LSB supports bylaws changes to make boards smaller; rejects censorship

Good news from KPFA’s local board meeting on December 1: members voted to support Pacifica bylaws reforms which would reduce the size of the Local Station Boards from 24 to 16, and Pacifica National Board from 22 to 17. These changes, if accepted by a majority of the other local boards, will save the network money and begin to streamline governance.

Board members also discussed the initiating role of KPFA staff in the highly successful fundraiser for Pacifica’s WBAI, hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. In a tremendous show of solidarity, all five Pacifica stations pitched in for a national day of fundraising November 15, raising over $180,000 to keep WBAI from going off the air.

“It was really beautiful,” said Pacifica/KPFA board member and Letters & Politics producer Laura Prives. “We can survive if we do good radio.” | LISTEN to Prives audio, followed by interim manager Andrew Phillips thanking KPFA’s staff (2 min)

The meeting’s last hour wasn’t quite as inspirational. Board member Andrea Prichett of the United for Community Radio (UCR) slate brought a resolution targeting the staff website, KPFAWorker.org. Prichett, backed by Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg and staff rep Anthony Fest, has been conducting what some have called a “witch hunt” against the website for months.

“They don’t seem to understand either the First Amendment or labor law, under which such worker organizing is protected concerted activity,” according to one KPFA staffer, who preferred to remain anonymous, given the station’s history of firing outspoken workers.

Board member Dan Siegel, a civil rights attorney affiliated with SaveKPFA, eloquently laid out the movement history that Prichett and her allies were missing, respectfully asking her to withdraw the motion. SaveKPFA-affiliated board member Conn Hallinan, who ran the journalism program at UC Santa Cruz for two decades, said Rosenberg’s and Prichett’s lack of understanding of free speech and differences of opinion was “stunning” as well as “scary — since we’re talking about KPFA.”

The resolution went down to defeat, though every UCR-affiliated board member continued to support it.

LISTEN to Siegel on organizing history (2 min audio) &  Hallinan on free speech (1:30 min). You can also listen to the entire LSB meeting here: part 1 (public comment, iGM report, treasurer’s report) | part 2 (Pacifica bylaws) | part 3 (free speech and workers’ rights)

Why I’m Supporting SaveKPFA in KPFA’s Board Election

Brian Edwards-Tiekert speaking with listeners

By Brian Edwards-Tiekert

This month, KPFA is going through what will probably prove to be one of the most important elections of its 10-year experiment with democracy. I’m supporting the candidates listed at www.savekpfa.org, along with many other endorsers, because what’s at stake is the survival of KPFA as we know it.

Right now, KPFA is slowly recovering from a near-mortal blow. When Pacifica purged The Morning Show two years ago, it removed KPFA’s biggest fundraiser from the air. To compensate, the station had to increase the amount of days it spends in fund drives by 30%–a sure recipe for dropping listenership and diminishing pledge totals.

Then, Pacifica racked up hundreds of thousands in legal fees—some from the country’s most notoriously anti-union law firm, Jackson Lewis—and stuck KPFA with most of the bills.

Thanks to heroic fundraising efforts by KPFA’s staff, the generosity of KPFA listeners who kept donating, some of them under protest, and to a fortuitous bequest gift, we’ve made it this far—barely.

And, against the odds, we’ve started to re-build.

Thanks to our union, several of us won reinstatement after Pacifica’s purge. With support from local management, we launched UpFront—KPFA’s new 7:AM program. Since day one, we’ve been the station’s top fundraiser—and thanks to the boost in morning fundraising, KPFA’s fund drives are now raising more money per day, and ending sooner. Meanwhile:

  • ·A SaveKPFA campaign forced Pacifica to ditch Jackson Lewis—which should prevent further inflated legal bills.
  • ·Another SaveKPFA campaign fended off a move by Pacifica management to impose another disastrous round of cuts on KPFA.
  • ·Now, the Pacifica National Board has apparently seen the light—they decided to let go of the two executives who carried out the Morning Show purge in the first place.

KPFA is still extremely fragile, but we are headed in the right direction. And that is largely thanks to the fact that we’ve had SaveKPFA boardmembers supporting us every step of the way.

The dividing line on KPFA’s board is this: austerity vs. growth.

On the growth side: SaveKPFA thinks the way to build KPFA is by building great programs that attract large audiences so there are more people to give come pledge drive. We already know what success looks like: KPFA’s two newest daily programs, Letters and Politics and UpFront, are also its two largest fundraisers, bringing in far more than they cost to produce. Together, those two hours account for over a third of KPFA’s fundraising. Building on those successes with more cutting-edge programming is the key to strengthening KPFA.

As for austerity: this year, its champions are calling themselves “United for Community Radio.” Of course, they never use the word “austerity” – but rest assured, when you hear them call for “financial responsibility” and “supporting unpaid staff”, it translates to firing KPFA’s unionized programmers and parceling out the airtime to their allies. Some of them are philosophically opposed to paying people to produce daily shows–they’d rather KPFA sound like a volunteer-run local-access cable station. Others have axes to grind with specific programmers on KPFA’s payroll, and use the station’s finances as a pretext – which is how The Morning Show got targeted, despite the fact that it was the station’s biggest fundraiser.

Their incumbents have had two years to prove exactly what they stand for. When our union protested impending cuts, they came to counter-protest. When Pacifica fired the entire staff of The Morning Show, they supported it (at least one of them, it turned out, had been pushing behind closed doors to have Pacifica cut us).  When Pacifica hired the nation’s most notorious union-busting law firm to fight us, they publicly defended it. When KPFA’s local management proposed a balanced, no-cuts budget, they boycotted a meeting to block its passage – even though KPFA was running a surplus.

Does that mean everyone running on their ticket supports more of the same? Not necessarily. There are a lot of new faces in the election this year, and they don’t all necessarily understand what they’ve signed up for. But the first thing they’ll do once they’re on KPFA’s Local Board is vote to send their slate-mates to the Pacifica National Board, where the real power lies. And those slate-mates will make their worst decisions behind closed doors in Executive Session meetings, where there’s very little accountability.

Again, the record speaks for itself: For four years, the “United for Community Radio” (UCR, ICR) precursor slates have been in a majority coalition on the Pacifica National Board. They, and the executives they’ve installed, have left Pacifica a hollowed-out wreck: with millions in unpaid bills, corporate law firms baying at the door, a finance office now incapable of handling even simple payroll transactions, workers’ own contributions to their retirement accounts undeposited (for several months now), donor checks meant for KPFA intercepted and kept away from the station for months.

Now is the chance to turn things around: Next year’s boards will choose a new manager and program director for KPFA, as well as a new Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer for Pacifica. It’s a chance to put the entire Pacifica network on the right track – if SaveKPFA scores a solid win.

KPFA elections have low turnout, and tend to be decided by relatively small margins, which means every vote counts a lot. Please spread the word to KPFA members to vote for the candidates listed at savekpfa.org. And if you’re a voter yourself, return your ballot now so you don’t forget.

For the first election ever, Pacifica is not allowing any in-person ballot drop-offs—you have to mail your ballot.  That ballot has to arrive at the ballot-counting location in New York by December 11. It will be competing with holiday mail traffic to get there, so send it now.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert is co-host of KPFA’s UpFront, which airs weekday mornings at 7:AM. He’s served two terms as a worker-elected representative on the KPFA Local Station Board. [This essay originally appeared in Fog City Journal.]

KPFA’s local board chair urges YES vote

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

“Let me paint a picture of where KPFA is now — because it should concern all of us — no matter which side we’re on,” writes Margy Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board in an open letter to listeners. Wilkinson cites evidence of the dramatic loss of listenership following Pacifica management’s purging of the station’s most listened-to program, the Morning Show, produced by a crew of young, diverse journalists. What follows is a tale of stunningly undemocratic dirty-tricks, financial mismanagement and anti-union maneuvers that have caused KPFA listeners to demand an immediate change in Pacifica’s management — starting with the recall of Pacifica treasurer Tracy Rosenberg. | READ WILKINSON’S  ENTIRE LETTER

Pacifica National Board votes to “wind down” use of union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis

“It took hundreds of letters, over two thousand petition signatures, a picket from KPFA listeners and staff, and two strong resolutions from the local boards of KPFA and Los Angeles sister station KPFK,” said KPFA board chair Margy Wilkison, “but we got Pacifica to at least back away from employing those union-busters at Jackson Lewis.”

She’s referring to the fact that the Pacifica National Board passed a measure in closed session to “wind down” its current employment of the firm, which Pacifica hired on retainer earlier this year. The motion allows Jackson Lewis to complete work on three cases the firm is currently handling for Pacifica, as national board member Dan Siegel reported to the Local Station Board on May 5. | LISTEN to Siegel’s report (2 minutes of audio)

VICTORY: KPFK board votes against Jackson Lewis

get out of bed with scott walkerThe elected Local Station Board at Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles has just joined KPFA’s board in passing a resolution calling on Pacifica to drop Jackson Lewis. As at KPFA, the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority. This steps up pressure on the Pacifica National Board to act now to cancel Jackson Lewis’ retainer agreement.

Got a minute to make a difference? Last time the national board met, it spent its time discussing how to block messages from listeners. This time, let’s be sure they hear the substance of our message loud and clear: fire Jackson Lewis NOW! Send your message to the Pacifica National Board by clicking here.

Lively picket at Pacifica’s National Office demands firing of anti-union lawyers

KPFA’s paid and unpaid staff turned out for a picket on a sunny afternoon last week in front of Pacifica’s national office to show their outrage with the network’s hiring of Jackson Lewis, the nation’s premiere union-busting lawyers.

Labor journalist Steve Early addressed the crowd, describing how Jackson Lewis operates to undermine unions and predicting that both the political and financial costs to KPFA could be devastating. Unpaid staffer Tina Bachemin brought a statement of solidarity, noting that Pacifica is part of the “bitter struggle that’s going on now across America to smash unionism and wage war against workers.” Listeners, many of them union members, also showed up in force, angry that their donations are going to anti-union consultants.| SEE PHOTOS here, and LISTEN TO KPFA News report

Meanwhile, KPFA itself is struggling, as every fund drive in the past year has come in below target. And last week, a lightning strike knocked Pacifica station KPFT in Houston off the air for two days. Repair to the station’s transmitter will be expensive. You can help with a donation here.

KPFA’s board calls on Pacifica to drop union busters, picket scheduled Apr. 18

Jackson Lewis picket at KPFACOME TO A PICKET: KPFA’s workers have called a picket to protest Pacifica’s hire of union-busters Jackson Lewis and invite listeners to attend. It’s on Wednesday, April 18, noon-1pm, in front of KPFA. Be there, bring friends!

Since news broke that Pacifica has hired notorious anti-union legal firm Jackson Lewis, a petition against union-busting at the network has gotten nearly 1600 signatures.

Bill Berkowitz of Buzzflash at Truthout calls the development “a dramatic and disturbing departure from Pacifica’s progressive origins.” In his Politics in the Zeros blogBob Morris said the news showed that “the national board now directly opposes everything Pacifica used to stand for.” Labor journalist Dick Meister, who does a weekly show at sister station KPFT told the California Federation of Labor that he was “appalled at what seems to be happening.” The news has been covered in the labor press, as well as Matthew Lasar‘s Radio Survivor blog, San Francisco’s Fog City Journal, and Current, a magazine on public broadcasting.

Contrary to Pacifica’s portrayal of Jackson Lewis as being brought in under an “insurance deductible” in which Pacifica had “no choice,” it has been confirmed that Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt, strongly recommended the firm to the Pacifica National Board (PNB), which then voted to put it on a general retainer. Engelhardt admitted in an online blog that Jackson Lewis is on retainer and doing “non-litigation” work such as arbitrations. In the same blog, Engelhardt attacked KPFA’s staff, saying she was “deeply disappointed” in their “integrity and professionalism,” while praising the anti-union lawyers, saying they had “saved [Pacifica] money” and done “an exemplary job.”

return kpfa to us NOWMembers of KPFA’s Local Station Board brought a strong resolution against law firm Jackson Lewis at their April 7 meeting. You’d think severing ties with the nation’s top union-busting firm would be a no-brainer, but in the discussion, KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg (who is also Pacifica’s national board treasurer) defended their hiring. Rosenberg said she voted to hire Jackson Lewis because it was “aggressive” and Pacifica “needed” an aggressive law firm. It is clear that Pacifica National Board members discussed Jackson Lewis’ anti-union reputation before voting to hire it.

KPFA boardmember Conn Hallinan said the signed retainer agreement with Jackson Lewis “refers very specifically to the fact that the firm was hired to deal with ‘general labor issues,’ but I don’t care…what they were hired to do,” he said. “The idea that we would give our members’ money to fuel an anti-democratic, anti-worker, anti-progressive organization like this is just beyond belief,” said Hallinan. | LISTEN to audio of Conn Hallinan (2:30 min)| LISTEN to entire LSB meeting: part 1, part 2part 3 (Jackson Lewis discussion), part 4

You made the difference! Thanks to pressure from the hundreds of listeners who signed petitions and wrote in, even Tracy Rosenberg ultimately voted for the resolution calling on Pacifica to end its relationship with the controversial firm. An amended version of the resolution passed KPFA’s board by a vote of 15-0 with 2 abstentions. The unanimous, cross-factional resolution from KPFA’s Local Station Board will increase pressure on Pacifica.

LET’S KEEP UP THE PRESSURE: click here to send an email demanding the Pacifica National Board terminate all contracts with Jackson Lewis!

Apparently, KPFA listener emails are making an impact

KPFA raises it pacifica spends itAt its recorded phone meeting April 12, the Pacifica National Board (PNB) devoted a full 45 minutes to discussing emails it is receiving from KPFA members opposed to Pacifica’s hire of Jackson Lewis. Sadly, this conversation did not involve any re-thinking of the decision to hire the union-busting lawyers.

Instead, PNB members debated whether or not to block the hundreds of protest emails its getting from listeners supporting SaveKPFA. PNB member Ken Aaron (KPFK/Los Angeles) said he thinks the people writing to the board “are not human” and their communications were “spam” that should be prevented from reaching the board. From SaveKPFA‘s website, people have a choice of sending their email directly to the PNB’s address, or sending it via a web form, which is then forwarded by SaveKPFA‘s web volunteers. | LISTEN to 30 second audio clip of Aaron

Several PNB members said they were appalled at the proposed limitations on listener comments. SaveKPFA member Andrea Turner, who is 1 of 4 KPFA delegates on the PNB, thanked listeners for writing and said she hoped they would continue doing so. Turner pointed out that a member-driven non-profit founded to advance free expression shouldn’t be scared of hearing from its own constituents. | LISTEN to 1 minute audio clip of Turner

Efforts to block or divert emails sent through SaveKPFA‘s webpage failed by a one-vote margin, with these 9 members VOTING NO on the motion: Nia Bediako (WBAI/NYC), Wesley Bethune (KPFT/Houston), Lydia Brazon (KPFK/LA), Revalyn Golde (WPFW/Washington), Campbell Johnson (WPFW, Washington), Laura Prives (KPFA/Berkeley), Marcel Reid (WPFW, Washington), Dan Siegel (KPFA/Berkeley), and Andrea Turner (KPFA/Berkeley).

PNB treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, who is facing a recall from her constituents at KPFA, VOTED YES to blocking incoming listener messages. She was joined by 7 other PNB members: Ivon Alcime (WPFW/Washington), Teresa Allen (KPFT/Houston), Ken Aaron (KPFK/LA), Carolyn Birden (WBAI/NYC), Bill Crosier (KPFT/Houston), Ali Lexa (KPFK/LA), and George Reiter (KPFT/Houston).


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.

Tell Pacifica: stop the delays, hire an impartial election supervisor, now!

Pacifica continues to stall a listener-initiated recall of Pacifica National Board treasurer and KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg. No ballots have been sent to listeners even though December 30 was the deadline to mail them under Pacifica’s own recall procedures. | SEE RECALL FLYER | SEE NEW LISTENER MAIL | SIGN PETITION

Over a thousand listeners have signed a petition demanding the hiring of an impartial supervisor to oversee the vote. The recall procedure adopted by Pacifica does not require that the election supervisor be acceptable to all parties, including the subject of the recall. To do so would give the subject of the recall an unfair advantage. The election supervisor needs only to acceptable to the national board.

What can we, as listener-members do, to get this process fast-tracked? The Pacifica national board is holding its quarterly meeting this weekend in Los Angeles. They need to hear from us. CLICK HERE TO EMAIL Pacifica’s entire national board to demand that a qualified impartial supervisor be hired immediately to oversee the recall process in a fair manner. Use our suggested message, or write your own, but please write!

KPFA’s interim manager abusing station email list
It is becoming clear to KPFA’s listeners why the delays are happening: so that Pacifica’s hand-picked management at KPFA can use the extra time to campaign on Rosenberg’s behalf.

KPFAWorker.org reports that over the last month, Andrew Leslie Phillips, who was appointed by Pacifica without any input from KPFA’s staff or its elected local station board, used KPFA’s subscriber email list to mass-distribute materials attacking KPFA’s union as well as the petition seeking a recall of Rosenberg.

KPFA chair Margy Wilkinson, writing on behalf of the board’s majority, told Phillips his email was “misleading and outright false.” Calling his words “a thinly-veiled partisan intervention in an election that you yourself said station management is supposed to stay out of,” Wilkinson demanded equal access to KPFA’s email list for a rebuttal. She says there’s been no response yet.

No manager in KPFA’s history has behaved this way. It is a violation of Pacifica’s by-laws to use station resources to take a side in elections — something Phillips skirts by calling his emails attempts to “correct factual misstatements.”

Sadly, the bad facts are coming from KPFA’s interim manager himself. Phillips suggests that KPFA’s financial situation has improved because of Rosenberg’s move to eliminate the Morning Show — at the time, KPFA’s biggest fundraiser. He fails to mention that over 90% of KPFA’s salary savings came from hour cuts and voluntary layoffs made by prior KPFA management before Pacifica stepped in and killed the Morning Show, and that KPFA’s listeners and staff have had to suffer through nearly four weeks of additional fundraising last year to make up for the drop in morning pledges.

Not that numbers are his strong point: In December, Phillips prefaced a mass mailing with a rant blaming the station’s union workers for $200,000 in costs spent “defending [KPFA] from grievances.” Phillips conceded later that the amount only totals $80,000. Likewise, Phillips told the KPFA local board meeting last month that the huge fundraising losses during the morning hours (see chart above) hadn’t hurt KPFA’s finances. He clearly couldn’t add up the figures correctly. | LISTEN HERE to Phillips doing bad math to justify bad decisions, or hear the entire KPFA local board meeting: PART 1, PART 2

During December’s Local Station Board meeting, many board members were frustrated that KPFA’s interim management refused to give contact information for the station’s workers to enable the board to survey them about interim GM Andrew Phillips‘ performance. | AUDIO: part 1 | part 2 |  part 3 | part 4

CWA responds to anti-union KPFA management
Phillips’ slanted emails to subscribers have also angered KPFA’s workers, who have opposed Pacifica’s decision to spend KPFA’s money on a $400/hour anti-union law firm, in the first place — rather than sit down and work through grievances from the union.

“Your email is inaccurate and offensive,” wrote Christina Huggins of CWA 9415 which represents KPFA’s unionized staff, noting that Phillips’ supposed correction “speaks volumes as to your free and easy use of the truth, with barely a nod to the level of inaccuracy (your self-described style of ‘throwing stuff against a wall to see what sticks.'” In response to Phillips’ anti-CWA comments, she points out that CWA is a progressive union that was among the first to support the Occupy movement, came out early against the war in Iraq, and works in coalition with progressive movements around the world.

One KPFA staffer is quoted as saying, “Andrew has demonstrated an anti-union bias from the day he stepped through the station’s doors, and he’s spent most of his time trying to create divisions between the unpaid and paid staff.” Another said Phillips’ actions showed “very poor judgment from the person we’re supposed to look to heal KPFA.” | LEARN MORE about KPFA’s labor history here.