KPFA Listeners Poised to Recall Anti-Union Pacifica Board Member

After many months of delay, listeners at Bay Area Pacifica Radio station KPFA (94.1FM) are finally receiving ballots in the long-awaited vote to recall the network’s treasurer, Tracy Rosenberg.

Throughout its 63-year history, Pacifica has been known for its progressive approach to journalism, including its coverage of workers’ rights issues. But last year managers of the nonprofit network, led by Rosenberg and Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt, targeted outspoken KPFA workers for layoff, using the guise of a budget crisis and violating the union contract of the staff, who are represented by CWA Local 9415.

Labor journalist Steve Early, one of many endorsers of the “Vote YES on the KPFA recall” campaign:

The waste of scarce resources that has resulted from Rosenberg's role on the KPFA and Pacifica boards is really tragic.

Early adds that Rosenberg played a key role in gutting the station's finances by canceling its most popular programming, and in many of the attacks on KPFA's union workers, such as supporting Pacifica's hiring of infamous union-busters Jackson Lewis

Over 2,000 listeners signed a petition in April demanding that Pacifica ditch Jackson Lewis, and hundreds wrote or called in protest. KPFA’s local board unanimously passed a resolution calling on Pacifica to drop the firm, and the board at KPFK (Los Angeles) soon followed. After hundreds wrote in and showed up to picket the network’s offices, Pacifica finally announced it would be “winding down” its relationship with the union-busting firm.

But attacks from management against workers and listeners have continued, with Pacifica now demanding $1 million from the 5 member stations to pay for its own financial mismanagement. This month, Pacifica sent notices to the unions at 4 of the 5 Pacifica stations warning that it will be demanding more layoffs.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert wrote in a recent open letter to listeners.

They are killing our network. The Rosenberg/Engelhardt regime has racked up massive bills from $400- to $500-per-hour law firms that Pacifica’s used to fight its unions, its dissident board members, and the organizers of this recall election. Meanwhile, Pacifica’s been routinely shorting paychecks for union members at KPFA.

Rosenberg claims she “saved” KPFA from bankruptcy, but as KPFA News co-director Aileen Alfandary writes in an open letter:

A close examination of that claim shows it doesn’t hold water. Virtually the entire reduction in staffing in 2010 was from union members who took voluntary layoffs. When the dust settled, and Pacifica was forced to rehire Brian Edwards-Tiekert, the only involuntary layoff that occurred in 2010 was that of the other Morning Show co-host who had been paid for a grand total of 27 hours a week. It’s absurd to claim that this small salary saved KPFA from bankruptcy. It’s quite the contrary. The reduction in fundraising from purging the Morning Show cost us dearly and drove listeners away from KPFA.

KPFA's local board chair Margy Wilkinson also cites evidence of the dramatic loss of listenership following Pacifica's purging of the station's most listened-to program, the Morning Show, produced by a crew of young, diverse journalists. “It should concern all of us — no matter which side we're on,” writes Wilkinson, as she describes a series of undemocratic dirty-tricks, financial mismanagement and anti-union maneuvers from Pacifica, which has caused KPFA listeners to demand an immediate change in management — starting with the recall of Pacifica treasurer Rosenberg.

SaveKPFA is a coalition of listeners and workers, and has won the wide backing for its call for Rosenberg’s removal. Endorsers includes the station’s most well-known on-air voices such as Brian-Edwards-Tiekert, Sasha Lilley, John Hamilton, Aileen Alfandary, Philip Maldari, Larry Bensky, Kris Welch, David Gans, Bonnie Simmons, Glenn Reeder, and Mitch Jeserich.

Many labor activists and writers have also endorsed a YES vote, including David Bacon, labor journalist and former KPFA Morning Show correspondent; Shelley Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer, San Mateo Labor Council; Susan Sachen, campaign director, California Labor Federation; Andrej Grubacic, anarchist historian, author of Wobblies and Zapatistas; Iain Boal, social historian of the commons; Suzanne Gordon, journalist and author, NWU/UAW; Jon Fromer, singer/songwriter, NABET/CWA Local 51 shop steward; Vanessa Tait, KPFA News, author, Poor Workers’ Unions; Cal Winslow, labor historian, co-author of Rebel Rank and File; Dana Frank, labor historian, UC Santa Cruz and co-author, Three Strikes; Cathy Campbell, President, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1078; Zeese Papanikolas, labor historian; Barbara Epstein, Professor of History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz; and Peter Olney, ILWU organizing director, and many others. (See the endorsers’ list here.)

To learn more about the situation at KPFA, please visit SaveKPFA.org and KPFAWorker.org.  If you are a KPFA subscriber, please read this page to make sure your vote is counted. If you’d like to add your name as an endorser of the campaign to SaveKPFA, you may do so here.