Pacifica hires nation’s #1 union-busting law firm, Jackson Lewis

News broke this week that the Pacifica National Board majority voted to hire a notorious anti-union legal firm, Jackson Lewis, which the AFL-CIO has named “America’s number one union-buster.” Pacifica is the corporation that owns KPFA.

The nonprofit American Rights at Work notes that “under its polished veneer lies a for-profit union-buster…one of the oldest and largest” such firms in the nation. Jackson Lewis brags about helping employers maintain a “union free environment,” as well as mastering “concerns” with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including targeting workers who take medical leave. That’s according to sources cited by KPFAWorker.org, which published the story after union-represented workers at KPFA began receiving letters from the firm.

SaveKPFA has heard from many KPFA listeners who are extremely troubled that their donations will go to pay more anti-union lawyers. Bay Area attorney Sheila Sexton told us that “Jackson Lewis really is evil — there is no hyperbole here. I am a union lawyer and Jackson Lewis are true union busters. There are decent management firms out there who respect collective bargaining — Jackson Lewis is not one of them.” | READ MORE research into Jackson Lewis (PDF) by SFSU Professor John Logan

What the *&#@?* is going on with Pacifica?

“The move brings back memories of the struggle against Pacifica management over a decade ago,” writes KPFAWorker.org, “in which Pacifica hired anti-union consultants, installed armed guards, and eventually locked out its staff and shut down the station.” The hiring of Jackson Lewis comes on top of the more than $100,000 that Pacifica has charged to KPFA for other anti-union legal consultants.

Listener CJ Fandel wrote of the news: “This is beyond the pale! What in the world is going on with the Board of Directors!?” We’re trying to find out: SaveKPFA has sent this letter to each Pacifica national board member asking them if they support spending listener donations on Jackson Lewis. We’ll let you know the results.

What can you do? As an individual, sign this petition sponsored by KPFA’s union workers, demanding that Pacifica drop Jackson Lewis immediately. If you are a union member, KPFA’s union asks that you also work with your local or labor council to pass a resolution against the Jackson Lewis hire.

And please inform friends and family who are in the listening areas of the other Pacifica stations — KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington, DC. Ask them to renew their membership or become members of their local station. Members giving at least $25/year have voting rights. Governing board elections will occur at all five Pacifica stations this fall, creating an opportunity for positive change.

Financial statements show that KPFA is still owed $1.4 million by Pacifica

At the March 3rd Local Station Board meeting, treasurer Barbara Whipperman and KPFA business manager Maria Negret reported serious problems getting documentation from Pacifica for “bill-back” expenses being passed on to KPFA. Each of the five Pacifica-owned stations, including KPFA, are obligated to pay 19.5% of their income to the network for central services. “Bill-backs” are in addition to that.

Over the past 16 months, Pacifica has been receiving and keeping funds intended for KPFA, including grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, bequests, and stock donations — ostensibly to apply toward debt KPFA owes it. Often, KPFA doesn’t find out Pacifica has accepted money on its behalf until months after the fact.

The amount of KPFA funding that Pacifica has intercepted over the last 16 months adds up to about $681,700. KPFA has also been paying bills from Pacifica “bill-backs” for legal expenses, administrative services, and the like — if you add the money KPFA has paid directly to the amount Pacifica has intercepted, the total is approximately $854,000. Here’s the problem: Pacifica’s bills to KPFA over the same period only total to $700,000.

So what happened to the $154,000 KPFA overpaid? “Well, that’s what we would like to know,” the business manager said.

Meanwhile, the bills from Pacifica have been short on detail. For instance: Pacifica charged KPFA $115,000 in legal expenses relating to “labor issues” in the past 16 months, but has provided KPFA very little documentation on what the charges are for. In past years, Pacifica shared itemized billing statements from attorneys, and KPFA’s staff were able to catch items incorrectly charged to KPFA for expenses incurred at other stations. Now, KPFA’s staff don’t even know what the station is being charged for.

“If Visa were to send you a bill in the mail and say ‘you owe $10,000,’ would you just pay it without asking what that was about?” said Negret.
Pacifica’s financial statements also show that its National Office and other parts of the network still owe KPFA $1.4 million dollars in long-term debt. | LISTEN to 3 minute clip of business manager | LISTEN to the entire board meeting: part 1, part 2, part 3

This is what democracy looks like? Really?

Three-and-a-half months, and counting. That’s how long KPFA listeners have been waiting to vote on the recall of Pacifica board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg. As readers may remember, Rosenberg was one of the chief architects of the elimination of KPFA’s highly-successful Morning Show, and led efforts to illegally deny duly-elected KPFA representatives, who opposed her, their seats on the Pacifica National Board.

Listeners submitted a recall petition on September 1 and, according to Pacifica’s bylaws, ballots should have been mailed between December 15 and 30.

After months of stalling, Pacifica informed SaveKPFA last week that it has finally hired an election supervisor — but it hasn’t told us who that is, or what the long-overdue ballot schedule will be.

A cynical observer would point out that Rosenberg’s allies on the national board have deliberately delayed the election to give Rosenberg time to organize her campaign, which she had not been able to do by the ballot deadline of December 30. Whether that, or incompetence, or a disdain for the democratic process, Pacifica’s clear violation of its own bylaws led listeners on Feb. 28 to file a charge with the California Attorney General’s office, which oversees California non-profits. | LISTEN to 2 min audio clip from KPFA News | READ board rep Jack Kurzweil‘s YES on recall essay

L.A. Theatre Works booted off KPFA, but welcomed with open arms at sister station KPFK

KPFA’s sister station in Los Angeles, KPFK, announced it scored a coup by signing up the award-winning program L.A. Theatre Works to run every Sunday night. “We feel it is far and away the best radio drama show in the country,” KPFK’s interim program director Alan Minsky told the press.

This is the same program that interim KPFA managers Andrew Phillips and Carrie Core removed from KPFA’s airwaves last fall, despite an outcry from listeners. They filled the time slot with two programs hosted by allies of Pacifica management, The Week Starts Here and TwitWit (actors reading a Twitter feed from a computer screen). Fresno’s KFCF, which re-broadcasts much of KPFA’s programming, soon dropped the new programs and reinstituted L.A. Theatre Works.

KPFA donors file complaint against Pacifica with Attorney General over recall vote

Charging that the Pacifica Foundation has failed to follow its own rules in holding a listener-prompted recall election, a group of KPFA listeners has filed a formal complaint with the state Attorney General‘s office, which oversees California nonprofits.

“It’s ironic and disturbing to see these tactics from a network founded to uphold progressive values of free speech and participatory democracy,” said Ying Lee, a longtime Berkeley activist and KPFA supporter. “Whatever their views on station politics, listeners should be outraged by Pacifica’s flagrant violation of its own bylaws.”

In September, hundreds of KPFA members signed petitions calling for the recall of Tracy Rosenberg, who serves as treasurer of the Pacifica National Board. Among other things, Rosenberg was the architect of Pacifica’s destruction of what was the station’s top fundraiser — the KPFA Morning Show.  She also pushed through measures that denied KPFA’s elected representatives their seats on the Pacifica National Board until they were overturned by court injunction. Read KPFA Local Station Board chair Margy Wilkinson‘s YES on KPFA recall, as delivered to the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition.

KPFA management certified the signatures as valid on November 1, triggering a December 31 deadline — under Pacifica’s own rules — to mail recall ballots to all KPFA listener-members. But no ballots were ever sent.

That may change soon:  SaveKPFA filed its complaint with the Attorney General on Tuesday, February 28. By Wednesday, Pacifica National Board chair Summer Reese indicated she was prepared to hire someone to run the election, and that ballots would be mailed soon — but she did not specify when.

KPFA on the brink: pledge drive falls $125,000 short

Recall endoser Larry Bensky with KPFA's Antonio Ortiz & John Hamilton

Recall endoser Larry Bensky with KPFA's Antonio Ortiz & John Hamilton

The station ended its Winter Fund Drive one week ago, $125,000 short of its pledge goal. This is sad news for everyone who cares about KPFA, and it underscores the importance of change at Pacifica.

Pacifica’s re-programming of 6-10 AM is behind the shortfall. Those time slots used to raise 40% of KPFA’s total pledges. Since the destruction of the Morning Show, that’s dropped by more than half. For a time, station management was able to offset the plunge by lengthening fund drives, but they’ve run into diminishing returns from that strategy. (This year’s Winter Fund Drive ran 24 days, a whopping 50% increase from the length of the last Winter Fund Drive before the Morning Show was axed).

By any measure, the morning lineup that Pacifica imposed on KPFA has been a catastrophic failure. But instead of fixing it, Rosenberg, and the Pacifica managers she backs, are still defending it. They rejected over $63,000 that SaveKPFA raised to pay for the reinstatement of the Morning Show. They spent more money on lawyers to fight Morning Show co-host Aimee Allison‘s reinstatement than it would have cost to keep her on payroll for a year. And they’ll keep doing it until KPFA’s voting members call them to account.