Pacifica Hires Notorious Union-Busters Jackson Lewis

KPFA’s parent organization, the Pacifica Foundation, has hired Jackson Lewis, a notorious anti-union law firm which the AFL-CIO calls “America’s number one union-buster.”  The multimillion-dollar corporate firm specializes in what it calls ”preventative practices” — that is, advising managers how to obstruct workers from successfully forming unions and undermining existing unions. “Under its polished veneer lies a for-profit union-buster,” writes the nonprofit American Rights at Work, “one of the oldest and largest” such firms in the nation.

Last week, the union representing KPFA’s workers, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, became aware of Jackson Lewis’ hire by Pacifica at all five stations in the network – KPFA in the San Francisco Bay Area, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFT in Houston, WPFW in Washington D.C., and WBAI in New York. At a meeting of KPFA’s bargaining unit, the station’s union workers voted to demand that the Pacifica National Board immediately terminate its arrangement with Jackson Lewis, and sent a letter to all members of Pacifica’s board to that effect. The board met Wednesday, March 7, but chose not to take action to reverse its employment of the union-buster.

KPFA's union stewards wrote:

We see the entry of Jackson Lewis as a declaration of war on the unions that represent Pacifica workers. We fear it will lead to unnecessary legal expenses the network can ill afford, sour Pacifica’s already dismal relationship with its union workers, and alienate many listener-supporters who do not want their donations to be handed over to one of organized labor’s greatest enemies in the United States.

Jackson Lewis, which has 48 offices around the country, holds seminars for employers on how to maintain a “union free environment.” One such seminar was profiled in In These Times. Jackson Lewis also advises employers on mastering corporate “concerns” with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including targeting workers who take medical leave.

The letter from KPFA’s union stewards cited a New York Times investigation into anti-union practices of the company EnerSys, which followed the advice of Jackson Lewis.  EnerSys eventually sued Jackson Lewis for malpractice and advising the company to violate the law. Under Jackson Lewis’ direction, EnerSys illegally fired union leaders, spied on workers, and finally closed the plant as an act of retribution against the union.

KPFA’s union stewards:

The modus operandi of firms like Jackson Lewis is to counsel their clients to take hard-line stances against unions — reject all bargaining demands, reject even the most basic grievances — and then rack up billable hours representing those clients in the ensuing arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board hearings.

The company boasts of the accolades it has received from a survey of Fortune 1000 companies as “the single highest-ranked firm clients want by their side in employment battles.” Jackson Lewis expanded during the economic crisis, its gross revenue increasing by 15% in 2010 to more than $295 million (and by 10% in 2009 and 20% in 2008).

For many KPFA listeners and staff, Pacifica’s latest move brings back memories of their struggle against Pacifica management over a decade ago, in which Pacifica hired an anti-union consultant and then installed armed guards, eventually locking out its entire staff and shutting down the station. The new agreement with Jackson Lewis comes on top of over $100,000 KPFA has already spent on other anti-union legal consultants.

If you are a member of a union, we ask that you get your local union or labor council to pass a resolution condemning Pacifica’s hire of one of the country’s top union-busters. As an individual, please sign this petition demanding that Pacifica drop Jackson Lewis immediately.  And please take a moment to ask your friends on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to do the same.  Stay tuned for updates!