KPFA Workers, Supporters to Picket in Protest of Pacifica’s Anti-Union Actions

Workers at the Bay Area’s KPFA radio will be marking its 63th birthday this week not with a party, but with a picket. They’ve invited supporters to join them Wednesday, April 18 from noon to 1pm to demand that parent corporation Pacifica Radio “stay true to its principles and reverse the hiring of legal consultants Jackson Lewis, which the AFL-CIO calls the nation’s ‘number one union-buster.’

Lew Hill and other conscientious objectors founded KPFA on April 15, 1949, as the nation’s first progressive, listener-sponsored radio station. Fast forward to 2012: KPFA’s union recently found out that Pacifica had hired notorious union-buster Jackson Lewis on retainer for its 5-station radio network.

The network’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt, admitted in a recent blog that Jackson Lewis was hired several years ago and wrote glowingly that it had “saved us money” and had done “an exemplary job.” Engelhardt is the manager who killed KPFA’s most listened-to program, the Morning Show, which has cost KPFA over $8,000 a day in revenue.  That move targeted elected worker representatives and KPFA labor activists.

A union-sponsored petition against the hire of Jackson Lewis has quickly garnered over 1700 signatures from Pacifica listeners and staff. It reads, in part:

We are outraged that Pacifica is spending listener donations, intended to fund community radio, on a notorious union-busting firm. This is completely unacceptable for a member-supported nonprofit that prides itself on its progressive history and values. The Pacifica Foundation and National Board must end their relationship with Jackson Lewis immediately.

Stewards for KPFA’s union staff, who are represented by the Communications Workers of America Local 9415, sent the petition’s signatures to the Pacifica National Board — an elected body comprised of delegates from each of the network’s stations — before its April 13 meeting. KPFA’s Local Station Board had also unanimously passed a resolution the same week declaring it “unacceptable for a single penny of listener contributions to be spent on the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country,” and demanding Pacifica severe ties with Jackson Lewis.

Hundreds of KPFA listeners also sent messages as part of an action alert by SaveKPFA.org. For instance, long-time KPFA listener Charlene Woodcock wrote to Pacifica’s board:

What's going on with Pacifica? You don't represent our values or our interests. You arrogantly disregard our wishes in your interference with valued programming, such as the Morning Show. One has to wonder if you're trying to destroy the station, as was the Pacifica board ten years ago.

But in their April 13 meeting, members of the Pacifica National Board did not even bother to discuss the issue about which so many listeners had voiced outrage. Instead, the PNB spent 45 minutes discussing a motion from KPFK/Los Angeles delegate Ken Aaron to block emails from concerned KPFA members as “spam” so that board members would not have to see them.

KPFA delegate Andrea Turner was among those who pointed out that a member-driven nonprofit founded to advance free speech shouldn't be scared of communications from listeners:

We should be thankful that someone is out there really concerned about what we are doing.

She noted that Pacifica’s board has a duty to hear from its members. The move to block listener emails was defeated by a one-vote margin. (The only KPFA delegate voting to block the communications was Tracy Rosenberg, who is the target of a pending recall vote.)

Let them here from you too: click here to send an email demanding Pacifica terminate all contracts with Jackson Lewis. And, if you are in the Bay Area, please join us for a spirited picket on Wednesday, April 18 at noon outside of Pacifica’s offices (same building as KPFA at 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley). Bring signs, noisemakers and your friends!