KPFA staff to picket Pacifica on April 4, as part of National Day of Action

KPFA’s workers are inviting listeners to join them for an informational picket on MONDAY, APRIL 4 from 7:30-8:30 AM at Pacifica’s offices, 1925 MLK Jr Way in Berkeley. April 4 is a national day of action to defend unions and bargaining rights.

KPFA’s community is concerned that over $30,000 of the station’s funds have been spent on anti-union lawyers. Pacifica still refuses to enter mediation, even after multiple resolutions by the cities of Berkeley and San Francisco, dozens of elected officials, and three labor councils.

Pacifica’s layoff of news anchor John Hamilton was averted yesterday at the last minute. Five union workers presented a plan to reduce their time by 22 hours a week and donate them so Hamilton could stay at his part-time job at no cost to KPFA except for his benefits. | MORE

NEWS CLIPS: Philip Maldari on KPFA at Berkeley Citizens Action meeting | KPFA’s LSB Show includes updates on KPFA finances, outreach, legal matters | A short labor history of KPFA

Pacifica manager’s anti-worker comments; AIDS denier being considered for KPFA show

Workers at some of Pacifica’s stations have been speaking out about what they say is censorship, including political journalist Bill Weinberg of New York City’s WBAI. Weinberg’s show was taken off the air by WBAI’s interim general manager Tony Bates, who has removed or marginalized dozens of other programs, including left economist Doug Henwood‘s Behind the News.

Postings by Bates on his Facebook page this week display an alarming anti-worker bias. (Bates wrote as “Tony Beezy” to KPFK staffer Zuberi Fields).

“The Pacifica network should not tolerate this sort of behavior from any manager,” said Margy Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board. “Arlene Engelhardt is this guy’s boss, and she needs to take strong action immediately.”

Meanwhile, over strenuous objections from AIDS activists and physicians, Bates also replaced some of WBAI’s local programming with a show by vitamin salesman Gary Null, who denies that AIDS is caused by a virus. Null openly markets his own products on the air, including one so badly formulated that, by his own account, it nearly killed him.

Critics say such programming is downright dangerous  to the millions who live with HIV and AIDS, as well as other health conditions, and could put Pacifica in legal jeopardy. On World AIDS Day last December, bay area activists protested Null’s show outside of Pacifica’s Berkeley offices. | KPFA News report on Null protest

Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt and newly-appointed KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips are currently considering bringing Null’s program to KPFA.

Outraged? Let them know by writing KPFA here, or by calling Engelhardt at 510-402-9880 and Phillips at 510-848-6767 ext. 203. Or if you prefer, you can use SaveKPFA’s write Pacifica page and we’ll forward your email to boards and managers.

Listeners oppose censorship, want open discussion of KPFA/Pacifica relationship

A flood of emails arrived from listeners last week after KPFA and Pacifica managers issued a gag rule against staff talking about problems at the network. Here’s just one:

“What are you doing to KPFA?” wrote UC Berkeley professor Richard Walker, “KPFA is the heart of Pacifica, yet you are at war with us. What madness is this? You won’t let the dispute between KPFA and Pacifica be discussed on Mitch Jeserich’s show? You won’t accept $60K in pledges to restore the Morning Show and the brilliant Aimee Allison? This is pig-headedness raised to an art form.”

Many also raised objections over the $30,000 of KPFA’s funds that Pacifica has spent on anti-union lawyers. “I’m furious that the hundreds of dollars I’ve donated to KPFA this year could potentially be used to injure the station’s workers,” listener Kristen Burlington wrote. “We don’t have time for this. There is quaking and melting and oppression in this world….We want the Morning Show back. We want John Hamliton back. We want our right to free speech back. We want our hard earned money to go to the propagation of truth and justice. And we want no more evasion and manipulation from you, Arlene.” | MORE LETTERS

She’s referring to Arlene Engelhardt, Pacifica’s executive director. On March 17, KPFA News interviewed the station’s local board treasurer as well as Engelhardt about the details of Pacifica’s $30,000 expenditure to fight KPFA’s union.

NEWS CLIPS | Matthew Lasar: What is “professionalism” in community radio?

Subscriber information misused in phony “Morning Mix” messages

In what appears to be a potential case of institutional identity theft, an outside organization has sent a series of deceptive emails to subscribers purporting to be from KPFA.

The “KPFA Morning Mix” emails listeners received February 28 and March 7 advertised upcoming guests on the controversial morning program. The slick emails appeared to be from KPFA and feature station contact information and a soothing photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, the emails were actually sent by Media Alliance, a third party organization controlled by Pacifica National Board member Tracy Rosenberg — one of the architects of the removal of the Morning Show.

Listeners trying to reply to what they thought was an official kpfa.org email address were instead directed to a gmail.com address. Other source code (click on the first URL in this screen shot of the email) directed recipients to Media Alliance’s email database, where their link viewing or subscribing activities were recorded.

TO LODGE A COMPLAINT ABOUT THE DECEPTIVE EMAILS AND MISUSE OF YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION, write to Salsa Labs, the marketing company that Rosenberg used, at support@salsalabs.com, and please cc votesavekpfa@gmail.com. Send Salsa Labs a copy of the email you received (if you still have it), tell them you never signed up to receive it, that you would like to know where they got your name, and point out that the email is not KPFA email. You can demand that Salsa Labs drop Media Alliance for such conduct, or at a minimum, block it from sending any further emails. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which prohibits the sending of fraudulent emails.

Rosenberg has admitted sending the emails, but has not yet answered how she obtained access to KPFA subscribers’ email addresses. KPFA’s local station board will discuss this misuse of the subscriber list at its April meeting. The location will be announced here.

Morning Mix-up

So, what’s Tracy Rosenberg been promoting via her support of the Morning Mix? Shortly after reports emerged that Japan’s Fukushima reactor was melting down, listeners of that program got an uncritical interview with a “market risk analyst” who heavily promoted nuclear power. A week later, they got to listen to a wealthy Haitian art collector bash exiled Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on the day of his return to Haiti.

Another injunction against Pacifica

On March 18, an Alameda County Superior Court judge issued an injunction against Pacifica after it voted to unseat SaveKPFA-affiliated station board member Dan Siegel. The court rejected all of Pacifica’s contentions and ordered Siegel reinstated to both the local KPFA and national Pacifica board seats he holds.

Following Jean Quan‘s historic election as Oakland’s mayor, KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg claimed that Siegel’s long-standing relationship as an informal advisor to Quan constituted a “political appointment” that disqualified him from serving KPFA or Pacifica. Rosenberg then used her position on the Pacifica national board to manipulate that board into stripping Siegel of his board seats. That action prompted a majority of KPFA’s local board to file suit against Pacifica.

This is the third legal victory for democracy at Pacifica, following two other injunctions in December and February against attempts by Pacifica to manipulate elections.

Pacifica management censors own journalists, spends $30K on anti-union lawyers

Another gag rule has been handed down by KPFA’s parent network Pacifica, as KPFA host Mitch Jeserich tried to bring listeners a discussion of what is happening at Free Speech Radio. The last time the network prohibited journalists from covering news about Pacifica itself was in 1999, right before it shut down KPFA.

This comes on top of news that Pacifica has spent $30,000 of KPFA’s funds on anti-union consultants. In November, after illegally laying off Morning Show staff, Pacifica hired the “management-side” legal firm of Folger Levin at $400 an hour. KPFA’s local board treasurer has confirmed that the station’s account has been charged over $30,000 for those expenses for November 2010-January 2011, with thousands of dollars in additional charges expected shortly. | KPFA News report

Last week, Jeserich invited Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt and KPFA interim program director Carrie Core to appear on Letters and Politics to discuss an email they had sent to thousands of KPFA listeners, but they declined. When Jeserich mentioned that he had also invited a KPFA union steward to appear, he was told by Engelhardt and Core that “we have decided not to permit further discussion of KPFA internal disputes (including personnel or financial matters) on your program at this time.” Read the email exchange

“The disputes at KPFA are NOT just ‘internal,'” wrote outraged KPFA subscriber Blair Moser. “They are widely understood to be a coup by outside ‘management’ against local control… This ham-fisted putsch may result in the utter destruction of the Bay Area’s essential source of independent news.”

The week before, Core disciplined News co-director Mark Mericle for airing a story reporting that KPFA was laying off News anchor John Hamilton, saying that Mericle should not have used the word “layoff.” Core also disciplined Hamilton and Jeserich for mention of the layoff, even as listeners called in record donations in support of the News. | KPFA News report

“Arlene Englehart is an embarrassment to the progressive community and is pursuing a course that is destructive to a station I care deeply about,” wrote one listener. “It isn’t Free Speech Radio if there is a gag rule at KPFA — your actions are anti-union, violate principles of free speech and accountability and are solely to protect you from having your actions see the light of day.”

IMPORTANT: PLEASE ADD YOUR VOICE NOW AGAINST CENSORSHIP by writing the Pacifica National Board. Tell them you oppose gag rules that limit open discussion of the network’s problems, and that their actions jeopardize KPFA’s important role as an independent source of news and information. You can write via SaveKPFA’s page (we will keep your email address private).

Meanwhile, KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson and Pamela Drake finally got a long-awaited meeting with Engelhardt yesterday. Engelhardt said it was “appropriate” to prevent staff from airing any news about KPFA’s problems. She admitted spending $30,000 on lawyers to fight the KPFA staff, and said the Morning Show could not come back since she has reduced the slot to one hour (8-9AM), and feels that listeners would be “upset” if anything were to be changed now. | Read the report

Remembering Pacifica’s history of censorship

Upon hearing about the new gag rule, listener Barbara Fitzpatrick wrote to Engelhardt, “You have to be kidding, have you no sense of history? Or for that matter any notion of decency, or appreciation of all those who struggled ten years ago? This is Pacifica, not Clear Channel. The hypocrisy of management at this time is disgusting.  Just leave, you are not going to win.”

Pacifica last tried to silence reporting of developments in the network back in 1999, when it fired radio hosts Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman, among others, for speaking out on-air about Pacifica matters. The network also fired its national news director Dan Coughlin and tried to censor Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! for their reports on Pacifica. That provoked a nationwide movement to return the network to its mission, including an historic strike of Pacifica’s freelancers that resulted in the creation of Free Speech Radio News.

Pacifica’s national board voted unanimously to “end censorship of any programming throughout the network” when it settled the strike of its freelance contributors in 2002.  Pacifica even has a page about this proud history on its website.

Management’s current undermining of editorial independence runs counter to KPFA’s own long-standing news policy, which states the News will report “on matters regarding KPFA, Pacifica, its personnel or Board of Directors with the same vigor and candor as it would report on other institutions or individuals.”

Attacks on KPFA journalists also have come from a group of board members affiliated with Tracy Rosenberg. KPFA’s own local station board passed a resolution in March 2010 defending KPFA journalists’ rights to cover internal issues with “the same editorial autonomy they enjoy when reporting on external issues.” The vote was 14-7, and the 7 voting against were aligned with Rosenberg’s board faction — the group at Pacifica national that hired and now protects Arlene Engelhardt.

Remembering Pacifica’s history of censorship

Upon hearing about the new gag rule, listener Barbara Fitzpatrick wrote to Engelhardt, “You have to be kidding, have you no sense of history? Or for that matter any notion of decency, or appreciation of all those who struggled ten years ago? This is Pacifica, not Clear Channel. The hypocrisy of management at this time is disgusting.  Just leave, you are not going to win.”

Pacifica last tried to silence reporting of developments in the network back in 1999, when it fired radio hosts Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman, among others, for speaking out on-air about Pacifica matters. The network also fired its national news director Dan Coughlin and tried to censor Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! for their reports on Pacifica. That provoked a nationwide movement to return the network to its mission, including an historic strike of Pacifica’s freelancers that resulted in the creation of Free Speech Radio News.

Pacifica’s national board voted unanimously to “end censorship of any programming throughout the network” when it settled the strike of its freelance contributors in 2002.  Pacifica even has a page about this proud history on its website.

Management’s current undermining of editorial independence runs counter to KPFA’s own long-standing news policy, which states the News will report “on matters regarding KPFA, Pacifica, its personnel or Board of Directors with the same vigor and candor as it would report on other institutions or individuals.”

Attacks on KPFA journalists also have come from a group of board members affiliated with Tracy Rosenberg. KPFA’s own local station board passed a resolution in March 2010 defending KPFA journalists’ rights to cover internal issues with “the same editorial autonomy they enjoy when reporting on external issues.” The vote was 14-7, and the 7 voting against were aligned with Rosenberg’s board faction — the group at Pacifica national that hired and now protects Arlene Engelhardt.

News tops fundraising; an open letter from KPFA union members

After reporting that co-anchor John Hamilton had been given a 30-day layoff notice, the Evening News rocketed to the top of KPFA’s fundraising charts. The outpouring of support from listeners brought in over $48,000 in the final four days of the Winter Pledge Drive, bringing the Evening News total to $87,000 — the highest of any time slot during the fund drive. MORE HERE

Management’s response? During the final hour of the fund drive, KPFA interim program director Carrie Core sent news co-anchors Mark Mericle and John Hamilton (as well as Letters and Politics host Mitch Jeserich) written disciplinary letters for reporting Hamilton’s layoff on the air.

Pacifica accuses KPFA staff of “undermining” the station, uses bizarre math
Three days after the end of KPFA’s Winter Marathon, KFPA’s staff and listeners opened their inboxes to a letter from Core and Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt.

Was it a thank-you for their hard work and and contributions? Nah. It was a broadside accusing KPFA’s union of agreeing to John Hamilton’s layoff (which it hasn’t), accusing KPFA’s staff of “efforts to undermine” the station (huh?), and declaring that “The Morning Show Will Not Return.”

To support that last position, management did some pretty contorted math, cherrypicking five days of fundraising from December’s emergency fund drive, dropping all records of online pledges, and completely ignoring fundraising data from the Winter Pledge Drive that had just concluded.

What do the numbers actually say? KPFA’s new morning lineup raised $140,000 less from 6-10AM during the 2011 Winter Drive than the old morning lineup did during the 2010 Winter Drive. At that rate, staff warned management in an open letter, lost pledges from the the Pacifica-imposed program changes could approach $500,000 per year.

Management’s letter admits that “KPFA’s first quarter financial report for this fiscal year is encouraging. . . We were almost $335k over budgeted income,” but goes on to say that “salaries and related expenses must be reduced to balance the budget.”

“That statement is not only incompetent, it is downright Orwellian,” said board member Pamela Drake. “It takes the very real outpouring of listener support for KPFA’s key programs and attempts to turn it on its head.”

Mismanagement angers listeners
KPFA and Pacifica got a barrage of mail from listeners during the fund drive expressing their outrage at Hamilton’s layoff. Here are some excerpts from the letters we have permission to publish:

“I simply don’t think you understand how sacred these voices of truth are,” wrote Kristen Burlington to Engelhardt. “You can’t possibly comprehend how integral the Morning Show and the Evening News are to the sanity of both our local and global community.”

Susan Wallace told management: “share in the cuts and sacrifice some of your pay, or stop using union-busting law firms. You should resign immediately and allow new leadership to emerge based on openness, respect and support for unions, equity and justice.”

“Engelhardt’s mismanagement of this station leads me to ask whether she is the one who should be given a layoff notice,” wrote Arpi Kupelian, who was part of a group of listeners who tried to visit Pacifica’s executive director recently to speak with her about $63,000 in SaveKPFA listener pledges to restore the Morning Show, only to be turned away.

“Why does it seem that you, the management, seem intent on destroying the best that KPFA has to offer?” wrote Rose Elizondo. “It almost seems you want to destroy the station! If $63,000 has been raised to re-instate the Morning Show, how can you possibly ‘justify’ not accepting this money?”

That question is best answered by looking at who hired Engelhardt: the Pacifica National Board. That board is currently holding onto power illegally by refusing to seat KPFA’s democratically-elected delegates. An Alameda County Superior Court judge recently issued a restraining order prohibiting the national board from discussing KPFA issues. A full hearing on the matter is set for March 18.

NEWS CLIPS: KPFA News: Another new interim station manager | Matthew Lasar: How to donate to KPFA without giving to Pacifica

SF Chronicle: Grateful Dead marathon’s record pledges

KPFA listeners vote with dollars

Amount KPFA raised during its Winter 2010 Fund Drive: $805,475
Length of that fund drive: 17.5 days
Amount KPFA raised during its Winter 2011 Fund Drive: $759,000*
Length of that fund drive: 19 days
For Winter 2011, increase in amount pledged during Letters and Politics: +$29,377
Increase in amount pledged during the annual Grateful Dead Marathon: +$31,517
Increase in amount pledged during the Evening News, making it the top station fundraiser: +$42,643
Amount pledged during the Evening News in the four days following the announcement of anchor John Hamilton’s impending layoff: $48,719
Cost of John Hamilton’s salary and benefits, per year (approximately): $31,000
Decline in amount pledged during KPFA’s morning drive time (6 AM-10 AM): -$139,074
Savings from eliminating two Morning Show co-host positions, per year (approximately): $80,000
Amount pledged (still not accepted by Pacifica) in SaveKPFA’s restore the Morning Show campaign: $63,000

Larger version of chart | PDF version of this page | Trust us, we’re management!

*You can also donate to KPFA any time at www.kpfa.org. Outside of fund drives, 100% goes to KPFA, none to Pacifica. For other ideas, see Matthew Lasar’s suggestions.

Outpouring of support after Pacifica lays off news anchor and threatens to “restructure” newscast

Back from reporting on Wisconsin’s historic labor rally this weekend, KPFA news producer John Hamilton arrived in Berkeley to a layoff notice this week from the station’s interim program director Carrie Core. Hamilton, who has worked at KPFA for three years, was told his last work day would be March 30.

When asked who made the layoff decision, Core admitted that it was Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt. Core did not explain how much the station would save by laying off Hamilton, nor how KPFA would make up the shortfall that would come from dismissing one of the station’s most effective fundraisers. Hamilton is employed part-time and makes only about $25,000 a year, according to KPFAWorker.org. PRESS COVERAGE: KPFA News audio | San Francisco Examiner

Listeners responded with an outpouring of financial support during the Pacifica Evening News, which Hamilton anchors. “We’re always told by KPFA programmers to ‘vote with our dollars,’ so that’s what I’m doing,” said one long-time news listener. “I made my entire $250 annual pledge during the Evening News to send a message to Pacifica that they should not layoff John Hamilton or destroy our news department.”

In addition to pledging, you can also help by writing to management via KPFA’s listener comment page. Or, if you want your email address to remain confidential, use SaveKPFA’s write to Pacifica page and we’ll forward your comments to management with your name but without your email address.

More than $7,000 was raised by Hamilton during the 1-hour Evening News on Tuesday — the highest amount that had been raised during by the news during this fund drive. That record was quickly topped on Wednesday with over $12,000 of pledges made during the news.

“Let’s keep it up for the next two days. John Hamilton is an amazingly talented journalist and fundraiser — he was able to raise over a quarter of his yearly pay in just an hour on the air,” said Margy Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board. “It is ironic, to say the least, that just as we start to rebuild KPFA, management starts demolishing elsewhere,” she added.

Union activists at KPFA allege that Hamilton’s layoff is retaliatory. Hamilton has been a prominent union activist at KPFA and a public critic of Pacifica management. Last fall he earned the ire of Pacifica’s executive director after filming her storming off after listeners asked what her salary was, as well as producing a widely-shared video of a KPFA rally. He was also listed along with Brian Edwards-Tiekert and Aimee Allison in a letter targetting staff for layoff by a group of Pacifica board members last fall. Hamilton says he’s filing a grievance over the layoff.

Hamilton’s layoff comes less than a week after former KPFA Morning Show co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert was reinstated by Pacifica with back pay, but was given a job description as a reporter rather than a morning host. | EAST BAY EXPRESS ARTICLE

Hands off the news, restore other locally-controlled programming

Newly-released balance sheets show that KPFA outperformed its budget by $290,000 by the end of 2010, casting doubt on management’s claims that layoffs are necessary. Listeners have also pledged an additional $63,000 to restore the KPFA Morning Show, an offer that management has so far refused.

When asked about how the news department would function with Hamilton laid off, management said it planned to “restructure” the newscast. More KPFA listeners tune into the Evening News than any other evening program, and it was the station’s biggest fundraiser during the last marathon. After Pacifica took the popular Morning Show off the air and laid off its co-hosts, fundraising in the 8am hour went into a tailspin.

“The Evening News is the heart of KPFA,” said local board member Mal Burnstein. “We don’t want to see Pacifica do to it what they did to the Morning Show. The station has suffered a steep drop in quality and credibility — not to mention financial health — as a result of these ill-advised disruptions.”