KPFAWorker.org, staff were told last week that the station’s new general manager, Amit Pendyal, had resigned effective immediately, but Pacifica later said he had taken a “personal leave.” Pendyal has been in the job one month. “Just to put this in context,” said board member Dan Siegel during the board’s discussion, “at the beginning of 2009, each of our five stations had a permanent general manager. By the end of 2009, none did, and this is a major problem with the network from the point of view of fundraising, programming. That’s a material result of the chaos in the network and a change that we’d like to help rectify as the majority of this LSB.” Seigel also addressed Pacifica’s attempt to remove him from the local and national boards. | LISTEN TO AUDIO

New KPFA local board treasurer Barbara Whipperman was asked by the local board’s chair to look into KPFA’s finances, such as the claim last September that the station “can’t meet payroll” and thus, layoffs were required. Whipperman found that in September 2010 KPFA borrowed $12,500 from KPFT to make its mid-month payroll, an amount that was paid back to KPFT by October 15. At the direction of Pacifica management, KPFA loaned WPFW $18,000 for its September 30 payroll, a loan which has no repayment plan. “KPFA did have trouble paying a payroll in September,” notes Whipperman, “but in fact, that loan was paid back in October, and KPFA has been in a position to loan money to other stations, even with the idea that they might not get it back.”

Whipperman also looked into a recent major gift by a Berkeley donor. Both Pacifica and KPFA received equal amounts from the donor of $375,000 to establish endowment accounts, requiring both KPFA and Pacifica to invest the principal and spend only the earnings from each investment. Pacifica’s CFO LaVarn Williams has already spent Pacifica’s portion in violation of the donor’s wishes, and the network is now taxing stations to repay the fund. KPFA’s $375,000 endowment was deposited by the donor with a philanthropic fund management company for safe-keeping, and is expected to produce a sizable grant, available for withdrawal this summer. Whipperman also reported that CFO Williams recently made inquiries about the availability of KPFA’s endowment fund. Pacifica has also tied up $150,000 of KPFA’s reserve money for the last 3 years by using it as a guarantee on a line of credit for the national office. | AUDIO OF COMPLETE TREASURER’S REPORT, or see REPORT AND FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS

Noting that KPFA’s frontline staff have borne the brunt of cuts through layoffs and reductions in hours, the local board passed a resolution asking Pacifica’s executive director and chief financial officer to reduce their salaries by 10% for 12 months. The board also reaffirmed the sustainable budget it passed last year, which was overruled by Pacifica. The board sent it back to Pacifica’s national finance committee, and this time including expected income from the endowment and the $61,000 in pledges for restoration of the Morning Show.

The group of board members led by Tracy Rosenberg who call themselves “independents” failed to attend KPFA’s February board meeting, but at least five of them were spotted milling around outside the building while the meeting was in progress. You can find the unedited audio of the entire board meeting, minutes, and financial reports at the local station board’s webpage. [UPDATE: Pacifica has apparently removed the audio record of the LSB meeting, so we’ve given it a home here: KPFA LSB AUDIO part 1 | part 2 | part 3]

Enthusiastic crowd at Saturday’s breakfast with the Morning Show

Larry Bensky (in orange) speaking to the group

Larry Bensky (in orange) speaking to the group

A friendly, upbeat, standing-room-only crowd gathered for Saturday’s “Breakfast with the Morning Show.” (CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS). Attendees included Larry Bensky (former Pacifica National Affairs correspondent), Aileen Alfandary (KPFA News co-director), Aimee Allison (former co-host of the Morning Show), Brian Edwards-Tiekert (former co-host of the Morning Show), Mitch Jeserich (host of KPFA’s Letters & Politics), Ying Lee (long-time KPFA listener), Laura Prives (Morning Show producer), Agustin Ramirez (ILWU) — and an enthusiastic group of listeners who love KPFA and want to put it back on the right track.

Pam Drake and Aimee Allison

After the breakfast discussion and local station board meeting, listeners took a giant check representing $61,200 in pledges over to KPFA and left it in the former Morning Show office (if you’d like, you can still pledge here). Even though the Morning Show was the station’s biggest money-marker, raising three times what it cost to produce, Pacifica management axed the popular, long-running show in November. “Listeners were stunned hear Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt claiming that canceling the Morning Show and laying off its co-hosts was necessary to address KPFA’s financial problems,” said Arpi Kupelian, a KPFA listener. The move elicted thousands of letters of protest from the station’s supporters, many of whom are also concerned that the layoffs violated the station’s union contract. The community fundraising effort to return the show to the air has so far been ignored by management.

Agustin Ramirez (ILWU), speaking about the labor show

Agustin Ramirez (ILWU), speaking about the labor show

Casualties of the Morning Show’s cancellation also include several unpaid staff, such as labor programmer David Bacon. Bacon hosted one of the few weekly Bay Area programs reporting on labor. “Bacon is the premier labor journalist in the US,” said UC Santa Cruz history professor Dana Frank. “His program is of vital importance for all of us in the labor and social justice movements throughout Northern California.”

Bacon was travelling and couldn’t make the meeting, but the ILWU’s Agustin Ramirez attended to talk about the labor show. “David’s show is a crucial resource for organized labor, and we want it back on the air,” said Peter Olney, organizing director of the International Longshore Workers Union.

Berkeley City Council votes unanimously to support mediation

On Tuesday, February 8, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging all parties in the Pacifica-KPFA confict to negotiate or mediate in good faith to reach a speedy solution to the labor dispute and other issues. | KPFA News report by Aileen Alfandary

Both KPFA listeners and staff patiently waited hours to speak before the council, and then urged it to take action. “It grieves me deeply that KPFA and Pacifica — which we need more than ever — should be fighting amongst itself,” said long-time listener Ying Lee. “The Morning Show was a commons for me and my neighbors,” 20-year listener Andy Jamieson told council members, before Pacifica decided to “fence it off, take away the Morning Show, and fire Brian and Aimee.”

Antonio Ortiz, a KPFA engineer and member of CWA, noted that the layoffs of the Morning Show hosts did not follow seniority. He said the union wants to meet with management, and wants “to make sure the contract is adhered to and our workers’ rights are protected.”

“We have a national director saying she’s making $80,000 worth of layoffs to save a $3.5 million institution while she’s happy to spend money on $400-500 an hour attorneys,” laid-off Morning Show co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert told the council. “The money that our listeners pledged to support programs at KPFA is being spent by Pacifica to fight the union that represents the people who make those programs,” he added.

Pointing to Pacifica’s stonewalling, Berkeley mayor Tom Bates said: “One party has indicated a desire to negotiate and mediate and another party has not. They need to recognize that we think it is important for them to get involved. We tell the Berkeley Bowl to negotiate with labor, we ask Berkeley Honda to negotiate with labor, we ask the people down in the marina who have the Marriott Hotel to negotiate with labor. We’re asking all the parties to truly negotiate.” | Video of entire city council meeting; KPFA discussion begins around 3:40

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing the sale of KUSF, which has provided a wide range of public service programming for over three decades. Its owner, the University of San Francisco, has announced plans to sell KUSF’s license to commercial interests for $3.75 million.

Judge issues another TRO against Pacifica’s election tricks

An Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Pacifica on Monday, after the network was sued by a KPFK/Los Angeles member who alleged the Pacifica national board was trying to fraudulently re-run a delegate election it didn’t like.

Pacifica claimed that the election of KPFK staff delegate Rodrigo Argueta was flawed due to a ballot that combined both listener and staff representatives, but Argueta pointed out that Pacifica wanted to rerun only the staff portion of the election — the one he won. A TRO was also issued two months ago against Pacifica, when it tried to retroactively disqualify 3 KPFA staff members’ votes to change the outcome of an election.

Feb 12 Breakfast with the Morning Show staff

Come meet Aimee Allison, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Laura Prives, Aileen Alfandary and other invited special guests on Saturday, February 12 at 10am at the North Berkeley Senior Center (MLK Jr Way @ Hearst). Join us to show your support for KPFA’s workers and get the latest news, along with coffee and pastries.

Since the KPFA Morning Show was removed from the air, listeners have generously pledged over $60,000 to rehire the hosts via SaveKPFA’s PLEDGE TO RESTORE THE MORNING SHOW. Pacifica’s management has so far rejected that offer, just as it previously rejected the Sustainable Budget drafted by KPFA staff and backed by the local board and management. That budget cut Pacifica’s bureaucracy rather than damage vital programming.

Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt rejected the $60K in pledges on January 20. Ever since, a group of listeners, including the chair of KPFA’s local board, Margy Wilkinson, has been trying to meet with Engelhardt to urge her to reconsider. On Friday, a 7-member listener delegation arrived at Pacifica’s offices for what they believed was a pre-scheduled meeting with the executive director about the pledges. They were told by Pacifica CFO LaVarn Williams that even though Engelhardt was in the office, she would not meet. Williams then repeatedly yelled at the listener group to leave Pacifica’s offices.

“Pacifica is ignoring the voices of the vast majority of its listeners,” said Wilkinson, noting the thousands of letters, petitions and phone calls to the network. After the Morning Show breakfast on Saturday 2/12, listeners are welcome to stay for KPFA’s local board meeting.

Berkeley City Council to discuss KPFA
Berkeley’s councilmembers are scheduled to consider a resolution on KPFA next Tuesday, February 8 at 7 pm. To write a letter to the council, please click here. In December, Pacifica’s Arlene Engelhardt refused to consider mediation of the Morning Show matter, as you can see in this clip (video | audio) of her responses to Mayor Tom Bates’ questions. Many eloquent speakers urged action, such as KPFA’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert (video | audio), but the council could not agree on a resolution. (You can find information about that vote here.)

Terminating the Morning Show is the likely a major cause of KPFA’s sharply declining listenership, reports San Francisco Chronicle blogger Zennie Abraham in a recent column. He cites radio industry statistics that show KPFA’s audience share down from 120,000 to 104,000 over the last quarter (his column, toward the end, also covers the local board issues).

Meanwhile, historian Matthew Lasar’s latest column examines the role of Peter Phillips’ Project Censored supporters in the replacement 8AM “Morning Mix” programming.

Election shennanigans continue
As we reported last week, KPFA/Pacifica board member Tracy Rosenberg is claiming that Dan Siegel, a civil rights attorney in Oakland and a station board member affiliated with SaveKPFA, can no longer serve because he’s a volunteer with new Oakland mayor Jean Quan. Siegel was also elected to Pacifica’s national board, but Rosenberg and her allies are denying Siegel that seat as well.

Calling it a “coup,” KPFA board member Matthew Hallinan notes, “This is a blatant attempt to do away with what’s left of listener democracy and local control. They are denying due process to an elected listener rep, falsifying records, and breaking all the rules in order to shift the balance of power in their favor.” Rosenberg and her allies have said they’ll hold a separate, illegally constituted KPFA board meeting next week to try to accomplish their goal.

In a similar case, an Alameda County judge recently issued an injunction against Pacifica for its attempt to remove already-cast votes and “fix” the results of the staff portion of KPFA’s local board election. And on Friday, the network was sued by a KPFK (Los Angeles) member who alleges the Pacifica national board is trying to fraudulently re-run a delegate election it didn’t like.

Please attend Berkeley’s city council to support KPFA

Berkeley’s city council is set to discuss a resolution (here’s the text of the resolution and the background) on Pacifica’s termination of KPFA’s Morning Show at its February 8 meeting.

Want to give them your opinion? Please attend, and bring signs and your voice. To write a letter to the council, please click here. Or if you prefer to call, you’ll find contact information here.

In December, Pacifica’s Arlene Engelhardt refused to consider mediation of the Morning Show matter, as you can see in this clip (video | audio) of her responses to Mayor Tom Bates’ questions. Many eloquent speakers urged action, such as KPFA’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert (video | audio), but the council could not agree on a resolution. (You can find information about that vote here.) Many other bay area elected officials have also voiced their concern.

In January, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a resolution noting that “KPFA’s Morning Show serves as an important civic forum for the San Francisco Bay Area” and that the staff layoffs are “creating conditions that are undermining the democratic spirit of Pacifica Radio’s unique experiment in listener-supported-employee run radio.”

The Berkeley city council meeting will take place Tuesday, Feb 8 at 7 pm in the Council Chambers, 2134 MLK Jr Way. Thanks for your support!